Stefan Gijben

"It's great to organize SUP for the very first time during the WPFG!"

What is it like to be involved in the World Police & Fire Games as a sports coordinator? In this newsletter, we single out a sports coordinator and their sport. This time it’s actually two sports: surfing (Stand Up Paddle (SUP)) and the Ultimate Fire Fighter. Stefan Gijben is Physical Education Instructor, resilience trainer and coordinator of the internal assistance service at the Custodial Institutions Agency (DJI). In addition to being the sports coordinator for these two sports, he also provides support to the TCA sports coordinator (Toughest Competitor Alive).

How did you hear about the WPFG?
“Three years ago, we participated in the Dutch Ultimate Fire Fighter (DUFF) during the World Port Days in Rotterdam, where you could win a starting ticket for the Ultimate Fire Fighter competition in Chengdu. We finished third in that edition. The Fire Service was naturally concerned that they would be beaten by our team from the DJI. We started training harder and the following year we competed again. A little to our own surprise, ‘we’ then came first. So that’s how I heard about the World Police & Fire Games, but I’ve never competed myself.”

When you think of the Dutch Ultimate Fire Fighter, you don’t immediately think of someone from DJI competing, how did that happen?
“We were approached by a former colleague of ours who is now competing for the Fire Service in the Ultimate Fire Fighter at the WPFG. He once finished in the top 10. That was when we at DJI thought it would suit us too. In the prisons, we naturally also have emergency response officers, who put out internal fires. That’s how it happened, actually.”

Why did you sign up to be a sports coordinator for the WPFG?
“When we participated in the DUFF we were pretty fanatical. And when we came first, I was asked if I wanted to become coordinator of the Dutch Ultimate Fire Fighter. I thought that would be a great thing to do. During the DUFF, I was asked to be a sports coordinator for the WPFG. That hadn’t occurred to me yet, but it sounded like a lot of fun.”

You are sports coordinator of two sports, SUP and Ultimate Fire Fighter, and are also involved with the Toughest Competitor Alive. Why is that?
“I'm a real water sports fanatic and I wanted to do kitesurfing, but there were already people for that. Kitesurfing did have to be combined with stand up paddling, where they were still looking for someone. So I took on SUP. It means I’m also involved with kitesurfing. This way, the three of us are now taking care of it.

There was always such a good atmosphere at the Dutch Ultimate Fire Fighter, so when I was asked if I wanted to be their sports coordinator I didn’t have to think very long. I hope that we can create the same atmosphere during the WPFG as during the Dutch version.

For TCA I am not really a sports coordinator, but I do support the sports coordinator with everything during the event. I will soon be attending all 10 days of the WPFG and I’m really looking forward to that!”

What does the job of sports coordinator for the WPFG involve?
“We're mostly taking stock right now. For instance, what materials are needed, approximately how many registrations will there be, and what do these people need? We are mainly concerned with what we can facilitate and how we can make it as easy as possible for the competitors. Because ultimately that’s what it’s all about.”
SUP is a new category at the WPFG - can you tell us something about it yet?
“Of course! This is the very first time SUP is being organized during the World Police & Fire Games, so that’s great to start with. We already have an idea of what the course will look like and I can give you a hint: we start on the beach where a dash has to be made for the water. Then paddling to buoys in the water, and back to the beach for the final sprint to the line. So it’s going to be pretty spectacular.”

What are you looking forward to most during the WPFG?
“I’m looking forward to a lot of things. In any case, all the togetherness with competitors from all over the world. Competing in the Dutch Ultimate Fire Fighter was always a very friendly occasion. All kinds of different facets came together there and the enthusiastic crowd standing alongside the course to encourage you made it very special. I’m also looking forward to finding out where we stand, as the Netherlands, compared to all the other countries. I’m very curious what it will be like, because it’s the first time I’ll be experiencing such a big event. But most of all, I’m really enthusiastic about it!”