Best Kayaking of 2018
It is a time for recap of 2018 and bring couple of highlights. It has been crazy year for me and even more full with adventures than any other with some life changing events. Hope you enjoy the read!
Most important is that I managed to keep on paddling with my friends for whole year – kayaking in Austria, Czech, Greece, Georgia, Uganda, Zambia, Slovakia, Spain, Poland and England ! Managing to visit three new kayaking destinations – Greece, Georgia and my long-time dream destination – Zambia ! (Post about those adventures is coming!)
It started off amazing in Uganda by competing in Unleashed event in Uganda which completely changed my approach to vision of how kayaking competition should be and what is most important in them. I simply loved everything about it and being among the best kayakers from all around the world helped me to push myself ahead in my head in terms of kayaking.
It was followed directly by Nile River Festival which was the biggest celebration of river and life around it that I had ever been part of ! It was wonderful experience and I was so happy to see whole river community – kayakers, rafters, local people and tourist coming together to give tribute to the river in amazing events including big air ramp, endurance race, technical freestyle and extreme race. It is a great event that I would definitely recommend for everybody!
Here I would like to take a deep breath and stop for special thanks to Jackson Kayak for taking me back into the family. For me it was much more than just the boats. It was where it all had started for me with getting my first Star 2007, falling in love with the sport and then going to first major events and meeting there EJ and rest of the family in 2008.
EJ was simply another cool guy in the community. Super friendly, always smiling and obviously great in a hole. But I was just a random kid, just starting my adventure and trying to do some tricks. Then in Prague, before the World Cup, in the right eddy after trying to McNasty, popping high and flushing after first attempt – EJ paddles over from the other side – and says “Hi, I’m Eric – you are paddling great!”.
I haven’t really watched any EJ’s famous instructional videos before but since then I became fan of EJ – but not as a paddler but just as a person observing him and learning that it is just about sharing the passion for kayaking and having awesome time at the river together! I decided this is kind of a personality that I’d like to become – and EJ became my idol. Next year first year in my senior year I came 5th in World Cup with my All Start 2010. Never felt so proud. Years have passed and I started to look for carbon boats trying different brands – looking for my own style, staying for years with VAJDA, then trying to build my own kayaks and eventually moving to Gui-Gui. I loved all of them. Each of the boat made my style a little bit different adding a little bit to it. What I really missed was having a plastic boat and simply having fun around the river and outside of trainings! Also through those years I was strongly focused on performance training and it was all that started to matter for me. After having high hopes for Worlds in 2013 but getting sick and failing to make it to quarterfinals I was in a lot of doubt what to do and where to go next. There I took in my juniors that I started training and their energy and emerging passion lit fire in me again and helped me to fall in love with kayaking and training again. I set long-term goals for them and for myself for Argentina 2017.
When the time came I was ready. I didn’t manage to win or get a medal but I was happy with what I achieved and was able to present in my kayaking and had a feeling of fulfilment. After the World Champs I decided that I will rather just kayak and keep living it than focus on training oriented kayaking. But last year I started paddling JK boat again and I decided it was time to come back to the roots. It helped me to understand few very important things like what kayaking meant to me. Why I started loving it. What was important in it. I’ve found new source of power and motivation. Didn’t really come back to training regime I used to lead but I just kept doing what I loved which led me directly to getting silver in Squirt and making it to finals at World Cup in Sort and then to medal at Europeans despite the fact it was the only plastic boat in K1M final! That was the second proudest moment in my life really finding this pride in achieving something.
It was also very difficult year for everybody who had ever been to Uganda as in this year Nile Special got flooded. 7th November was the last day that Nile Special was there. I spent there 7 winters. This year to say goodbye I planned to visit Uganda 3 times. It was tough, when I was there second time in May. I’ve spent every possible moment shredding and soulsurfing it and sharing important time with friends. I knew I will be back on the end of the year but I had a feeling that it will be too late. Every afternoon was difficult. Almost everyday there was somebody saying goodbye and we lived that over and over and our old friend kept siting there green and silent or foamy and roaring. It was there for us. It helped so many people to fall in love with kayaking. Not only by surfing it but by meeting all the people that were part of the community around it spending time at Hairy Lemon. When I was leaving I spilled the last tear over it and said good-bye. You will always live in our hearts. When I came back in December it was already gone. But the Nile was still there. And it was like getting reborn again. Due to the fact that bottom rapids were gone now – we started spending more and more time in the leftover sections. I think that the fact that there were so many amazing and well known-easy access playspots made people so focused on them that they forgot how much beauty and high quality playspots are still left ! Just around superhole – there are other spots like Real Deal Hole, Real Deal Wave and The Beautiful One. Also as flooding got finished – there is a new-old wave that has been changed. The Phoenix wave which is middle of the vengeance just next to Adrift island is new big wave play feature at the Nile! Plenty of wonderful features been re-discovered and showcased at Nile River Festival.. but that is for next pending post!
Another life changing decision for me and probably the most important one as it leads me into realizing my dream – of sharing the passion for kayaking – was joining Sam Ward on board of Love it Live it. LiLi is high performance coaching travel company that specializes in coaching in most amazing destinations around the world. Through LiLi I can take people to most amazing destinations around the world and help them to get better in what they already love. That’s what I been working at for years starting with getting master in physical education at university and then coaching people on various levels for years while traveling to make my living. Now after teaming up in Love it Live it that is what will lead me through coming years. I can not wait to see what 2019 brings!
On side – during all this time I managed to keep studying, currently I’m on my third year of phd focusing on Value of Sustainability trying to explore very difficult for our community topic of dams and other hydro-related infrastructures and find more sustainable ways of management in regions in order to prevent loses that Dams create.
I’d like to say big thanks to everybody who accompany me on my journey and craft me into who I’m. For my family and for each of you who actually reads this long post till the end ! I can not wait for all the adventures that are about to come in 2019!
Check out my highlights from 2019!