This time my Guest is Zsolt Szádovszki, the former world class flat water paddler. Nowadays he is exploiting his paddling talent as a surf ski competitor. We asked Him about his past, present and of course the future. He has a very interesting story that leads from Hungary to Hawaii, and it is full of water sports!
Golo: Hey Zsolt! In most cases the past is a very important. factor. Past determines most of our attributes, and the whole future. So let me ask this obligate question that how did all start? What were your first steps in the direction of (professional) sport?
Zsolt: Aloha Golo, I was 7 at the time, and really active little man, doing different sports like handball, karate, soccer, tennis, gymnastics. One day one of my friends showed up and invited me to try out this new one: KAYAKING. Pretty soon I quit all the other sports and fell in love with paddling.
Golo: Aha, so you picked flat water kayaking like that? But weren’t you afraid of the fact that this is a main stream sport in Hungary, so the way to be a professional paddler is much more difficult, since lot of kids has the same dream?
Zsolt: Well at age of seven it was not that competitive yet, it was more for the fun aspect of it, we had lots of paddling camps, it was really mellow family type, it was my playground.
Golo: I know about your break up with the professional sport in Hungary. I mean when you quit the club and the whole life that had started when you were 7. What was the exact motivation of your act?
Zsolt: After I did not make it to the Olympics in 2000, Athens. And my age group was so strong they went to the games and won all kinds of medals. I realized they were much better paddlers than me that time. I did not want to waste my time just one thing in this life time.
Golo: Ok, clear... What did you do in the first months of your newly born freedom? Were you involved in any active programs, sports, etc.?
Zsolt: First month felt good until the realization of “now what?” It was hard to live professional life mentally, physically was easy. Paddling and the team was my second home and family. I had to go far away from it to be able to focus on other things in my life. I came to the US. And did not do any sports for 2-3 years.
Golo: Oh, sounds weird for the first time, but I can trully understand! When and how did you meet the new love of your life, the surf ski kayak(ing)? What did you feel when you sat in the cockpit for the first time?
Zsolt: It was in San Francisco when I saw my first surf ski and had to try it. First it felt long and bulky, But soon as we hit the open ocean swells I understood every millimeter of the ski.
Golo: How many days passed between the first sight and the purchase of your first surf ski?
Zsolt: I was lucky right at the beginning and got a sponsorship from one of the local manufactures, so I never had to buy my own ski.
Golo: What is the main attribute of these lovely vessels that you would pick as your favourite?
Zsolt: In my opinion surfski paddling is a nice combination of all different paddling types. And when it comes to riding 15-20 foot swells becomes unbelievable. It is hard to pick one. I still enjoy paddling on the flat water and zoning out on the movement just as much as going downhill with 21 mph speed. It is a package deal. :)
Golo: As far as I know you live in Hawaii now. Did you try any other vessels that are commonly used in the Island? Outrigger canoes for instance? If yes, do you like them?
Zsolt: Yes I’m spending more time in the water than on land. I’m doing OC1 canoeing, stand up paddling, surfing, fishing, diving. And I like them all.
Golo: You train individuals and groups to this lovely discipline, surf ski, right? Besides that do you compete in surf ski? Are there any associations or federations that organize these events?
Zsolt: That is right. also I’m a Head Coach for the Hawaii Kayak Canoe Team. There is a world cup where every year more and more paddlers showing up. I believe soon we will have an association. Until that we just go with the flow.
Golo: Is there a ranking list of this sport worldwide? I am curious about your position...
Zsolt: There is. I have been only focusing on the local races between the Islands. Just recently we won the Molokai World Championship in a double division with Greg Barton (former US Olympic gold medalist). It is hard to go anywhere else from Hawaii. Why would you anyway? :)
Golo: What are your future plans in surf ski? Competing, training people, or paddling for fun?
Zsolt: I’m setting up a surfski school here in Hawaii where anyone can come and learn about the sport no matter what level they are at. Will be up and running soon. Also I will compete in local races and always paddling with fun!
Golo: And finally, what are your plans for your personal life, if it’s not too impolite? Are you going back to Hungary in the future, or you are settling down in Hawaii and have a family here?
Zsolt: it depends, I'll always be Hungarian, no problem to go back, and I would.
I think doesn’t matter where you are at if you find your internal happiness, and yes you can find that just sitting under a tree. Or by doing what you love leaving your dreams.
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