A tribute to Kula – Rafting Team Kula has been developing since 1995 when Kula himself founded the Vidra Water Sports Club in order to promote rafting as a sport and form of recreation. Since 1998 members of KŠV Vidra have been Croatian representatives at European and World Championship and Cup races.
Zvonko Kula Drakšić – rafter, kayaker, canoeist, mountaineer and P.E. teacher brought this team together and created their rafting story and life style by training and preparing the team. In the beginning of 2012 Kula tragically lost his life during a hiking expedition. During those difficult moments the crew decided to form a club that would carry his name and to compete in his honour. They wanted to preserve his legacy – and that is how RT Kula came to be.
The size of this man crossed the borders of his country. As someone who has had the opportunity to meet this wonderful man, I’ll add that he was the only coach of my team and we were from a neighboring country. It was no trouble for him to send us a training program by fax, and at every competition that we met he freely gave us advice.
I spoke to the Captain of RT “Kula” – Daniel Pribanić, to find out something more about his team.
Daniel, tell us something about the competitions you have taken part in and the results you achieved?
“Most of the members have already competed at two World Champs (Czech Republic in 2003 and S. Korea 2007) and four European championships (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria, Italy, Czech Republic), plus a couple of World Cups and lots of Euro Cups. In 2012 we won three of four Croatian Cup races thus securing the title of national champions and the chance to compete at the WRC in New Zealand. We finished last season as Euro Cup champions, and kicked this one off with gold and a bronze medal, plus we won two national races – R6 and R4 categories.”
Who is in the team?
“Our team is comprised of seven active members, each with his own position in a certain discipline. Our ‘youngest’ and at the same time oldest member, is our coach Danko Herceg who has enormous canoeing competition experience including four Olympics. He can also show you his excellence in windsurfing.
Our captain is Daniel Pribanić, the youngest by age but one of the oldest in the game. He started rafting in 2000 as a skipper and jumped in as a substitute at the WRC in Lipno after only three years of training. Davor Kos is the tallest and the biggest rafter of us all, but also a trekker, climber and snowboarder, plus he grew up alongside the legendary Kula. He is also the owner of one of the best adventure companies in Croatia – Raftrek.hr. Then there is Nenad Hrženjak who’s always coolheaded and who mastered the backstroke. Aleksandar Dostal, former hockey player trapped into body of a rafter, and now he can row through anything that comes on his way. Lovro Lepan is one of the few kayakers rowing since an early age, but many years competing in triathlons has given him the sturdiest legs. Last but not least is Damjan Terzić, the man who can eat but also pull the hardest of anyone else in the team.”
Why do you love rafting?
“We love rafting because it gives us a chance to take a break from the everyday urban chaos we all live in, and enjoy the beauty of nature and power of untamed wild water. There’s also good company, great fun and fierce competition. What’s not to love? We all fell in love with rafting at first sight and embraced it as a lifestyle. Our beloved Kula played a major role in all of this.”
On which rivers and how often do you train and how do you rest afterwards?
“Since all of our members have day jobs, we mostly train on the river Sava in Zagreb. Sava is straight but has two bridges with columns, ideal for slalom training. During wintertime in the snow and darkness, during spring and fall in the rain, and during summer in the biggest swelter – we always go to the water. When the Sava river level is ideal we go downstream on the ‘Toplana’ part of the river where there are some 300-400 meters of wild water. On weekends we visit other nearby rivers like Korana, Una and Vrbas. We train 3-4 times a week plus weekend out-of-the-city training sessions which are always accompanied by rivers of beer and laughter.”
Are there any other sports you enjoy?
“Besides rafting, we enjoy mountaineering, mountain climbing, trekking, skiing, snowboarding, windsurfing and even salsa dancing.” – Wow! The guys who have a rhythm. Very interesting.
The sprint track in New Zealand is longer than what the teams in Europe are used to. You can see videos of the route, what do you think of it? And what are your expectations from the competition?
“A lot of things in New Zealand are different than in Europe, after all it’s at the other end of the world. That’s why we’re getting there earlier and staying a while after the championship – to enjoy the natural and cultural beauty the country has to offer. As far as the sprint is concerned, a sprint track can’t be too long. It’s not just about “keeping your head low and digging hard”, you need to have a technique and maintain an ideal direction. If we don’t have this, our strength is useless.” – So, they are some of the lucky ones who have the opportunity to arrive early and practice.
Does your team have sponsors?
“We don’t have any financial ones but we do have a sponsor, Raftrek.hr Adventure Travel, which lets us use their rafts for training during the entire year, as well as a van for going to races and training sessions, which is of big help. We’ve received a lot of support from the Croatian Kayak Federation for our trip to New Zealand in the form of air travel expenses and competition fees. We’d like to point out that this support wouldn’t have been possible if we didn’t compete under the umbrella of our and Kula’s parent club – the Kayak Canoe Club Zagreb.”
These guys wearing the name “Kula” have been making great progress as can be seen at Euro Cup competition in Austria this year. The possibility of early arrival to New Zealand will certainly mean a lot to them. There is no doubt that they will make good use of it. As a team that will represent Croatia in New Zealand, it was a pleasure to get to know them a little better. Thanks and good luck “Kula” ;)
Article by NadaKula’s facebook page