Nothing but fun at SurfskiFUN!
Fans of international sprint kayaking competition know the country of Hungary is a perennial powerhouse in the Olympics. Budapest may have produced more Olympians and world champions in canoe/kayak sprint than any city on earth! With many paddling clubs on the Danube River dedicated to the highest aspirations of the sport, you might wonder how a surfski outfitter fits into the paddling scene of a landlocked Central European country without a tradition of ocean paddle sports. Meet Epic’s newest partner in Europe, SurfskiFUN of Budapest.
Their secret? Fun! Maybe it’s not a big secret, but surfskipaddling is fun wherever there is water, and these folks have plenty of water with beautiful rivers and lakes and know how to have fun on and off the water.
We checked in with SurfskiFUN founder Robert Hegedus to learn more about their operations and upcoming events. They offer a wide range of services including rentals, guided trips on the Mediterranean, race organizing, and sales.
Wake surfing on the Danube River
EPIC: Robert, what is your paddling background and how did you discover surfskis?
I got to know the sport of kayaking in 1982 when I was 9 years old, a friend invited me to try it. At that time I was still swimming, so I had a good foundation, I liked it right away. I won my first competition, which was such a great feeling that I continued. In Hungary, there were many excellent role models/athletes for young people, I was inspired by the kayaking environment, I wanted to be as successful as them. Finally, I managed to get into the adult national team in 1993, of which I was a member for 10 years. It was always difficult to get qualification into the team every year, but in the period between 1993 and 2003, I managed it. In this period, we had a lot of adventures, trips, experiences, successes and failures. In total, 7 World Champs, 5 European Champs golds and an Olympic 9th place are among my best results.
We held training camps in South Africa several times and developed a good relationship with the SA kayaking community. Their national team also visited Hungary many times. They showed us the surfski, which was practically unknown in our country, considering that we have no ocean, The Olympic movement is very strong in Hungary, and the focus is on the sprint discipline to this day.
Between 2005 and 2008 I was a coach in Cape Town (Western Cape). Here, the focus was on qualifying the competitors for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which they did. The experiences I gained in South Africa, the people's positive attitude towards sports and their passion for nature still influence me to this day.
V8 Double cruise, Budapest style
EPIC: When did SurfskiFUN first open for business?
I bought my first surfski (EPIC V10) in 2008, but it wasn't until 10 years later in 2018 that I found an opportunity that started me in the direction of doing this. Fortunately, I found an excellent partner, Ariel Lőrincz. We complement each other perfectly, I feel that our cooperation is very constructive. 5 years have passed and surfski has been introduced in the region. It was not easy, we tried to bring a new color to decades-old traditions, to present a different approach. Today, there is no need to explain what surfski is, the customers are consciously looking for us. We organize events, educate, rent, and do retail sales. This is not our main occupation, everyone has a civilian job. We have become known locally, among absolute beginners to former top athletes, many people already know the EPIC boats.
Check out SurfskiFUN’s amazing and fun new location in Balatonfüred on Lake Balaton!
EPIC: What inspired you to start SurfskiFUN? Did you experience an “AHA!” moment when you realized you wanted to share surfski paddling with others?
I loved kayaking from the very beginning, I think no one can be successful without passion. It's a sport that can be pursued for life, and what's more important, we can quickly find common ground with the kayaking community anywhere in the world.
I was open to getting to know all disciplines of kayak sports, but I liked surfski the most. After the intense sprinting years, this gave me the most exciting experiences. It is not only suitable for the sea, but everywhere, on lakes, rivers, etc. By choosing the right type, even those who start in adulthood can learn to kayak more easily and achieve success faster. In the beginning, no one understood why someone started surfkiing in Hungary. Time will prove that this boat is suitable for kayaking on almost any water surface and in any weather, and that it gives each user the expected FUN-level that is adapted to their level of preparation.
The “Epicnic” Demo Day
EPIC: What originally attracted you to Epic Kayaks? Do you have a favorite Epic model, and why?
I don't like compromises in sports equipment. I had the opportunity to try boats and types from several manufacturers. EPIC has everything you need, in terms of appearance, quality, usability, comfort, etc. This is the only way to represent something authentically, if you yourself know that it is the best.
I used V10 for a long time, then V14, there was a season in which I felt good in V11, I am currently paddling in a V12 Gen3. The boat is excellent, but I'm slowing down a bit. I want to be on the water more, but it always remains at the end of the day.
EPIC: Who are your typical surfski customers? Are you converting sprint racers to the freedom and joy of surfski, or do you get more people that are totally new to paddling?
I can proudly say that many former Olympic and World Champions paddle EPIC surfskis, they really like them. I had aspirations to build a team with which we can be present at international surfski events. We have been to quite a few such events, but not regularly. This is the next big challenge for me, but my capacities are finite, I can't do everything at once (unfortunately).
It is difficult to answer who our typical customers are, and it is almost impossible to predict what they will be looking for. In general, our customers know exactly what type is not in stock at the moment! Joking aside, we try to help as efficiently as possible with their choice, and in choosing the boat that best suits them. We insist on test-paddling, so we try to provide as many test boats as possible. In short: our main goal is to introduce the experience of kayaking to as many people as possible and to jointly build the surfski community in Hungary, whether they are beginner or experienced, children or older people.
Training for fun
EPIC: Where do your customers typically paddle?
In 2023, the biggest task is to create 3 bases where we can be present with the EPIC brand. These will be in 3 different places in the country with a different character. The most important one will probably be in the busiest place on Lake Balaton (largest lake in Central Europe), also we will be next to one of the largest rivers in Europe, on the banks of the Danube. In addition, we try to be present at events that move many people.
While there is great demand for events locally, we have already organized several camps in Croatia, where the natural environment is wonderful and, of course, it is the nearest sea to us.
In connection with the organization of the events, our team was expanded with Andrea Soós, who also provides a lot of added value both personally and professionally, and we got a new impetus with her arrival.
“Crossing Budapest” by paddle
EPIC: Tell us about your team at SurfskiFUN. Did you introduce them to surfski paddling?
As I mentioned above, I’ve founded SurfskiFUN with my excellent partner, Ariel Lőrincz.
We met Andrea Soós for the first time at our first surfski camp in Croatia that we organized. She fell in love with surfskipaddling and enthusiastically participated in all events and then bought her own EPIC V9 later. We try to use this attitude even now when organizing our events.
Apart from Ariel and Andrea we have great family members, friends and partners who help and support us in our work at events or in the background. Without them we would not be where we are now. So thank you all!
EPIC: You have several special events coming up this summer. What is the Balaton-Átevezés event, and what is your involvement? Can anyone participate? Looks like a lot of FUN!
‘Balaton-Átevezés’ is already a traditional “competition”, but much more of a community experience, which is a special occasion when we can paddle across our country’s largest lake, Balaton. (By the way, this is not allowed according to shipping rules, only with a special permit.) The distance is approx. 8 km between Zamardi and Tihany. with 3-4 thousand participants. You can participate in the competition with several types of watercraft; kayak, canoe, SUP, dragon boat etc.
We are there every year and provide the opportunity to rent surfski boats, whether for beginners or those who want to win the race. After the race, usually many people ask us to test EPIC surfskis and we are very happy about that.
Ez szórakoztató! (Translation – This is fun!)
Too much fun in Croatia – Adriatic Sea
EPIC: You offer Surfski Camps in Croatia, paddling on the Adriatic Sea. It looks fantastic! What are the highlights of the Camp? Is there good downwind paddling in Croatia?
We had a camp already this year in May, and we will go again on 21-25th of September. The camp is located on an the island Brac and the environment is truly breathtakingly beautiful. Some of the participants have their first experience at sea kayaking and/or surfski, but most of them come to take advantage of the surfski’s great features and surf waves. Before each tour we check the expected wind and weather and adjust the route accordingly (to get the best conditions).
There are more and more returning members, but there are always new ones, also from abroad, and also family members are arriving who – although they do not paddle (yet) – can still enjoy the facilities of the place.
Croatia kayak camp, 2023 Spring:
EPIC: How did you come up with the name SurfskiFUN? It’s such a fun name!
After years of competing, I was looking for new experiences. Of course, the competitive blood remains, but I want to enjoy the sport and I try to convey and spread this feeling. So maybe this is where the name (SurfskiFUN) comes from, which inspires us to have joy in this activity. The SurfskiFUN-Team is full of ideas and possibilities, we just have to make them happen!
Make sure to check out Surfski FUN by visiting: https://www.surfskifun.com/