Rok Rozman, a 27 years old ex-Olympic athlete in rowing (4th place in Beijing 2008 and 3rd place in World Championship in 2009) from Slovenia, spends his time these days in a whitewater kayak or doing research. Rozman is working to complete his Masters in Biology/Ecology.
In describing his life, Rozman says, “Since I can remember, I wanted to be outside and on the move, doing crazy things. That is why my parents signed me in for ice hockey at age 4. I was training in this amazing sport till I was 17 years old. I was part of the national team at the time but then had a big fight with a coach and in a rush of anger I said to him that I will go and start rowing (I literarily had no clue what this sport was about and I still don’t know why I had said that). But once you say something out loud you should at least go and try to do so. I did, and after training rowing for 4 months, I won bronze medal at National Championships.
“In 2008, 4 years after I started training rowing, we lost the bronze Olympic medal in the last meters of the final race. I was devastated but luckily won a bronze medal in World Champs the next year. Then I suffered a serious chronic back injury and decided to quit being a professional athlete. My back got better and I was – and still am – constantly on the move, exploring new amazing places with my kayak, while also biking, climbing, fly fishing, bird watching and ski touring with my best friend, my dog Hal.”
“Meanwhile I did some work and finished a bachelor degree in Biology that I liked so much that I continued with a Masters degree in Ecology and Biodiversity. I am currently finalizing my Master thesis on super predation among Owl species, a thing so interesting and not studied before that I would like to continue with a Ph.d. Professional sport gave me discipline and a proof that human body can to extreme things if you really want it to. It is the same with mind. This helps me now on the water, in the snow and in the woods.”
“For the last half of year I am seriously involved in a project we started with 3 other friends; a buddy kayaker Žan, friend photographer Anže and friend videographer Nejc. We established the Leeway Collective, a platform through which we would like to show our work (sports and photos/videos) that will hopefully inspire other people to do good things in and for the great outdoors.”
Gear Institute: Hi Rok. You’ve had a full life already at age 27. What are you up to these days?
Rok Rozman: Žan (another AT Pro Team and Leeway Collective member) and I came back from an extreme kayak expedition in Chile earlier this year and are still under the enchantment of that amazing piece of Mother Earth with its countless astonishingly beautiful rivers.
Next up, we have a big wish to paddle a huge waterfall falling from a cave in Slovenia that has never been paddled before. We will probably also go to Montenegro in April to try and do some first descents on their amazing rivers and pay a visit to some rivers in Norway in July.
Gear Institute: Still staying busy, then. You need good gear for these activities. What items do you always carry along when you head out on a big trip?
Rozman: My list of must-have gear is simple. A throw rope is the most important safety device in kayaking. A pocket knife, which may be the second most important tool in kayaking. Binoculars because I am a ornithologist and thus this is a must have. I carry an ignition steel (fire starter) because you just never know when you will need it. A hypothermia blanket is a vital safety aid as you never know when you will get too cold, especially in water sports. And a headlight is always in my gear since if night catches you in the canyon it can be really dark and dangerous.
Gear Institute: That’s an interesting list, and one I’m sure a lot of paddlers will appreciate. But let’s talk some specifics. Your sponsors make some great gear. What really excites you in the current product lines? And what do you really put to the test from those sponsors?
Rozman: I use a complete Sandiline kit: Their dry suit, spray deck, life jacket, shoes, warm underwear in winter/spring, neoprene hat—the works. Having quality kayak gear is essential when paddling Class V rivers or doing expedition kayaking. Sandiline provides me with spray deck that won’t implode even on the hardest beat ups and a dry suit (dry top) that will let no water in, but most of the sweat out. Wearing breathable but watertight gear enables longer and more enjoyable paddling.
I also rely on my Adventure Technology AT2 Superduty paddle. This is a real machine among paddles, a piece of art you almost cannot destroy as it as strong as a paddle can get. A reliable piece of equipment!
My Pyranha Shiva kayak is a perfect creeking boat that feels at home even in big water. Very forgiving design that looks good too. For me as a big paddler this decently sized boat is exactly what I need.
Gear Institute: Are there any special packing or gear-protecting techniques/tricks you use when you travel?
Rozman: When traveling with airplanes I mostly rely on sturdy Ortlieb Big Zip bags that are probably the most secure thing available to put your things in. This bag is impossible to tear and is completely waterproof.
When taking my complete kayak equipment on the plane I put the kayak in a black textile bag, this makes me able to put (hide) more things inside the kayak and avoid having problems with the airport check-in staff. You just have to say that what you have just put on their check-in conveyor belt is a surfboard and you are good to go.
When traveling by car I also pack most of my things in Ortlieb bags. If we move from river to river with a pick-up truck, having a waterproof bags means a difference between having everything wet and dusty or dry and clean.
Gear Institute: Are the any emerging trends or gear designs that really impress you right now?
Rozman: The quality of new GoPro 4 Black edition is amazing; having an option to film at full HD with 120 fps makes our video content so much better. Also I am looking forward to our cooperation with Goal Zero. With them on board we will be able to bring footage from the most remote parts of the globe and we will not have to do stops in the towns to charge batteries when on the move from river to river (because we like the wilderness and being away from every day life from time to time).