Ljubljanica SUP Challenge 2024: Interview with Race Director Damjan Mozina

As the preparations for the 7th edition of the Ljubljanica SUP Challenge held on Monday, 13 May in Ljubljana, Slovenia are ramping up and excitement is mounting among paddlers and spectators alike, TotalSUP caught up with Damjan Mozina, SUP athlete, sport promoter, race director and the SUPklub Boss, Slovenia’s largest stand-up paddle club.

Reflecting on the growth of the local SUP scene since our last chat, Damjan acknowledges the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead as he fine-tunes every detail of the upcoming event, co-organized with the Slovenian Canoe Association as part of the pre-European Whitewater Championship promotion.

Dubbed as a “breakthrough” event, this year’s Challenge is taking place on Monday, 13 May immediately following the Lake Rocks SUP Festival in Austria, an hour’s drive away from Slovenia’s capital – Damjan tells us more about this unconventional decision and shares a sneak peek of the highlights.

Photo by Matjaž Corel

Hi Damjan, welcome back to TotalSUP! What are you most excited about in the run up to the 7th edition of the Ljubljanica SUP Challenge?

Hi, great to talk to you again and thanks for reaching out. I’m happy and excited to see that the 7th edition is getting an even wider international recognition and interest than in the past years. Talking to sponsors, partners and authorities makes this unique race, despite short and intense, an amazing opportunity for collaboration, and for racers to bond.

This year, we are taking big risk organizing it on Monday afternoon, yet that’s when people are coming from their jobs and schools and come to see race in the heart of Slovenia’s capital, watching the race from promenades and numerous bridges along the race course.

Photo by Matjaž Corel

You’re the driving force behind SUPklub, Slovenia’s largest stand-up paddle club, how has the local SUP scene grown since our last chat? Are you seeing any new trends?

Having been in this sport for the almost fourteen years now, I can say we had better times… which are about to come again. Right now we’re in a process of looking for and educating people – instructors and trainers, to build foundations for all generations of sport development. It’s hard work ahead, but we feel we have a great support coming from local and national organizations for what we’re doing. We see that it’s harder to get youth off their computers and spend more time doing sports and be in nature, so this is a challenge we’ve just accepted and we’ll be working more on it.

What’s your vision behind this year’s event?

The 7th Ljubljanica SUP Challenge might be the breakthrough event in a way to set the stage for the bigger 8th edition and organizing a two days event at our location on Ljubljanica river bank, to allow more disciplines to race and have enough time to show contestants the scenic Ljubljana’s waterways and sights in general. So, we’re looking forward to the future and great cooperation with our friends from the kayaking world and offer a bigger event format in our 15th season of operation in 2025.

Ljubljanica provides a stunning setting for both athletes and spectators. Are these waters accessible for paddlers outside the event?

Yes, Ljubljanica allows individuals to do watersports and go on a cozy tour themselves. There are several official points of water access, one of them is at our home spot but I’d recommend to book a tour and get a wider picture of what one is seeing along the way. And, nevertheless, it can get quite busy with water traffic in the Summer, hence it’s safer to have an experienced guide with you.

This year’s event takes place on Monday, immediately following the Lake Rocks SUP Festival. Could you tell us more about it?

He he, I expected this question… The 2024 Ljubljanica SUP Challenge is co-organized with Slovenian Canoe Association as part of the promotion of the European Whitewater Championship, happening on 17th – 19th May. It’s not too common to have a SUP race on a working day, however this brings many benefits to both. Easier organization, more spectators, event program happening through the whole afternoon and offering more than one discipline and sponsors see the full event site of spectators and racers. On the other hand, where can racers have more support than in the heart of a European city? Ask any of them about their heart rate prior to the start of the race… Competing here is an experience…and racers seem to love coming back.

Who is the event aimed for? Can anyone attend?

Given the format of the race, anyone can attend. Elite and other age categories run the 2,5 km distance, partly upstream and partly downstream, kids do the 500m race with a buoy turn, and the Fun category is a 1 km with a single turn as well. The river traffic being on hold for the event time, we are ‘indulgent’ to those who want to participate yet still want to get to work next day (not to push them too hard and too far).

What can participants expect this year? What are the perks of this year’s challenge?

On top of the regular race format and rules, we always add some challenges. There’s an Elite category prize money this year, there will be a “Best of Ljubljanica SUP Challenge Award” again and teams will cross the paddles in the Big SUPs race in the after-time at the SUPKlub’s venue. May I also mention the 2023 Best of Ljubljanica SUP Challenge Award – Damodara Mokhniuk improved Peter Bartl’s best by almost a minute, so you can do your math!

Photo by Matjaž Corel

We love that you include the Kids race in the formats (U12 and U16). What should be done to get more kids into the competitive side of the sport?

Thanks! We try, yet it seems kids are harder to get out than it was before. At this age kids need ‘something’ to get identified with, so we are the ones offering them a safe place for activities with a group of likeminded friends and an opportunity to prove themselves. Saying this, clubs like SUPKlub shall be ready to work hard and with no real financial gains, but for the long term benefits of the youth, club and society. As long as the main governing bodies of our sport (ISA and/or ICF) in this case won’t see the need, will and a way to develop sport hierarchical, clubs are the only bodies to develop our sport, work with kids, invest in equipment and trainers. From my own experience I can say it’s far from a sustainable way and demands a lot of time and a passionate and experienced team – way more than just an individual with a goal.

Photo by Matjaž Corel | Damodara Mokhniuk (left) goes head to head with Christian Taucher

Could you share a sneak peek of who has confirmed their participation already?

I can disclose that Damodara’s “Best of Ljubljanica SUP Challenge” time might again be improved. We have competitors registered from six countries now and I believe we’ll attract more in the coming days. I’d greet the ‘heart and brain’ of this region’s stand-up paddling, Rudy Van Haven, who registered for Ljubljanica SUP Challenge for the first time and welcomes others to do the same here!

Thank you for your time Damjan and we’re wishing you an epic event!

To find out more about SUPKlub and the Challenge, visit

Follow SUPKlub on Facebook and Instagram 

Register for the event, here 

About the Author

Anna Nadolna

Anna is the Founder of SUPer Whale, a Cambridge(UK!)-based emerging watersports brand and a stand-up paddleboarding community. She is a certified SUP Flat Water Instructor accredited by International Surfing Association (ISA). Anna is also a digital marketing, storytelling aficionado and a growth hacking enthusiast.

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