I have met many incredible people during my time in Croatia, and we have reported on a number of incredible projects. And sometimes – just sometimes – those incredible people can be found executing incredible projects. And then you have something truly special.
I first came across Domagoj Jakopovic, aka ‘Ribafish’ several years ago. As one of the instigators and participants of one of Croatia’s coolest events, which has gone down in folklore – the legendary Ilicki Maraton, a drinking challenge the length of Zagreb’s longest street 14 years ago – we had some Facebook messenger correspondence about resurrecting the marathon for a 10th anniversary appearance. Nothing came of it, and we never met.
Time passed, and then three years ago, I got a message that Ribafish was SWIMMING to Jelsa as part of a project to connect all Croatia’s inhabited islands by swimming from top to bottom, and I would be able to meet him for an interview. I quickly went into research mode, and this is what I found about the RokOtok project:
RokOtok is a project created in memory of Rok, a curious and cheerful boy who planned to visit all Croatian inhabited islands with his father, but the adventure was abruptly interrupted at the age of thirteen, when Rok left this world. His father, Domagoj Jakopović, better known as Ribafish, decided to fulfill his promise to his son, swim from island to island, continue the story and include other children and parents in it in order to achieve their never-ending life project together.
The aim of the project is to raise awareness of the importance of the time that parents spent with their children through sports, play and learning, and to develop and encourage children’s curiosity, interests and research spirit. And precisely through games and activities with parents, he plans to teach the kids about the cultural and natural heritage of each island he visits. Additionally, through specially prepared ecological workshops, Ribafish will point out the importance of preserving the environment, with a special emphasis on ecological waste disposal.
Rok’s ashes were thrown into the Adriatic, close to their favourite beach on Korcula, so that he could be with his father on this epic and very personal journey. It was one of the most heartwarming stories I have covered on TCN, and you can read that initial interview and all the young lives he touched in RokOtok by RibaFish: The Most Heartwarming Project in Croatia in 2019.
A truly inspirational man, and a very funny one too. I hadn’t realised what a coup I had by doing a video interview of Ribafish in English – his legion of fans were thrilled as they had never heard him speak English before – he does so very well (see the video above).
Riba and I have become good friends since, and I watch with envy at his energy travelling all over the country discovering the finest food and wine novelties on a seemingly daily basis, but I know that his focus has been on completing his journey with Rok. The original plan – to swim all 50 islands from south to north over three summers, was delayed due to the pandemic in 2020, and so RokOtok 2022 is the final leg.
Riba set off on RokOtok last Sunday, from Privlaka to Vir, and this morning swam into the island of Olib. Each destination has a welcome committee, including many children who come to hear his message. If you happen to be holidaying on any of these islands, I do encourage you to stop by. The penultimate column in the schedule above is the estimated time of arrival, and you can see how far the swim is that day in the last column.
Swim well, Riba, and see you for a glass of wine or three in Slavonia soon.
You can keep up to date with the latest from RokOtok 2022 on the event Facebook page – please contact them if you would like to make a donation.