The four-time motosurfing champion was attracted by the engineer's desire to understand "his" board
If someone describes to you a successful sports career and how it helps to educate young talents, you probably would not expect them to be twenty. However, this is exactly how old the four-time world champion in motorsurfing, Lukáš Záhorský, is. The second-year engineering student at BUT works as an experienced professional, who comes after six years of top racing. And he would like to combine his unsportsmanlike future with a motor board.
You ride a jetsurf, a motor board designed by BUT graduate Martin Šula. Is that why you decided to study mechanical engineering?
Actually yes. I started jetsurfing in 2014, one of my dad's friends knows Martin Šula, so my dad bought a board, I tried it and I was very impressed. I found out that you can also race on the surfboard and the rest is history. It connected me nicely in my life: Martin Šula studied engineering, which I now study, founded a successful company in Střelice near Brno, where I found a part-time job, and of course I race on jetsurf.
How should a layman imagine jetsurf?
It is a board similar to a surfboard, whose float is made of carbon. Inside the float is a two-stroke internal combustion engine, which for its relatively small size achieves great performance, my model has over 17 horsepower. The surfboard does not stand free, but the legs are in the grips similar to a snowboard. A control leads from the tip of the board, we call it a handle, which adds gas and there is also a fuse on it, which starts and stops the board. It turns similarly to a snowboard, i.e. by a tilt.
You are relatively young, and yet you have a fairly long racing career. Have you been to motosurfing since its inception?
Yes and no. Motor surfing dates back to the 1970s, but at the time surfboard enthusiasts attached an outboard motor boat. Martin Šula went about it differently, he developed the jetsurf as a sports tool, so he created a much smaller float with a smaller engine, in order to achieve greater dynamics. The Jetsurf can therefore travel at speeds of over 60 km/h. However, it can be said that motorsurfing is the only purely Czech sport that originated in the Czech Republic and is still a world leader in the Czech Republic. We officially date the origin of motorsurfing sometime in 2010, since 2019 the sport has been part of the International Federation of Motor Water Sports, which in turn falls under the Olympic Committee, so we are truly recognized as an official sport. Covid has now dampened the expansion of motorsurfing a bit, but before the pandemic we had over a hundred riders from more than two dozen countries in the world championships, which is more countries than represented in Moto GP or Formula 1, by the way.
What caught you personally about it?
It was a brilliant combination for me. As a kid, I really wanted to do motorsports, like go-karts. But it was not possible for financial reasons and it also seemed dangerous to the parents. So I did alpine skiing, where I gained a sense of inclination and dynamics, which I then used for jetsurfing. When I found out that I could do motorsport, which is relatively inexpensive and also safe – because when I fall, it won't be on the asphalt, but in the water – the choice was clear. In addition, the adrenaline in the contact race on the motor board is completely different than when, for example, skiing goes against time. You say the board is safer. But if you fly out of it at 60 miles, it probably hurts, too, doesn't it?
It hurts, but it's not like you fall on the asphalt. In addition, during races we must have certain safety features: a life jacket is essential, a helmet with a jaw protector, neoprene is also recommended. But recreationally, you can ride a jetsurf calmly in a vest and swimsuit, if one can, there is no risk.
And the cost? Buying a jetsurf is not entirely cheap.
No, prices start somewhere around 300 thousand crowns, but it is also the last major investment you have to make. All you need is a board and talent and you can go to the World Cup. Thanks to this sport, I have visited a number of beautiful places around the world: Mexico, Singapore, China, Abu Dhabi, Colombia,… Those who ride motorcycles, for example, pull a trailer, mechanics, the whole team. All I need for a jetsurf is a ticket, for which I buy another suitcase, which is my surfboard. I drive more or less alone, because I don't need anyone else, I can make basic repairs, the machine is very well designed and relatively simple. In my opinion, it is an ideal sport for those who like adrenaline and motor sports. And it's done by people of all ages: from nine-year-olds to more mature people who still enjoy the sport.
But you have decided to dedicate yourself to jutsurf other than as a racer…
I knew I enjoyed hanging around the board, so after graduation I applied to the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. At the same time, I started working in the company of Martin Šula and combined school, work and entertainment. I enjoy being able to improve in sports and in the studio, and it enriches each other. Now I'm studying a bachelor's degree in Fundamentals of Mechanical Engineering, at the beginning of the third grade I would like to have a choice of how I will specialize in the master's degree. It will definitely be something with motorsport, I just don't know if it is the area of internal combustion engines, electric motors, production technologies or something else.
And how do you manage to combine sport and demanding study?
I will not hide the fact that it is not entirely easy. But I'm used to using time quite efficiently. If one does sports and wants to win, it requires determination. And if he gives the same determination to the studio, then it comes together. In addition, it is great that I immediately use the knowledge from school in sports and at work and vice versa. Martin Šula's company also employs a lot of engineering graduates who will advise me on what I should prepare for, what will suit me.
It's a bit out of place to ask such a young athlete, but still: how long do you think you'll be racing?
If I were optimistic, some five years. I would like to be able to finish at the top, like my great role model, the skier Hirscher, who also finished at its best. When I feel that I can't finish racing so that I can stay at the top of the world, I would like to focus on developments in motorsport or training other talents. In the years that I have been doing motosurfing, I already have quite a lot of know-how when it comes to riding technique. A few years ago, I founded a racing school, where I help riders improve their technique. I have about a dozen children in the Czech Republic that I am actively involved in, three of whom are already junior world champions. Although I train the competition, our sport pushes it further and it is true that sometimes they train me and beat me nicely. I would like the number of young riders to increase and our sport to continue to develop.
Lukáš Záhorský (* 2001)
He started racing jetsurfing in 2014. A year later, he finished second at the World Motorsurfing Championships, in 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2021 he won the title of world champion. He is studying the second year of the Fundamentals of Mechanical Engineering at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Brno University of Technology.