Vavrinec Hradilek demonstrated power and precision as he adeptly navigated 23 gates and paddled his way to a silver medal in K1 canoe slalom at the Olympic Games London 2012.

More recently, the Czech been applying his talents to a new venture – launching the Kayak Beach Bar on the waters of Prague’s vibrant Naplavka riverfront in the summer of 2017.

He has managed to balance his new business interest with his sporting career and shares his tips on how you can make it work, too.

Applying knowledge from competitive sport to business

Both are very time-consuming. Succeeding in sport is a lot of hard work; success doesn’t just happen. It is the same thing with running a business like this. It is rewarding any time a friend or random guest gives positive feedback on the whole project. Like sport, I always see things that are not perfect and can be improved. We need to keep our guests satisfied through hard work.

It was supposed to be just a place that rents kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, but then we decided to add the beach volleyball court. We also have yoga and in the winter we have a sauna to keep it running year round.

Similarities of competing in elite level sport and operating a business

You need a strong support team in both. I couldn’t have achieved what I have in kayaking without my coach and physios, and although running the Kayak Beach Bar is not physical, I couldn’t have made this happen without my business partner.

The transition from full-time athlete

For so many years, the only thing you focus on is training every day, eating good food, sleeping and recovering. Then you realise you will have to do something else; it can be very scary. It’s something that athletes need to be thinking about. I started thinking about this in 2013 after I went for a meeting at the Kayak Bar on one of the canals in Copenhagen and thought we could replicate this in Prague.

Promoting sport and physical well-being

I want to increase the amount of kayak users here. Kids are always on their phones and captivated by social networks and the latest technologies, but if we can get them out paddling with friends, then that’s a very good thing. It is a goal of ours. We have also cooperated with the Czech Olympic Committee to help promote Olympic Day, especially to kids in the community.

Advice for opening a business

Obtaining the proper permits and stamps to operate here on the river was not easy, but we stayed with it, made some changes to this barge and now I’m very proud of what we have achieved. You just need to have an idea and continually work on developing it. Then you need to go out and do it.

Succeeding in sport is a lot of hard work; success doesn’t just happen. It is the same thing with running a business.


Vavrinec Hradilek

The Athlete365 course “Career Transition: Life After Sport” will help you to gain further insights and set yourself up for the next stage in your career.