Photo by: Petar Fabijan


World surfer champion

Last summer, Croatians celebrated the silver medal won at the World Cup tournament on streets and squares with enormous enthusiasm. Indeed, there are still those who will claim that the silver medal that the Croatian team brought home from Russia is just as good as the gold one. Despite the fact that silver is not gold, to some people, I guess, it shines as if it were. A month and a half later, the gold medal from the World Windsurfing Championship arrived in Rijeka, albeit poorly noticed in the rest of the country. It was the first such medal for Croatia. Enrico Marotti from Rijeka came first in the race that took place on the North Sea, in Denmark. “It’s normal for people to love football; I love it too. This football fever has brought us much needed optimism. However, if we think logically, we would expect this country to invest more in sailing. Because we don’t have hundreds of football stadiums all over Croatia, but we do have a thousand islands which weren’t created by man, which we have inherited. We have thousands of incredible places to sail in. I don’t care about my personal promotion that much, but I’d like to use the fact that Croatia now has a world windsurfing champion to attract interest in sailing among as many young people as possible; they can still play football in the winter,” says Marotti laughing.

“I’m not interested in fame at all. I love what I do and that’s much more important than fame.” Through the athlete’s wind-tousled curls, a blackamoor (called morčić) is slightly visible on his left ear, an earring characteristic of the people of the Rijeka region showing an image of a black man’s head wrapped in a white turban. “Ever since I got it, which was when I was 14, I’ve never taken it off. It’s my family inheritance. My family all wore morčići. And it’s been so for generations,” says he, twisting his earring. We talk some more about the morčić; tradition and Kvarner are very important to Marotti.

Records indicate that blackamoors are worn by almost half the people in the Kvarner region. Men very rarely, women often. The legend, states the surfer, says that morčić is linked to Turkish turbans that were left in the city after an unsuccessful Ottoman raid on Rijeka in the 16th century. Another legend, however, dates the blackamoor to the time when an unnamed Italian countess freed her beloved black maid and then had earrings with the maid’s likeness made, as a memento.

As chance would have it, the morning we meet Marotti has just finished his last training at home, on the Adriatic Sea, in 2018. The next day, he is to fly to Hawaii, to do his winter training. He won’t come home until Christmas, and then only for a short time because then he’s going to Tenerife for two and half months of training.

He pulls the board and sail out of the sea. Water still dripping from him, he quickly walks to the car, which is parked right on the waterfront. He opens the door, and Shaka and Ares jump immediately out. They were waiting for their owner. He and his dogs have a well-established routine regarding surfing and training: every morning Ares and Shaka, through the car window, watch Enrico surf on his board; he parks the car so that they can watch him without any difficulty. They know they have to wait patiently and their owner will come out of the sea to pick them up and take them for a walk. “There were also days when my dogs would, at six in the morning, honk the car horn with their paws and wake up the entire Volosko Bay.

I had to teach them that, although they were sitting in the front seat – as if in the front row at the cinema – and watching me surf, they weren’t allowed to touch the horn under any circumstances,” says the surfer shaking his head.

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