Saturday, 1 October 2022

51 Islands, 1 Swimmer, 1 Promise: the RokOtok Press Conference

October 1, 2022 - Quite simply, the most phenomenal and positive event in Croatia these past four years - Domagoj 'Ribafish' Jakopovic holds a press conference to present the results of RokOtok 2022. A quite sensational afternoon. 

I don't go to many press conferences as they are usually really quite dull, but when you get the call from Ribafish, you know it is going to be something special. And so it was, pints in hand someone deep inside the truly outstanding Vintage Industrial Bar, that we came to listen to the man who delivered just the most inspiring project I have come across in my 20 years in Croatia. 

From tragedy to triumph. A father and son who loved the Adriatic and decided that they would visit each of Croatia's 51 inhabited islands. And they made a start until tragically, 12-year-old Rok died. A heartbroken father determined to fulfil the promise made. After scattering Rok's ashes in their beloved Adriatic close to their favourite beach on Korcula, Domagoh Jakopovic embarked on a three-year (four due to the pandemic) project to swim with Rok between each of the 51 inhabited islands, starting close to Dubrovnik and heading right to the north. 

It is a story we have reported on a lot over the years (you can see TCN's coverage here), and the final chapter took place yesterday after Ribafish held a press conference to present the results of the projects to sponsors and the media. It was a quite brilliant and heartwarming overview of this most personal of journeys, paying tribute to the many people he met on his marathon journey. One can only imagine how many thousands of young minds he has inspired, both with this journey and the education chats on nature and the environment he held on every island. 


A truly inspiring figure, and one I am thrilled to announce will be a guest on the TCN video podcast series in a couple of months. We will talk of course about RotOtok, but also the legendary Ilicki beer and rakija Marathon along Zagreb's longest street, curling in Slavonski Brod, the craft gin scene in Croatia, and a host of other topics.

Bravo Riba, I am proud to know you, and we are looking forward to the next chapter. And now, the press release in full. 


In Zagreb's Vintage Industrial Pub, a press conference was held on the occasion of the completion of the third phase of the #RokOtok project of swimming to all 50 Croatian inhabited islands

Zagreb, September 30, 2022. - The assembled guests and journalists were greeted by Domagoj Jakopović Ribafish, president of the association, professor of geography and food blogger, in front of the RokOtok Association, in the popular Vintage club in Zagreb this Friday. Through films, pictures and a presentation, the fifty guests present learned how the #RokOtok project was carried out on the last 17 of the 50 islands, i.e. what it was like to swim, connect people and islands, give lectures, clean beaches and socialize with more than 2,200 girls and boys from Vir to Krk.


Throughout July 2022, the crew on board and associated members of the Association on land in cooperation with Tourist Boards, Ministries, Port Captains and Administrations, the Red Cross, the Police and all others with whom they met and communicated during the trip, achieved numerous wonderful moments and made people's time spent on the most beautiful sea in the world even more beautiful. Overall, over three years of the project (one year there was no swimming due to the lockdown), over 6,000 children received their gift bags at public gatherings at 54 lectures on all 50 inhabited islands. More than 210 kilometers were swum; more than 200 people swam with Ribafish, and the longest sections were Mljet - Korčula and Hvar - Vis, when more than 18,000 meters were swum.


During the press conference, Ribafish emphasized that he is indescribably grateful to everyone who supported and continues to support the idea of ​​RokOtok in any way and reminded that the most important thing is to fulfill the promises we made and to go out into nature with as much enthusiasm as possible in order to save our only planet from excessive pollution.

"For the colder part of the year, visits to schools on the continent, cleaning campaigns and a large campaign of visits to all schools on the islands with lectures, gifts and cleaning campaigns are planned, and for September 2023, the screening of the documentary film RokOtok and the promotion of the book "RokOtok - Sailing of a Promise" Ribafish finished, who, as he himself emphasized, is "out of action" for another month due to the rupture of the biceps tendon of his right hand.


The association would like to thank all the sponsors, donors and "Little People" without whom the #RokOtok project would not have been possible. Once again a deep bow: Sportvision Hrvatska, RBA, HTZ, Rio Mare, Hyundai, Adriatic Osiguranje, Offertissima, UHU, Procter&Gamble, Boris Šuljić Boškinac, Olival, Školska Knjiga, Rubor Autoservis, Filburg, Vintage Industrial Bar, Pivnica Medvedgrad, Insako, Pašmanero , Lareto Food, Offset hr, and many others...
About new information and announcements, more in January 2023.


Domagoj Jakopović Ribafish
Association RokOtok

Mob. 091 5558788

Sunday, 31 July 2022

A Father's Promise Fulfilled! 50 Islands, 1 Swim, 1 Legend

July 31, 2022 - The most beautiful story to come out of Croatia in this and many a year. A father's promise fulfilled, as Ribafish completes his swim to Croatia's 50 inhabited islands. Bravo!

I never got to meet young Rok before his life ended tragically so young, but I have heard lots about the special bond that he shared with his father, Domagoj Jakopović Ribafish. And I cannot imagine a child being more proud of his dad than Rok would have been at the end of his father's momentous journey.

I have heard a lot of their joint love of the Adriatic and of Dad's promise to take him to all the inhabited islands in Croatia, as he did not have money to take him to New York and Paris.

Of how, after the tragic loss so young, a father's promise to him son was fulfilled, and in quite the most beautiful way. 


Scattering Rok's ashes in the Adriatic close to their favourite beach on Korcula, Ribafish vowed to fulfill the promise to visit all 50 islands by swimming from one to the next, from the south to the north, with Rok by his side. And not just swim, but also to educate children on the way on the environment, growing up happy, and spending time with their parents. You can learn more about the project from this previous TCN report.

What to say - Ribafish did it! And rather than me tell you about it, here he is in the form of the official press release. Respect, Sir, you have inspired thousands.  


Project #Rokotok - promise fulfilled! Ribafish was the first in history to connect 50 Croatian inhabited islands by swimming, learning and socializing

Domagoj Jakopović Ribafish fulfilled the promise he made to his son. The #Rokotok flag has flown on 50 Croatian inhabited islands, which for the first time are connected by swimming, but also by a story. A story about a project that reminded the islanders and their guests of the importance of preserving the environment and growing up happily, filled with spending time with friends and parents.


The project, which the media declared "the most beautiful story of the summer", celebrated its grand finale, after nearly 54,000 meters of swimming, in the third, last phase, in Punat on the island of Krk. RokOtok's official swimmer Boris Korbar, four locals and Domagoj Jakopović Ribafish jumped into the sea from the boat near the islet of Košljuna. A few boys joined them and they all reached the waterfront with ease, in about twenty minutes, where they were greeted by about five hundred children and adults.


Ribafish looks at those last 800 meters of the 210 kilometers swam during the project along the Adriatic, from Koločep to Krk, with a gap of a few days, as the most emotional moments. "It was not easy to get out of the sea in front of all those people, while emotions of sadness were interwoven in me, but also enormous gratitude for the support of all the people who welcomed me at this and all other locations, and all my Rokotočans who during all three phases project, on the four-year long journey, were with me", he said and added that he will use August for a holiday on Korčula, where he will be surrounded by his closest relatives, process everything with himself and sifting through memories, looking for inspiration for some new ideas through that #Rokotok as a project will live in the future.


Along with the crew, numerous swimmers and thousands of islanders and their guests are also included in the "memoir" of the #Rokotok project. They all listened to the story about the problems faced by the islands, swimming, nature, ecology and parental love, looked for and hid "treasures", and Ribafish points out that he hopes they all remembered the key message of this project, the message in which he found the meaning and what was its driving force - that promises must be fulfilled.


The final reception was organized by the Punat Tourist Board headed by director Branko Karabaić. After the lecture and hanging out with the kids, Ribafish placed the last geocache, thus motivating some other kids who will visit this beautiful island and destination in the future to research. Here, too, the children were delighted with the gifts. On the last 17 islands during July 2022, 2,200 were distributed (over 6,000 in all three phases), and Ribafish himself received a gift of personalized #Rokotok tennis shoes, three fish for the three phases of the project, a delicious cake and what he considers the greatest gift - smiling faces, warm words and hugs from little and big kids.

During the project, Shortest Path Production recorded all the material for the upcoming documentary film (expected in the fall of 2023), and in September, along with an appropriate exhibition of pictures by the official ship photographer Ivan Čujić and posters drawn by children on the islands, a press conference of the project will be held. where everyone interested will be able to learn about plans for the future.


Thank you all for being part of the most beautiful story of the summer and helping to fulfill a promise.

The project was supported by Sport Vision Croatia, RBA, HTZ, Rio Mare, Hyundai Croatia, Offertissima, UHU, Rubor Autoservis Zapruđe, Jamnica,, Pašmanero, Solgar, Insako and many others...

You can learn more about the RokOtok project on the official website.


What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

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20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years: the Insider Guide to Surviving Croatia will be out by Christmas. If you would like to reserve a copy, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject 20 Years Book

Monday, 25 July 2022

The Final Miles of the Remarkable Rokotok Project!

June 25th, 2022 - Today, the Rokotok project reported that their final miles of swimming have been completed!

Remaining one of the most inspiring stories in Croatia, Domagoj Jakopović Ribafish has completed his goal of connecting all of the 50 Croatian inhabited islands by swimming. Dedicated to the memory of his late son, Rok, it took one year longer than expected, due to the epidemic, but today Ribafish shared on his Facebook page that the swim is completed. The final, 50th Croatian inhabited island (if you're starting from the southern tip of Croatia, which is how Domagoj did it) was reached today, and Unije has the honour of being the final destination on the last leg of the project.

In this third (active) year of the project, about thirty swimmers swam along Ribafish, boats and dolphins accompanied them at sea, and more than 1600 children and so many adults welcomed the crew of Rokotok to the islands.

It is the common desire of Ribafish to talk to the gathered children about the importance of the preservation of the sea and land, flora and fauna and to encourage them to spend more time with each other and with their parents. He motivated them all to clean the beaches together, and spiced up the time spent with the children by hiding some geocaches.

In the third phase of the realization of the project, everything went well and each goal was achieved. As far as unplanned (and unpleasant) challenges go, the only ones worth mentioning are a very unpleasant wasp sting on Ilovik and a broken flip-flop on Olib.

So, one more stage remains: tomorrow, on Tuesday the 26th of July, Ribafish will swim from the Košljun islet to Punta on the island of Krk, where a big party is planned with numerous children and adults at 6 pm tomorrow night. The completion of this astonishing project will be celebrated, so if you're around, don't miss that event!

Sunday, 10 July 2022

RokOtok 2022: A Father's Love, Swimming to Over 50 Inhabited Croatian Islands

July 10, 2022 - One of the most beautiful tributes I have ever come across enters its third and final year, as RokOtok 2022 attempts to connect 50 inhabited Croatian islands by a loving father in a unique tribute for his son.

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. 


Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Ribafish Returns for RokOtok as the Father and Son Love Story Continues

 July 7, 2021 - One of the most moving stories about a father's promise to his son adds a new chapter to its pages, after a year on hiatus from the pandemic. ''Ribafish'' has started in Brodarica the second stage of the heartwarming project RokOtok, in memory of his son Rok.

After last year's break caused by the pandemic, this weekend started the second phase of the famous praiseworthy project RokOtok, a cheerful summer swimming and educational marathon Domagoj Jakopović Ribafish launched two years ago in memory of his prematurely deceased son Rok. ''Ribafish'' decided to fulfill the promise he made to Rok: that he would visit all 50 Croatian inhabited islands. But he also fulfills the promise he made to himself that he would swim to all our islands and hang out with the children and educate them.

"When I swim, he is with me and it's easier that way. RokOtok is dedicated to my son Rok and when the body can no longer and when the brain can no longer, there are emotions, I swim for him. I promised him that we would visit all 50 islands together and with this, I am trying to fulfill that promise", said Domagoj Jakopović Ribafish on Saturday, a few moments before the start of the second stage of the RokOtok project.


Domagoj Japoković, better known as ''Ribafish'', last Saturday in Brodarica before starting the second stage of the RokOtok. (Dusko Jaramaz/PIXSELL)

RokOtok received an award from the Ministry of the Sea, Transport, and Infrastructure for its contribution to the promotion of maritime culture, and was named the most beautiful story of the summer of 2019. This year, the story goes further. The second of the three phases of the project began on July 3 at 9 a.m. with departure from Brodarica for the island of Krapanj. This year's planned stage will be about 60 kilometers long, will connect 17 islands, and finally end on July 27 at 6 pm in Ugljan. After reaching the island, Ribafish will convey to large and small residents of the islands of Šibenik-Knin and Zadar County why it is important to protect nature and the environment, will organize beach cleaning, and an interactive and stimulating search for "treasure". Educational games in nature have also been designed to raise awareness of the problem of spending too much time in front of screens and mobile phones.

When this project was launched two years ago, not so many positive reactions were expected at the locations it swam to. In the first phase, he swam all the planned sections in the length of a hundred kilometers and connected 17 islands. On some of these islands, he was not even experienced, and somewhere he was greeted like a rock star.

In the first strokes of this year's route, Ribafish was accompanied by Dubravko Dudo Šimenc, a celebrated member of the water polo team, in a dual role. Not only are they friends, but Šimenc was also there as a representative of the Croatian Tourist Board.

The first two stages of this year's venture were organized in partnership with the associations "Tatavaka" and "Together for Krapanj" which, together with the City of Šibenik and island tourist boards, launched the initiative "For an archipelago without plastic". The successful project "Zlarin without plastic" is spreading to other islands, and Domagoj Jakopović Ribafish becomes an ambassador and supporter of this initiative.


The section from Brodarica to Krapanj with Ribafish was swum by about sixty people, and about 120 kids gathered at the reception on the beach in front of the Spongiola Hotel. (Dusko Jaramaz/PIXSELL)

At dawn, Ribafish from Krapanj continued towards Zlarin in the company of Tonći Lokas, and upon arrival in Zlarin, they were greeted by about seventy children. On the third day, Ribafish swam to the island of Prvić, the island of the visionary Faust Vrančić, where he was greeted by about fifty children, and on Tuesday he swam a very demanding section from Prvić to Kaprije.

Ribafish invites all residents of the islands of the Šibenik and Zadar archipelagos to join it this summer in another edition of RokOtok, but also to adhere to the epidemiological measures set by the Croatian Civil Protection Headquarters. He tells everyone to stay in nature as much as possible, to protect it and not to further "injure" the only planet that allows us blue skies, green grass, clear water, and fresh air.

The second stage of the #RokOtok project was supported by many sponsors, the Zadar County, and the Croatian National Tourist Board. More information about the #Rokotok project, plans, and activities, the second stage, or volunteering and promotion, can be found on the official website of the association.

Source: Turističke priče

 For more, follow our lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Support RokOtok Project by Purchasing Towels from The Fosen Blue Collection Line

April 14, 2021 - The beautiful towels from the Fosen Blue Collection line by the RokOtok project will connect children with seventeen Croatian islands! 

Ribafish reports, by purchasing this special line of towels in Konzum stores throughout Croatia, you are helping the success of a summer educational adventure that was designed together with the Let's Swim and Learn campaign in cooperation with Wib Solutions, a company that creates socially useful business projects.

The new summer adventure begins on July 3, when a cheerful and brave team from Brodarica will set off for the seventeen new inhabited islands of Šibenik and Zadar archipelagos. The plan is to connect one island and the coast with your hands, educate children about medicinal Mediterranean plants, clean the beaches, play, laugh, swim and learn together.

"Projects like RokOtok are a slow return to life for me. Through swimming, we promote sports and a healthier life, in lectures we talk about the importance of ecology, caring for the environment, the importance of talking to children and parents, and we end it with organized games, cleaning the beaches and distributing gifts. Funds from the sale of the towel line will be distributed to materials for cleaning the beaches, arranging them, buying adequate gifts such as an interactive map - coloring books of Croatian islands for all participants and donations to the needy," said Domagoj Jakopović Ribafish.

The pastel blue, pink, green, purple, and white shades of the Swim and Learn towel line come in three attractive sizes, are made of pure cotton, and remind us every day of togetherness, helping each other, and loving children. Funds raised by the purchase of towels, which can be found in Super and Maxi Konzum stores throughout Croatia from April 1, will be donated to the RokOtok Association for support in swimming around the island and continuing to hold children's educational and environmental workshops on the beaches of our beautiful coast.

"Encouraged by the very idea of ​​the RokOtok association, their wonderful projects aimed at the healthy and active development of children through sports, education, and ecology, we set out to design this campaign. I believe that together we will help in their further activities in another, for all of us a very challenging year. 

The RokOtok Association was founded in 2019 by Domagoj Jakopović Ribafish with the aim of promoting a healthy and active life for children and preserving the Croatian coast and islands. During the first summer, 35 members of the Association swam to 17 Croatian islands and organized 18 educational lectures attended by more than 2,000 children and parents. This praiseworthy story was then declared the most beautiful story of the summer. Total Croatia News has been following this undertaking with numerous stories, including doing an amazing interview with Domagoj two years ago. In 2020, the project was on hold because of the pandemic, so we're looking forward to following it again this year!

It is nice to know that Konzum has also recognized the one-year efforts of the Cleaning Bears team to make nature cleaner. So, until May 5, you donate one kuna to each purchased ecological bag to help in further development and operation, and you will also receive a kuna for every purchase with it.

“So, it's a win-win situation in four counties - we will connect forests, sea, and rivers! Join us now or better yet, start the action in your place. Clean, clean! #jednamanje."

For more about ecology in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

RokOtok 2020 Plan for Swimming Between Croatian Islands Published

February 11, 2020 - One of the most amazing projects in Croatia in 2019 is to be continued as RokOtok 2020, just like Domagoj Jakopović Ribafish announced after successfully finishing the first leg of his mission.

We followed Domagoj's story last summer, and we encourage you to read more about it if you missed it before. To summarise, Domagoj Jakopović Ribafish, a Croatian blogger and online personality decided to swim between the 50 inhabited islands in Croatia, in order to commemorate the life of his beloved son Rok who passed away tragically at the age of 12 (and who was in love with the Croatian Adriatic sea and the islands).

In 2019, Ribafish managed to connect the 17th southernmost Croatian inhabited islands by swimming. After this accomplishment, he went on to talk about the RokOtok project in schools and libraries all over Croatia and promote his project with various events (and also host a TV cooking show). Domagoj received an award given by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs,Traffic, and Infrastructure, for his promotion of maritime culture. 

And now, Domagoj is getting ready for this year's "season" of RokOtok 2020: swimming between 17 more inhabited islands in Croatia. Domagoj announced on his Facebook page that the route has been finalised, the boat has been rented, the crew is almost completely finalised too, he has supposedly hit the gym in order to get ready... Here's the route for RokOtok 2020:


July 5: Brodarica – Krapanj (port) – 0.2 nautical miles – 370 m

The welcome on Krapanj is expected at 10 am, and 2 hours are planned to be spent with the children (same goes to all other islands) 

July 6: Krapanj (Western Port) – Zlarin (Bay Vodena) – 1.7 nm – 3148m

Welcome on Zlarin at 10am

July 7: Zlarin (Vela Oštrica) – Prvić (Lovrenčevića Cape) – 1.5nm – 2778m

Welcome on Prvić at 10am

July 8: Zlarin – Kaprije 4,5 nm. – 8334m

Welcome on Kaprije at 6pm


Rest day


July 10: Kaprije (SE entrance to the Channel) – Žirje (Cape Muna) – 1,7nm – 3148m

Welcome on Žirje at 10am

July 11: Kaprije – Murter 2,8nm – 5185m

Welcome on Murter at 10am

Rest day


July 13: Murter – Vrgada 2,3 nm – 4259m

Welcome on Vrgada at 10am 

July 14: Vrgada – Pašman 2,2 nm – 4074m

Welcome on Pašman at 10am


Rest day


July 16: Pašman (Artina) – Ugljan (Cape Zaglav) – 0,1nm – 200m

Welcome on Ugljan (Kukljica) at 10am 

July 17: Ugljan (Kali) – Ošljak – 0,5nm – 926m

Welcome on Ošljak at 10am


Rest day


July 19: Ugljan (Northern Cape) – Rivanj – 0,2 nm – 380m

Welcome on Rivanj at 10am 

July 20: Rivanj – Sestrunj – 0,4nm – 750m

Welcome on Sestrunj at 10am  

July 21: Sestrunj – Zverinac – 1,3nm – 2407m

Welcome on Zverinac at 10am  

July 22: Ugljan – Iž (next to Dumboka bay) – 1,7 nm – 3148m

Welcome on Iž at 10am   

July 23: Iž – Rava – 0,9nm – 1670m

Welcome on Rava at 10am  


Rest day


July 25: Rava – Dugi Otok – 0,4nm – 750m

Welcome on Dugi Otok (Veli Rat) at 10am 

July 26: Welcome in Sali at 6 pm 

July 27 Dugi Otok – Kornat – 1,25nm – 2315m

Welcome at 10am


Rest day


29.07. Ošljak – Ugljan (Preko) – 0,5nm – 926m

Welcome at 6pm



(It's still not known if Ribafish's new companion, the adorable Dživo, will be joining him on the boat this year. We'll report when that crucial info becomes available.)

Monday, 12 August 2019

Rokotok 2019: Domagoj Jakopović Ribafish on Croatia's Most Heartwarming Project

August 12, 2019 - It is, quite simply, the most heartwarming project in 2019. TCN catches up with Domagoj 'Ribafish' Jakopovic after the successful completion of Rokotok 2019.

He was the 48-year-old guy who made this 50-year-old guy cry.

An inspiration for thousands of kids on Croatia's islands this summer. And he is only just starting. 

rokotok-2019 (3).JPG

The tragic and premature loss of his beloved 12-year-old son Rok caused pain which is unimaginable to any parent, but rather than wallow in self-pity, Domagoj 'Ribafish Jakopovic decided to try and turn his tragedy into something positive, while honouring a promise he made to his son. 

Not having the money to take him to Disneyland, Ribafish promised Rok that they would visit all 50 of Croatia's inhabited islands together. At the time of his untimely death, father and son had visited just 8 of them. 


Having scattered Rok's ashes near their favourite beach so that Rok was with him in the Adriatic, Ribafish came up with a plan to fulfil his promise. With Rok beside him in the Adriatic, he would swim between all 50 islands over three summers, the first leg this year from Kolocep to Ciovo. On every island, he would meet local children and talk to them on the importance of nature, ecology, spending time as a family. On each island there was a treasure hunt, and each child promised to read the free gift of Ribafish's book with their parents on his conversations with Rok. You can learn more about the project in my initial article on Rokotok 2019.

It is now a couple of weeks since Ribafish completed the first stage by swimming to Ciovo. Now a little more rested and back in his Zagreb apartment, he kindly agreed to another TCN interview with his thoughts on RokOtok 2019, as well as looking ahead to RokOtok 2020.

rokotok-2019 (8).JPG

  1. It has been a few days since you completed RokOtok 2019, for which congratulations. You have had a few days to reflect on your achievement. How do you feel and was the experience different to your expectations?

Thank you very much, I'm very grateful to everyone who saw this as something nice and valuable, so they followed our journey, as you did. It's difficult to do anything without the coverage of the good journalists... I'm sitting in my apartment in Zagreb, waiting to have an MRI of my shoulder to see how it can be fixed, writing reports for our sponsors, preparing a press conference... I miss the swimming, the adrenaline, the effort, the joy, and the children. And no matter how hard and gruelling it was, the whole thing on the boat and around it got under our skin. I'd love to rest, but I need to find another job and prepare the second season of the #RokOtok project.

rokotok-2019 (9).JPG

  1. How do you even prepare mentally and physically for something like RokOtok?

There were two options in my head: the first one was to continue working for 20 hours a day and withdraw into the alcochol and my depression, and destroy completely myself and everyone around me. The other option was to attempt doing something good for other people. I decided to do the second thing, so I quit my job and took on a fight with bureaucracy, sponsors and people overall. I didn't really have time to think about the physical preparations, but in the last 30 years I've tried either swimming or going to the gym every morning before work. Succesfully, more or less?

rokotok-2019 (15).JPG

  1. There were so many highlights. Can you pick out a few special moments?

Three days before we need to get going towards Dubrovnik we started getting together the gifts for children, the flags, the swimsuit, and the final documents. Nobody in the team is sleeping anymore. Everything is late, we can't seem to stand on our feet - even on glassy ones. But there are no feet whatsoever, the project is up in the air, there are people wishing the project would fail just so they could tell everyone later "I knew it, I told them, if only they listened to me..."

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But, we get 500 kilos of gifts and boxes into the van and start towards Dubrovnik. And we forget that we need to pass the border, without any paperwork for the gifts. So, every customs officer can stop us and give us a hard time, if she or he is having a bad day.. Somehow we pass the border, jumping with joy, and I remember I don't have - the swimming trunks. We run, we buy them, get stuff out of the van, into the boat, the boat is late, we can't sleep because we're so nervous, in the morning there are 10 TV stations, 50 journalists, I put on the wrong t-shirt, don't put on the vaseline, we get going 10 minutes before the police arrive... But, we get going.

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So, there, that second, after three months since I came up with the idea until the start of the project that came by in a trance-like state, that was the highlight of everything. We did it, man, we started, we started something in Croatia in three months, without being in a political party, without a single kuna to our name, something positive and kind... And then things really started, 2000 children on 17 islands, with the culmination on Čiovo, where there were 300 people, more than when the national football champion comes to Čiovo!

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  1. What was the hardest part and why?

Physically, the pain in my shoulder, while we were beaten by 3,5-meter high waves, the wind was blowing at 26 knots and there was a nasty current between Mljet and Korčula. But, swimming for 6 hours with rests, the doctor, the lifeguard, the captain and the rest of the crew - you can do anything! Mentally, the desperation when you realize that people don't do their jobs, which makes you helpless. All that, until other, wonderful people appear and everything somehow manages to fall into place...

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  1. You touched and inspired thousands of people along the way (including me!). Can you tell us a little about the little event you did with local kids on each island. What was your feedback from them?

When the idea of RokOtok first appeared, I thought that the kids of around ten years old would come to the beach to meet me, so I came up with the story for that age group. But already on the second island I saw that parents with toddlers, 1 or 2-year-olds came, as well as some 15- or 16- year old teenagers - some of them had more impressive beards than I have! And it was difficult to teach them all, explain to them everything I wanted to such a diverse group, so that was quite a mix. I have experience teaching, I was both an elementary and the high-school teacher for four years, but this was really demanding.

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Luckily, mostly everyone laughed, participated in discussions of ecology, why we can't throw trash into the sea, how to maintain our islands, why it's difficult to live on the islands during the winter, how to improve connectivity, which are the biggest and the highest Croatian islands, why you should talk to your parents, how to play in the nature more and better, why you should read... But the best part was when we went on the treasure hunt. I can talk for hours, but still this was the best of everything. In the end, we'd all hug, take photos, I'd sign their books and they made me promise I'd come back to their island one day.

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  1. RokOtok 2020 is almost a year away. How will you prepare for that? There must be a lot of bureaucracy and planning.

First I need to have that surgery on my shoulder, recover and then start swimming. Trust me, I'm a bit tired now. Having an association (udruga) in Croatia is not an easy thing. You need to have about a dozen people who will dedicate a lot of their time to it, and do a very good job, because the bureaucracy here can't wait for you to make a mistake so they can take your money. I hope that this year we'll get started a lot stronger, tougher, come up with better games for the children on our events, put together even better gifts, and I might even write a book describing the first part of my journey. I think it will make people laugh a lot...

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  1. And finally, RokOtok was inspired by the tragic loss of your son and your promise to take him to all 50 of Croatia's inhabited islands. What do you think he would have said to his dad after he reached island 17, Čiovo, the last part of the first year of this amazing 3-year project?

"Dad, I'm hungry..." Just kidding. I don't know. If I was a psychic, I'd be playing the lottery. Rok was a wonderful kid, typical for his age, he knew what he wanted and if he were here now I wouldn't be swimming around the islands, rather I'd be conquering two or three with him, during our days of vacation together. I don't know how he'd be developing, but I think he would love physics and chemistry, he'd be reading a lot and we'd spend the vacations happily, travelling around with smiles. I don't know what he would say about this, but I hope he's proud now and that he's bragging around. It's misguided to talk about that, since I miss him so much, and since I'd give a million islands to have him around for one more minute, so I can hug him again.

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It's irrelevant, my dear Paul, completely irrelevant... You need to live on, although one half of you fights it and just wants to give up. It's a horrible feeling, and that's why I can't wait for the new RokOtok 2020, to pick up where I left off and talk to children how important it is to love life and each other, learn, travel and explore. Hold your fingers crossed for us, that we manage to do everything on time, get everything together both financially and organisationally, that we have a hundred people swimming and 5000 people welcoming us. That'd be awesome. Yes, let's have a beer, I owe you one!

Learn more about the RokOtok project on the official website and please contact them if you would like to financially support the most heartwarming project in Croatia as Ribafish prepares for RokOtok 2020. 

You can also follow the latest on Facebook.

And, in case you missed it (or want to watch it again), it was a great honour to catch up with Ribafish last month as RokOtok hit Jelsa. It remains my favourite TCN interview ever. 

Monday, 12 August 2019

RokOtok 2019: Domagoj Jakopović Ribafish o Najpozitivnijem Projektu Godine

13. kolovoz 2019 - Radi se, vrlo jednostavno, o najdirljivijem projektu 2019. godine u Hrvatskoj. TCN ponovno je razgovarao s Domagojem Jakopovićem Ribafishom, nakon uspješnog završetka projekta RokOtok 2019.

On je četrdesetosmogodišnjak koji je rasplakao ovog pedesetogodišnjaka.

Inspiracija tisućama djece na hrvatskim otocima ovoga ljeta. A tek je počeo.

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Tragična i preuranjena smrt njegovog voljenog sina Roka u 12. godini njegovog života izazvala je bol koju niti jedan roditelj ne želi niti zamisliti, ali umjesto da se utapa u samosažaljenju, Ribafish je odlučio pokušati pretvoriti ovu tragediju u nešto pozitivno, a istovremeno održati obećanje koji je dao sinu.

Budući da nije imao novca da ga odvede u Disneyland, Ribafish je obećao Roku da će zajedno posjetiti svih 50 hrvatskih naseljenih otoka. U trenutku Rokove prerane smrti, otac i sin "osvojili" su ih samo 8.


Nakon što je rasuo Rokov pepeo uz njihovu omiljenu plažu, tako da je Rok s njim stalno u Jadranskom moru, Ribafish je smislio plan kako održati svoje obećanje. Uz Roka s njim u moru, plivat će od jednog do drugog naseljenog otoka u Hrvatskoj, kroz tri ljeta, a prva je etapa bila ove godine od Koločepa do Čiova. Na svakom otoku susreo se s domaćom djecom, razgovarao s njima o važnosti prirode, ekologiji, provođenju vremena sa svojom obitelji. Na svakom otoku bio je organiziran i lov na blago, a svako je dijete obećalo da će sa svojim roditeljima pročitati poklon koji su dobili od Ribafisha - njegovu knjigu o razgovorima s Rokom. Saznajte više o projektu u mom prvom članku (na engleskom jeziku) o projektu RokOtok 2019.

Prije desetak dana završio je posljednju etapu ove godine doplivavši do Čiova, Domagoj se odmara u svom zagrebačkom stanu. Pristao je za TCN podijeliti svoje misli i dojmove s RokOtoka 2019, kao i planove za RokOtok 2020.

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  1. Prošlo je nekoliko dana otkako si završio RokOtok 2019, na čemu ti iskreno čestitam. Imao si par dana da razmisliš o tom uspjehu. Kako se osjećaš, je li ovo iskustvo bilo u skladu s tvojim očekivanjima, ili ipak drukčije?

Hvala ti puno, hvala svim ljudima koji su shvatili ovo kao nešto vrijedno i lijepo i to popratili poput tebe. Bez kvalitetnih novinara je danas teško išta pošteno napraviti... Sjedim u stanu u Zagrebu, čekam magnetsku rezonancu da vidim kako mi se može popraviti rame, pišem izvještaje za sponzore, pripremam press konferenciju... I fali mi plivanje, adrenalin, napor, veselje i djeca. Koliko god teško i naporno bilo, nekako nam se sve to na brodu i oko njega uvuklo pod kožu. Htio bih se odmarati, ali moram naći novi posao i pripremiti drugu sezonu projekta #rokotok.

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  1. Kako se uopće čovjek mentalno i fizički pripremi za nešto poput RokOtoka?

U glavi su mi postojale dvije opcije: prva je bila da nastavim raditi 20 sati dnevno i povučem se u alkohol i depresiju te uništim do kraja i sebe i sve oko mene. Druga je bila da pokušam napraviti nešto dobro za druge ljude. Odlučio sam se za ovo drugo, dao otkaz i krenuo u borbu s birokracijom, sponzorima, ljudima općenito. Na fizičku pripremu nisam stigao misliti, ali zadnjih 30 godina pokušavam ili plivati ili ići u teretanu svako jutro prije posla. Manje-više?

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  1. Čini se da je bilo toliko sjajnih događaja. Možeš li ti istaknuti nekoliko posebnih trenutaka?

Tri dana prije polaska krećemo sa skupljanjem poklona za djecu, zastava, plivačkog odijela i zadnjih dokumenata. Više se ne spava. Sve kasni i nikako da postavimo sve na svoje noge. Makar i staklene. Ali nema nogu, projekt je u zraku, neki ljudi žele da projekt propadne samo da mogu poslije govoriti „Znao sam ja, lijepo sam im govorio, da se mene pitalo...“.

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Ali trpamo 500 kila kutija u kombi i krećemo prema Dubrovniku. I zaboravimo da moramo prijeći granicu bez papira za poklone. Dakle, svaki carinik nas može zaustaviti i zezati, ako ima loš dan... Nekako prolazimo granicu, skačemo od sreće, sjedamo na ručak, a ja se sjetim da nemam – kupaće gaće. Trčimo, kupujemo, istovarujemo, brod kasni, ukrcavamo, ne spavamo od nervoze, ujutro dolazi deset televizija i pedeset novinara, ja oblačim krivu majicu, ne namažem se vazelinom, krenemo deset minuta prije dolaska policije... ali krenemo.

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Eto, ta sekunda kad sam nakon tri mjeseca od ideje do početka projekta proveo u nekom transu, to je bio highlight svega. Krenuli smo, čovječe, uspjeli smo pokrenuti nešto u Hrvatskoj u tri mjeseca, a da nismo u stranci, bez ijedne kune, nešto pozitivno i lijepo... I onda je sve krenulo, 2000 klinaca na 17 otoka, s kulminacijom na Čiovu gdje je bilo 300 ljudi – više nego na utakmici nogometnog prvaka...

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  1. Što ti je bilo najteži dio i zašto?

Fizički, bol u ramenu dok su nas tukli valovi od 3,5 metra, puhao vjetar 26 čvorova i još nas nosila gadna struja između Mljeta i Korčule. Ali 6 sati plivanja s odmorima, doktorom, spasiocem, kapetanom i ostatkom posade – sve se može! Psihički, očaj kad shvatiš da ljudi ne rade svoj posao i da si praktički bespomoćan. Sve dok se ne pojave novi, divni ljudi, i sve se nekako posloži...

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  1. Dotaknuo si i inspirirao tisuće ljudi na svom putu (uključujući i mene!). Možeš li nam malo bolje opisati to druženje s djecom na svakom od otoka? Kakve su ti bile povratne informacije (i emocije) od njih?

Kada se rodila ideja o RokOtoku, mislio sam da će na plažu doći djeca od desetak godina, pa sam smislio priču za taj uzrast. Ali već od drugog otoka, došli su roditelji s djecom od 1-2 godine, pa sve do teenagera od 15-16 godina – neki su imali jaču bradu od mene! I bilo je jako teško podučiti sve svemu što sam im htio reći i objasniti, tako da je to bio jedan veliki mix. Imam iskustva u predavanju, bio sam učitelj u osnovnoj i srednjoj školi 4 godine, ali ovo je stvarno bilo zahtjevno.

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Srećom, uglavnom su se svi smijali, sudjelovali u raspravama o ekologiji, zašto ne smijemo bacati smeće u more, kako treba čuvati naše otoke, zašto je teško živjeti zimi na otocima, kako treba poboljšati povezanost, koji su najveći i najviši hrvatski otoci, zašto treba pričati s roditeljima, kako se više i bolje igrati u prirodi, zašto treba čitati... Ali najbolje je bilo kad se krenulo u lov na skriveno blago. Džaba ja pričao satima kad je ovo bilo najbolje od svega. Na kraju bismo se izgrlili, slikali, ja bih im se potpisao na knjige i obavezno morao obećati da ću se jednom vratiti.

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  1. Do RokOtoka 2020 ima još skoro godinu dana. Kako ćeš se za to pripremati? Sigurno će se trebati mnogo baviti birokracijom i planiranjem.

Prvo moram operirati rame, onda se oporaviti i početi trenirati. Malo sam se umorio, vjerujte mi! Imati Udrugu u hrvatskoj je jako teška stvar. Morate imati desetak ljudi koji će tome posvetiti puno svog vremena, i to odraditi jako kvalitetno je birokracija ovdje jedva čeka da pogriješite i da vam uzme novac. Nadam se da ćemo ove godine krenuti puno jače, čvršće, smisliti bolje igre za djecu na eventima i skupiti još kvalitetnije poklone, a ja bih mogao napisati i knjigu s prvog dijela putovanja. Mislim da ćete se jako smijati....

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  1. I za kraj, RokOtok je inspiriran tragičnim gubitkom tvoga sina i tvojim obećanjem da ćeš ga odvesti na svih 50 hrvatskih naseljenih otoka. Što misliš da bi ti on rekao, kada bi vidio da je njegov tata "dohvatio" i taj sedamnaesti otok Čiovo u zadnjoj etapi prve godine ovog fantastičnog trogodišnjeg projekta?

“Tata, gladan sam...” Šalim se. Ne znam. Da sam vidovit igrao bih loto. Rok je bio prekrasno, klasično dijete svojih godina, znao je što hoće i da je sad tu, ja ne bih plivao po otocima nego s njim osvajao dva-tri godišnje tijekom naših zajedničkih dana. Ne znam kako bi se razvijao, ali mislim da bi volio kemiju i fiziku, puno čitao i da bismo naš godišnji odmor proveli veselo i nasmijano putujući okolo. Ne znam što bi rekao na ovo, ali se nadam da je sad ponosan i da se pravi važan. Iluzorno je pričati o tome kad mi toliko fali i kad bih dao milijun otoka sam da je još minutu tu kraj mene da ga opet zagrlim.

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Nebitno je to, moj Paul, totalno nebitno... Treba živjeti dalje iako se polovica tebe tome protivi i jednostavno želi odustati. Užasan je to osjećaj i zato jedva čekam novi RokOtok 2020., da nastavim tu gdje sam stao i pričam s djecom koliko je bitno da vole život i jedni druge, uče, putuju i istražuju. Drži fige da sve posložimo na vrijeme i posložimo se financijski i organizacijski te da pliva 100 ljudi i dočeka njih 5.000. To bi bilo divno. Vidimo se na pivu, dužan sam ti!

Saznajte više na web stranici projekta RokOtok i molim vas, donirajte ako želite financijski pomoći najdirljiviji projekt u Hrvatskoj, dok se Ribafish priprema za RokOtok 2020.

Projekt možete pratiti i na Facebooku.

Ako ste slučajno propustili (ili želite pogledati ponovo), bila mi je čast s Ribafishem razgovarati kad je RokOtok stigao do Jelse. Ovo ostaje moj najdraži intervju za TCN. (na engleskom jeziku)

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

He Did It! RokOtok 2019 Completed as Ribafish Swims to Ciovo. Congratulations! (VIDEOS)

July 30, 2019 - The most heartwarming project on the Croatian coast comes to a successful conclusion as Ribafish swims into Ciovo for the end of Rokotok 2019. 

One man. 

One promise.

Twenty-four days.

Seventeen islands.

Thousands of lives touched in a positive way. 

No need for words from me (if you are wondering what I am writing about check out RokOtok by Ribafish: The Most Heartwarming Project in Croatia in 2019). 


We salute you, Ribafish!

And the rest we leave to videos of the last swim today to Ciovo. 

The arrival. 

And the last hundreds of lives to be touched during RokOtok 2019. But keep following the project for RokOtok 2020.  




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