Milo Duffek | Switzerland

Milo Duffek 2013 IWHOF finalist

Year Inducted:
Sport: Slalom Racing
Years Active: 1951-1966
Home Base: Geneva, Switzerland

Champion Accomplishments:

  • Silver Medal in K-1 1955 World Championships
  • Established sportsmanship through international exchange and instruction

Other Accomplishments:

  • Popularized the turning draw stroke now known as the “Duffek”
  • First racer to introduce flatwater training techniques to whitewater
  • Qualified for 1948 Olympic Games in K2 1000 meter event, but Communist party refused to allow him to compete.
  • 27th place K-1 Slalom 1953 World Championships
  • 4th place K-1 Slalom 1959 World Championships

Milo Duffek was one of the first paddlers to escape communist Czechoslovakia for the west, setting the pattern of frequent international migration that is central to the paddlesport community.   Historian Bill Endicott writes: “Duffek never won a gold medal.  In Merano Italy at the Worlds he won something even more precious: His Freedom.”

Duffek’s daring defection happened during the 1953 World Championships in Merano, Italy…. His trip from communist Czechoslovakia was heavily guarded.  Endicott describes the event: “He was the favorite to win, but if he had won he would have been the center of attention.  So he had to deliberately throw the race, deliberately miss a gate so the attention would be diverted from him that evening.”

Milo’s guard got drunk in the festivities that followed the Worlds, and Milo escaped with the help of the Swiss team. He had traded his chance to be World Champion for a new life and freedom.  From his new home in Switzerland, Duffek shared his paddling expertise with a fast-growing audience in many countries, including teaching the roll, surfing, and even eddy turns to an unfamiliar audience in the US.

Clinics he taught overseas helped establish many other centers of whitewater sport, and established a pattern of international exchange in paddling.

3 Responses to Milo Duffek | Switzerland

  1. Roy Farrance says:

    Milo. A well deserved achievement. Congratulations..

  2. David Kurtz says:

    I met Milo shortly after his move to Geneva, Switzerland, had dinner there with his wife and he, and even threw my sleeping bag on his roof top outdoor porch.

    Milo is actually known for his two, named acts: the bow draw stroke and the Duffek maneuver. The maneuver is moving in and out of an eddy utilizing the Duffek stroke. This maneuver involves moving into an eddy at the top of the eddy instead of sliding in at the bottom. And then it involves moving out of the top of the eddy using the Duffek stroke. It is indeed one of the fun moves in whitewater paddling.

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