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Competitive Kayaking with Dr. Istvan Urban

Published on: Apr 9, 2022
 By: The New Dentist
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Every day after he finishes up in his clinic, Dr. Istvan Urban heads to the Danube River.

But he isn’t going there for recreation. Dr. Urban, who’s the founder of the Urban Regeneration Institute in Budapest, typically trains six days a week, preparing for national and international kayaking competitions. He competes three or four times a year, in events like the European Championships, racing against other kayakers in his age group.

“Kayaking is a good balance with my work,” Dr. Urban said. “When I’m kayaking, my brain is refreshed. It’s probably the best regeneration for my brain and for my body.”

The Beginning of a New Hobby

Dr. Urban first started kayaking when he was 11 years old. At the time, his school’s kayaking coach was looking for students interested in becoming part of the team, and Dr. Urban decided he’d give it a try. Usually, he’d lose interest in a new sport after a few weeks, but he quickly fell in love with kayaking and decided to stick with it.  

“I felt like I was in a film, or on a different planet when I was kayaking,” he said. “Being on the river and surrounded by nature and the trees while in a small boat made me feel like I was on a new adventure every day.”

There was a moment when Dr. Urban could have kayaked more seriously, but when he went to university he decided to focus on his studies and starting his career in dentistry, leaving the sport behind for a few years. By the time he reached his early 30s, he was ready to pick the paddle back up. He began training with a friend who was an Olympic champion and competing as many as seven or eight times a year.

The Connection to Dentistry

When Dr. Urban went kayaking for the first time, he knew it was the sport for him—and the same was true in his professional life with bone grafting. Of all the specialties, bone grafting was the one that captured his interest and is what he focuses on at his institute.  

Dr. Urban sees a lot of commonalities between competing and performing surgery to repair defects. When you’re in a single kayak (he also competes in doubles) you have to perform your best. How you finish is your responsibility; there’s no one else to blame if something goes wrong. The same is true with surgery.

“With live surgeries, I don’t have so much stress because I feel that whatever happens, I will give my best,” Dr. Urban said. “I’m very confident it will be good enough. I’m much more confident in surgery than I am in a kayaking race. In a kayaking competition, I know some people are better than me. When I do surgery, I know I’m going to win, not the defect.”

Do you have an extreme hobby of your own that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about it! Email us at with the details.

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