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Interview with Marko Bilic of the Cigar Smoking World Championship (CWSC)

Interview with Marko Bilic of the Cigar Smoking World Championship (CWSC)

How did you come up with the idea for the Cigar Smoking World Championship?

It was actually a funny situation... My friend and I lit up two very fresh and humid Cuban cigars that were always going out! We came to the last two matches and there was more than half a cigar to smoke.  

It was late, we were in a bar where the only bartender was still in but without a lighter or matches... so we knew that the last two matches were our last chance to give fire to these tasty sticks, and we knew that we needed to focus. In trying not to let the cigar go out we actually started to compete, and that experience was truly fun. I was thinking that such an experience is something we should repeat next time and involve more people for more fun. 


Cigar Smoking World Championship 2015

Cigar Smoking World Championship 2015

Image Credit: CSWCWorld.com


Rules started were beginning to form in my mind and they came in frame after a few weeks. They were really good and funny, but at the same time challenging. 

Everything else is history. We invited some international friends for our first competition, which got crazy, and formed the concept of competition as a cigar event and cigar festival. They like it for true fun, entertainment, excitement, and an excuse to see each other more often on these competitions – especially for people who are living abroad. 

Now, more and more people get crazy about it and here we are!

Would you mind breaking down how the events are scored and ultimately how someone is declared the Champion?  

Basically, there is one main goal – try to smoke your cigar as long as possible after just one light. 

Then, I add a bunch of the rules which make that goal more challenging and adds more fun. For example: 

  • You only have two matches and one minute to light your cigar
  • Penalty minutes for losing your ash in the first 40 minutes
  • No blowing on the cigar from the outside
  • If you burn the band, you’ll incur a 15-minute penalty
  • etc 

All of our rules are well accepted, and our participants believe that the rules are perfect - they provide enough challenge and entertainment to ensure competitors aren’t bored, and they also engage the competitors to be sharp, focused, and have more fun.


Cigar Smoking World Championship 2016

Cigar Smoking World Championship 2016

Image Credit: CSWCWorld.com


It’s funny how people are skeptic when they heard about a slow smoking competition but then are positively surprised when they experience the competition and look forward to doing it again as soon as possible. 

That is the reason why many of them travel around the world following our tournaments. I think the reason for that is because it’s a truly unique experience. It’s simply, funny, exciting, and best of all it connects you with so many people in the cigar world!!

How would you describe Club Mareva to someone that’s never been?

Club Mareva is my second child. It is a deep part of me and my passion for the cigar life and how I want the CSWC to create a cigar experience that isn’t depend of location. Club Mareva is an experience that starts by the charm and ambience of the walls of the Mareva premises and its welcoming spirit. 

Today’s cigar world is richer than ever with such a huge variety of cigars and so many brands that it’s easy to find satisfaction in the taste of your choice. But, in a time when life is fast paced and we are facing a lack of time for ourselves, we need a place where we can stop and find pleasure for all of our senses in the short amount of free time we have daily or weekly.

Because even the best taste of cigar will be ruined if there is no dedication to relaxation and ambience for our cigar, and an average tasting cigar will be even tastier if all of your senses are pleased and relaxed. 

Club Mareva is such a place. We want to take care of all the senses of our members. We want to provide them a place of pure joy and pleasure where they can relax and renew their batteries, where they can experience unique feelings and experience rich, unforgettable memories. 

Club Mareva offers that on an international level because we are truly an international club with members from all over the World. People get connected with Club Mareva because it is more than just a place – it is a way to feel alive.  

Soon we will be opening a second lounge in Lebanon and third one in Mauritius!


Cigar Smoking World Championship 2017

Cigar Smoking World Championship 2017

Image Credit: CSWCWorld.com


The championship is held in Split, Croatia, but cigar enthusiasts participate from all over the world.  How can we get involved? 

Yes that is true, we’ve had more than 37 countries on the list of our qualification season last year from all over the globe. In the USA, we have multiply pre-qualification events with the finals being held at the Burn lounge in Pittsburgh. To host it as an organizer, you can apply here for a placing request to handle the event and then we will send all info and guidelines!

What are some of your favorite memories from the CSWC?

When you consider how your dream became a reality, many of these memories are my favorites, but I can mention a few: 

  • The Grand Opening of Club Mareva Lounge
  • Getting the Cigar Journal Trophy for World Cigar Ambassador
  • First CSWC tournament at Club Macanudo in New York City
  • Reading the first article about CSWC in Cigar Journal Magazine
  • Our first jazz and Champagne night at Club Mareva because they were a longtime dream that was realized

I hear that your event has almost as many women attending as men.  What do you contribute to this success? 

Yes, that is true! And they have almost the same success rate as gentleman in this challenge. 

I think that for them, CSWC became attractive because it is the whole package and experience – not just smoking. It’s the lifestyle, challenge, adventure, traveling, meeting new people, positive spirit, and fun that ladies enjoy so much.  


Cigar Smoking World Championship 2018

Cigar Smoking World Championship 2018

Image Credit: CSWCWorld.com


In the same time, CSWC is great challenge for a modern woman to prove that she can challenge men equally in life. Modern women are under pressures of many obligations from work life to family life and they need (now more than ever) an escape to have fun and enjoy themselves. I think that the CSWC offers that experience.

Do you recall any of the records set at your Championship events?

Definitely! There were so many amazing moments in pushing the limits to the sky, especially with smoking time. I remember when we first started, the competition winning time was around 1 hour and 30 minutes. Then, for almost four years nobody successfully raised that bar in a significant way. 

In that first four years, smoking the Mareva-sized cigar jumped from 1hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 52 minutes. Reaching 2 hours seemed impossible, like an unreachable achievement.

But after that, participants became more competitive and serious, and the CSWC started to produce true stars of this competition. They were gaining respect globally and became much more motivated. 

Slow smoking turned out to be a competition where training and honing your skills actually produced better results. People became true sportsman and every second started to matter. Thousands of people started to join in and revel in the competition. 

Big names and stars of this sport started to rise and with big names started big "fights" and with big "fights" came big memories. Records were falling down one after another. At around five years, we saw smoking times go from under two hours to two and a half hours. Then three hours. Then three and a half hours.

Now, we are at 3 hours and 52 minutes for the official world record. It is truly amazing to see these skilled competitors and how they are doing that.  


Cigar Smoking World Championship 2019

Cigar Smoking World Championship 2018

Image Credit: CSWCWorld.com


The funny thing is that they never imagined that they would be so good at this. I think the best part is that this challenge is accessible to everybody and anyone can easily try it with a lot of fun. We always have new names and champions showing up. 

When you’re not smoking cigars, what other hobbies entertain you?

Drinking rum - just kidding! 

I also like to paint and create art in my free time, which is also a huge passion for me.

For anyone looking to become the next Cigar Smoking Champion, what advice would you give them?

It’s easy: you just need to sit down, light up, and smoke a little slower than usual. 

Try it! It is an amazing experience and a great time. CSWC has changed many lives in a positive way, created so many new friends, formed so many memories, and brought so much excitement in life.

And amazing prizes are there to make winning more fun! I guarantee you that there is no other sport where you just need to sit down and smoke slow to win a 4000EUR  watch or a 300EUR cigar knife. 

In the end it is the experience, and what is life without experience? The Cigar Smoking World Championship is a great experience.

Leave your comment
9/9/2020 9:09 AM
Wow! Wonderful interview. Every time I smoke a cigar I try to make it last as long as I can, but I enjoy it so much I end up smoking faster. Nothing beats relaxing with a good cigar.