Derek Kolbaba and the Business of Bull Riding

By Lori Kimbel

Derek Kolbaba is a bull rider and is on his way to making his dream, of riding in the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, come true.
“He was a determined little guy when he was growing up,” said his father, Kyle Kolbaba, a professional bull rider himself in the 90’s.
At seven-years-old Derek came up to his dad and said, ‘Dad, I want to start riding calves and I want to be a bull rider’.
“At that point I decided it was time to teach him the right way to ride,” said Kyle. “It was all he wanted to do, he was very disciplined, and as he got older he trained himself. When he was seven-years-old I said, ‘this is what is going to happen’ and I told him from now until about when you are 15 or 16 you are going to be taught the right way to ride bulls at seven-years-old, while everybody else is going to be taught how to win calf ridings and cow ridings. They are going to be taught how to hang onto something, while you are going to be taught how to ride bulls when you are riding calves.You might not do as great down in the junior rodeos, but when you get to the big bull rides you are going to know how to do it.”
In December 2011, Kyle took Derek to Gold Beach to his first big bull ride. Derek was 15. He won the event, got a buckle and $3,000. Since then he has won buckles, money, a loyal following, and a lot of respect from fellow bull riders.
“From that point on he never looked back,” said Kyle. “I took him under my wing until he was 18, but at 16 he was self-sufficient. He went everywhere, he entered his own rodeos and he ended up winning a lot. I didn’t have a lot to do with it. I trained him up, so to speak, but the kid is so disciplined. He has all these goals and he has told them to me from the time he was young until now.”
It is obvious Kyle is a proud dad, and Derek is just as proud to be Kyle’s son.
“My dad is the one who taught me everything I know,” said Derek. “It was nice to have someone that had already been there and done that, so to speak. Having a mentor like him from the beginning, teaching me the right way of doing things instead of having to go through the hard knocks of learning was a big jump for me. Everything I know, I have to give all the credit to him.”
“A lot of bull riding is you learn techniques, the basics of it, and a lot of it is training to be the best,” said Derek. “They say bull riding is 90% in your head and I believe that 100%. You have to be physically strong, but you have to be mentally strong as well. If you are going in there kind of doubting yourself then you probably aren’t going to succeed as well as you’d like. You definitely have to have a confidence. Going up against an 1800 pound bull you definitely have to talk yourself into it.”
At 17 Derek won the Washington High School Finals State Title. At 18 he won the PRCA Columbia River Circuit then won it again when he was 19.
“From the time he’s turned 18 to now and he’s 20, he has accomplished so much,” said Kyle. “More than a lot of people in their whole career. I’m a proud father of the boy. I just grin from ear to ear. I spent nine years in the PRCA and I won the Columbia River Circuit one time in my career, and I tried so hard every year, then he just pops right out at 18 and 19 and wins it twice in a row.
In 2015 Derek was able to compete at the world finals at just 19-years-old.
“It is amazing to me to see how disciplined and how serious he is,” said Kyle. “What a difference it makes in a person to be able to pursue a career and be able to go after your dreams and be able to live it…actually live it and not just say that’s what I wanted to be.”
Bull riding can be a very lucrative career. The top bull rider in the world is Kaique Pacheco who has won $266,303.50 so far this year.
“Bull riding is not a very long career,” said Derek. “In the PBR they do a great job of making it where you can make enough money to make it through the rest of your life. You’ve got guys that are making seven million dollars in a career. That’s a decent living if you are smart with your money and that’s not really counting sponsorship’s.”
Derek currently sits 12th in the world. His winnings total $77,251 for 2016 so far.
Derek’s goals for this year are to make it to the PBR finals as well as make it into the National Finals Rodeo which takes place in Las Vegas.
“I’m going to keep knocking at the door and see what happens at the end of September,” he said. “Some great things about this lifestyle is that you get to see a lot, and meet a lot of great people. Being able to ride bulls in front of thousands of people on the east coast, west coast, Canada, it really takes you to a lot of different places…it’s pretty special.”

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