Two things are necessary for kite surfing; the sea and the wind and Greece possesses both.
Blessed with the Mediterranean’s longest coastline as well as strong winds eight months per year, Greece is fast becoming one of the world’s leading kite surfing destinations.
“Greece is like a summer version of the Alps. The country is steadily ranked first in terms of wind regularity and consistency. It stands as Europe’s leading destination for kite surfing, windsurfing, and sailing, and fifth most popular at an international level,” stressed Achilleas Tzimas, a veteran surfer and member of various international federations.
Though relatively new, Greece’s kite surfing community is growing rapidly. At present, it numbers roughly 700 surfers. Greece’s kite-friendly beaches are prominently placed on the international map, rivaling those of Turkey, Egypt, Spain, Italy and the Canary Islands.
One of the most popular spots for kite surfers in Greece happens to be located within close proximity of downtown Athens, in Loutsa –- officially named Artemida –- the easternmost part of the wider Athens area. It is a quick bus ride away.
Some of the country’s first kite surfers began surfing the Loutsa waters not long after the millennium. Distraught and confused elderly residents responded by calling the port police for emergency help, mistakenly fearing parachutists had been taken by the winds and battered about in the rough seas.
Those early days now seem like centuries ago. Over the fourteen years that have elapsed, the kite surfing bug has spread around the country and struck hundreds of Greeks who previously had never even donned a wetsuit in their lives.
In Athens, they choose a specific point, Loutsa’s Agios Nikolaos beach. It remains a popular draw, even during periods when northerly winds blow in the winter. Located on the Velani cape, it is commonly referred to as Νissakia, highlighting how popular the spot’s surf club of the same name has become.
This is not your typical Greek beach of golden sand and turquoise waters, as is typically depicted on post cards. It does not draw sunbathers because it is rocky and covered with a thick layer of sea weed. The water, which is considered warm – temperatures of 20°C were recorded in mid-January this year – is filled with sea urchins. This means that the water is very clean, according to the area’s kite surfer regulars. On weekends, the sea fills with kite surfing boards while multi-colored sails adorn the sky.
The location is ideal for windsurfing, kite surfing and SUP (Stand-up Paddle Boarding).
The conditions fully meet the demands of kite surfers of all styles, whether it’s for freestyle (aerial maneuvers), racing (high-speed kite surfing), old-school (the kite bar is strapped to the waste belt), or wave style.
Don’t expect to see spectacular, enormous ocean-type waves here. Instead, they are small and medium-sized because of two small islets, which serve as natural wave barriers.
The islets are located one mile from the shoreline and share the name of Kokkinonisia, meaning red islands. A chapel, Agios Nikolaos, which was built in 1882, is situated on one of the two islets. A lighthouse stands on the other.
On days when strong northerly winds reaching 27 knots hit the area, the rocky landscape at the beginning of the beach turns into a makeshift parking facility as kite surfers turn up in considerable numbers, loaded with their gear.
OTHER KITE SURFING SPOTS AROUND ATHENS
Voula, Vouliagmeni, Varkiza, Anavyssos, Schinias.
Bati beach, Salamina.
This is no longer surprising in Greece as kite surfing is considered the new extreme discipline of extreme sports.
Like wings in the sky, the sails of kite surfers brighten the clouds as they move around the Kokkinonisia islets. As time goes by, the winds grow stronger and there is a proliferation of orange, green, golden, yellow and purple kites.
Mostly males from all parts of Athens, the surfers ride the waves combining giant leaps with spins, kite loops, and board-offs.
The men are separated from the boys at this beach. Avid kite surfers, whose wet suits have become like a second skin, like to say that if you’re a beginner, it’s like being a new driver on a highway.
On weekends, many elementary-level kite surfers gather on the right hand side of the beach to practice at three schools operating along the shoreline.