Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Return to the old love - Viganj, Croatia

 



It was the summer of 1999—my early windsurfing days. I came to Viganj (10 hours drive from where I live) because a friend told me that there is a place with good wind every day. His promise came true, and I enjoyed that summer very much. First time in foot straps, first blasting in the harness, and the first water start – it was all done in Viganj!

But, it was a different place back then; one or two improvised camping places right on the seashore, a small store to buy bread, milk, maybe some beer, and one restaurant with not so good pizza. Mostly, there were windsurfers from the Czech Republic, a couple of Slovenian guys and a Croat or two, here and there.

From that moment on, I was a regular guest for a few years. Then I started traveling more, discovering new spots in Greece, Egypt, and around, so Viganj somehow dropped out of my map. 2020., a year of Covid19 pandemic brought me back to that beautiful place. Traveling became risky, and Viganj was here, just around the corner, accessible with the car.

I was excited to check out a well-known place, but now completely changed. A lot of campsites, some of them four stars category and a lot of people (Viganj is one of the rare places in the world with an increase in tourism during corona summer 2020.) It seems that many people from Europe chose to come with their campers and caravans. It was crowded but safe. There are no hotels in Viganj, no nightclubs, and windsurfers, kitesurfers, wingsurfers, and the rest, are quite busy during the day, so except for occasional music on the beach, nights were quiet and restful.

Two things were the same, though. First: the Czech Republic and Slovenia guests were in the majority, plus Austrians and Germans. However, there were people from Belgium, Netherlands, UK, Italy, and other countries as well.

And, second, the reliable wind almost every day in the afternoon.


 


Where is Viganj?


Did you hear about Dubrovnik? Sure, you have. Well, it’s almost there.

Take a highway south through Croatia, all the way down to the city of Ploče. Here you can take a ferry (40 minutes sail) to Trpanj on the Pelješac peninsula and stay all the time in Croatia. Or you can drive further south on a motorway through Opuzen in the valley of river Neretva, pass through Neum (Bosnia and Herzegovina, only 15 minutes, and you are back to Croatia – transit is easy, no problem), continue towards Dubrovnik until you see the sign for the city of Ston (at this point you are 50 kilometers from Dubrovnik). Turn right and follow the signs to Orebić (60 km serpentine drive – 90 minutes). Once there, continue following the seashore some 5 km more, and arrive at Viganj.

It’s 550 km from Zagreb (7-9 hours of drive, depending on traffic). And Zagreb is easily accessible by car from all European countries. It’s not the nearest place for windsurfing in Croatia, but it’s sure worth the effort.



 

The spot

Viganj owns its winds to the narrow channel (1,5 km) between the Pelješac peninsula and the island of Korčula. The mistral wind comes from the northwest almost every day during summer. It’s usual strength of 10-15 knots in the rest of Adriatic increases to 15-20 knots due to the configuration of the channel. The peak of the mountain Sveti Ilija (Mons Vipera or Perun hill) is 960 meters over the sea level (which is a lot, considering that it grows almost directly from the sea).

The same strengthening is happening with the wind from the south called “jugo” (literary, south wind).

It is possible to windsurf on famous bora wind too (much stronger than mistral or jugo).

So, except for a few days in the month, think big sails and boards. Most of the people ride on 110-150 liters boards and use sails 7,0, 7,5, and above (up to 10,00). If you are ok with that, most probably, you will be on the water every day.

 


 

No waves, flat to choppy conditions, especially when it is crowded. Many sailboats are passing through the channel, although most of them are keeping with the Korčula side of the channel (away from windsurfers, kitesurfers, and the rest). Anyway, be careful because some of them are not.

In the morning, there will be an ideal condition for beginners. Around 14:00 – 15:00, you can count on mistral wind (sometimes visibly coming on the horizon and filling up the channel).

 



This year I started to foil (that is something I’ll surely write about more in the future because I am positively delighted and enormously inspired with foiling). I would say that, together with the rest of the Croatia shore, Viganj is an ideal foiling destination!

 



 

As I already wrote, you can kite, wing, sup, or whatever is your thing. You can take non-windsurfing friends and family with you, they will enjoy the place, for sure.

The only thing… well, the mixing of kiters and windsurfers (and now so many others) is not something I prefer. Unfortunately, I don’t see how it would be possible to separate them, so if you are annoyed - like I am - with different directions of the sailing of different sails, kites, and wings, you would have to adapt, just as I did. Once you accept the situation, it will become better, and you’ll start enjoying it.

 


 

The Centers

If you want to rent the equipment, there are plenty of places to do so. One of the most colorful (and most equipped) is Water Donkey.

I have a special affection for them because their team saved me from a sad destiny after I broke my boom head almost at the shores of Korčula. They were ready to help without question and took as gratitude only “thank you” and few icecreams. I think they deserve more, so I decided to recommend them as a well-organized place, with friendly people. They offer kite-wind-foil courses for all levels.

Of course, there are other centers there; you can choose by your camp or accommodation location or preferences.



 

Anything to do when the wind takes a break?

Plenty! Take a bicycle with you, or rent one. You’ll find that the exploration of Pelješac on two wheels is a delight!

You can also do some trekking on the Mons Vipera (2-3 hours up). When you come to the top, you’ll enjoy one of the most beautiful sights in the Adriatic!

Start early, and take a lot of water. It can be hot up there. Use trekking shoes, and take with your cell phone. Do not underestimate that mountain! Few careless tourists lost their life there, mainly because they get lost (the path is marked) or slipped due to wearing summer slippers or otherwise inappropriate shoes. And, oh, the name Mons Vipera (The Hill of the Snakes) is not accidental. A lot of snakes there – but, if you take a stick and make a noise (hitting the stones as you walk), snakes will run away much before you will able to see them. 

 


 

Did I mention that Dubrovnik is less than 100 km away? So, here is your chance to visit that legendary city! If you are a fan of “Tha Game of the Thrones”, it is a must, of course. (The winter is not coming to Viganj, don’t worry).

From Viganj, probably right from your camping place, you’ll have an excellent view of the city of Korčula. There, among picturesque old streets, is a house where Marco Polo was born. You’ll approach the shores of Korčula many times with your board blasting back and forth, but on the windless days, or in the morning, you can also take a ferry to Korčula (20 minutes) from Orebić. Maybe you can take your bicycle with you and explore the view on Viganj from the other side.

And one more thing: Orebić and its surrounding (including Kučište and Viganj) have fascinating architecture: old stone houses with gardens in front, built by wealthy ship captains. Orebić had the biggest flotilla in south Adriatic during the 16th century (under the Dubrovnik Republic), and again during the 19th century (under Austro-Hungarian Empire). It was a custom that the ship captain, after each far away sailing, bring back with him an exotic plant or a tree to make his garden even more attractive. So, pay attention during your walks – there are many things around to see and admire.



 

A note for gourmands

Ok, you already know. I am a vegetarian and a gourmand. Croatian cuisine is… ah, not for me. Very rarely, I can truly recommend a restaurant in Croatia that is vegetarian friendly and serving delicious food. That is why I am delighted to see the change is happening (how strange) on the two most known windsurfers spots in Croatia. One is Bol on the island Brač, where Biomania rules.

And the other is right here, in Viganj: a restaurant with the name Ciringito.

It is not entirely vegetarian or vegan, but it is vegetarian friendly, and you can eat some excellent food prepared with skill, looking fabulous and tasting even better. I’ll leave it to you to judge about the looks of it from a few photos taken one evening when we were starving after a great windsurfing session. For the taste… well, you’ll have to visit Viganj!

 


 

 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Soma Bay Experience



For a couple of years now, I wanted to visit Soma Bay, a famous windsurfing spot near Hurgadha, Egypt. On at least two or three occasions I already booked the trip, but I had to cancel it due to... Well, there were reasons, for sure. Already started to think it is not meant for me to go, but this year, the chance presented itself, and I took it.



Beginning of August is not a high season in Egypt. People think it is too hot, and rightfully so – it was hot! However, the Palm Royal Resort (5 stars) is equipped with big and beautiful air-conditioned rooms, so no problems there.

No problems also while windsurfing (thinnest lycra for sun protection), except if you want to refresh yourself with diving into the sea. The temperature of the water is 27-29 degrees, but it feels like diving into a hot tub. Better stay onboard and let the wind cools you.



The Surfmotion station is well equipped with new JP boards and mostly NeilPryde sails. It is located near Palm Royale; if you stay at any other hotel or resort, you will have to take a taxi because the distances from resort to resort are huge.

The members of the stuff (mostly Egyptians) are cooperative, always in cheering mood and with a good practice of carrying your sail to the water (you have to take care of the board.




The spot... well, it is smaller than I excepted, at least the official part. From the entrance up to the flags on the reef (don't go further, they say) is less than a kilometer, and the whole windsurfer's area is some 200 meters wide. The (huge) rest of the Soma bay is reserved for kiters. Surrounded by thousands of teabags in the air, I couldn't resist the feeling of being an endangered species.

Are windsurfers an endengered species?


To go further out and explore the rest of this Red Sea diamond, apparently you should bring your own equipment, which I didn't, so I restricted myself to freeriding up and down over the gentle blueness. I did enjoy it, no problem, but after seven days of such pleasures, I would give a lot for my slalom board and sail and a nice long ride far away outside the official area.



The wind was sweet, gentle, and surprisingly predictable. It started blowing around 10:00 in the morning (average 18-20 kt, quite constant), went down two hours later and died entirely after 13:00. I booked JP SuperSport 113, and it served me nicely three out of seven days with NP Speedster 7,2. The four other days, I took JP SportSport 125 and NP Speedster 8,2. All rather big, but it was full seven days windsurfing out of seven days stay! No complaints here.






You might say that two hours per day is not much, but somehow it was enough for me. Maybe it was the heat, who knows. The rest of the days I spend resting in a cold room, swimming in a pool (the sea was too warm for my taste) and otherwise enjoying all-inclusiveness of Palm Royale.


As a vegetarian gourmand, I enjoyed the food. It was plenty and sufficiently diversified. Each day Palm Royale have a different dinner theme, so in seven days we went all over the world from Asian to Mexican. No complaints here, either.




The only complaint is – no internet. Of course, they advertise free wifi everywhere. Apparently, there is wifi, and you can connect, but it is simply not working except for messages and, if you are lucky, somedays for mails. So, don't count on that; if you depend on internet connection and you need it, better buy some internet voucher on the airport (before you exit the terminal because after that you probably will not have a chance).







Friday, July 19, 2019

Double Joy




If the click on the pic above does not work, you can watch the video by clicking HERE.

Well... Nice and easy. :-)

Emina, the first time in both foot straps (yeeee!) - JP SuperX 106, Neil Pryde XMove 5,3
Adrian, helmet camera, - Fanatic Blast 130, Neil Pryde Speedster 8,2

Monday, June 24, 2019

Aetheric Windsurfing




If the click on the pic above does not work, you can watch the video by clicking HERE.


It is summer. Time to feel the pleasures of the body and enjoy in nature.

Don't miss it. If you are really there, at the moment, with no thoughts about anything else, your perception of reality can change drastically. For years I was cultivating the skill of soulwindsurfing, using one of the most beautiful sports ever invented to touch the aetheric realms of changed perception.

It happens almost every time I am out there, with my board and sail, dancing with the wind. In the past, I tried to explain it with the words, but it is a difficult task. What I see, what I hear, and how I feel? I see a lot of lights, sparkles of unearthly existence. The other bodies and objects are transformed into angelic forms. I hear music interwoven with the whisper of the wind and singing of board flying happily over the sea.

Yeah, I know, it is hard to believe. But, some of my comrades, brothers, and sisters in sails, know what I am talking about.

It is not even close to the real thing, but in the video, I used a hint of technology to recreate a moment of aetheric windsurfing.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Free soulwindsurfing

In spite of the enormous amount of work I have to do these days, I find some time for at least tasting the wind. Last Sunday I was on island Pag. Jugo (south wind), 20-30 knots. I was expecting less, so I took a bigger board and sails. However, new Fanatic Blast 130 and NP Speedster 7,2 worked perfectly in those conditions.


I am now giving up the slalom and speed, mind you - just enjoying some more comfortable days in freeriding. However, I have to say that I was surprised by the power of Speedster. And Blast is mighty fast, too. :-)