Saturday, August 15, 2015

Karpathos, 2015

For more than 10 years, from my very first visit to this magic island, Karpathos has been my winter dream; a place you are longing for when days are short and nights freezing cold. Each summer, at least for a short while - and preferably for as long as possible - I have been able to fulfill that dream. And after each visit, in spite of any shortcomings, I know I will be back.

There is only one ferry, one boat, taking tourists and supplies from and on to the island - the legendary Prevelis. After boarding it, while watching familiar streets and houses of the port of Pigadia disappearing in the distance, I was thinking how strange is this passion of true (soul)windsurfers. It can take you far away from home, just to catch right gust of wind. It can fill your thoughts with blueness when everything is white around you. It can make you wonder about the meaning and purpose of anything else beside windsurfing. Or, if you are lucky, it can give that meaning and purpose to everything else.

Karpathos feels the climate rhythm of the Europe. The island is always sunny, always warm. But, if you are a windsurfer, you can sense the change in the wind. This years weather was strange. The Europe was either to hot, or to stormy. Consequently, I have never experience so many windless days as this summer. But, there is nothing to be worry about. As my friend Johan Huitema from Netherlands says: "Waiting for the wind is better than waiting for nothing." And, all in all, we didn't wait for too long. "No wind" on Karpathos usually means enough wind to have fun.

One of the reasons I like windsurfing so much is that you never stop learning. This year was no exception. I am returning home with many new insights. I have learned a lot from people I have met on Karpathos. The only problem is that I always get the feeling of needing just one more day to try this or that new thing I have learned about. The dream is always one day too short.

Maybe, that is exactly the reason why it is so attractive, and in the same time so utterly indescribable to outsiders. How can I tell you about the minute corrections in the stance; about the releasing or adding the pressure on the fin; about the details in trimming the lower batten or, in general, making the sail looks like it should look (the one thing I am never getting right, it seems)? There are only few people who would understand that, and, honestly, it may be that I am not one of them. But, I like to listen. I like to make small adjustment and make experiments, even if they are not practical or successful. One more pearl I have heard from a Karpathos friend from Norway, Morten Knutsen: "The beauty of windsurfing is that there is always one more door left unopened."

For me, it is more than one, for sure. But, I am young, and I still have time. I can learn. Until next year, on Karpathos.

PS
The video below is basically inspired by the playful peace of music by Antonio Bazzini, La Ronde des Lutins (The Dance of the Goblins), played by violinist James Ehnes). The shots are taken on one busy day (thank you, Linda!), with lot of freriders and freestylers interfering with speedsurfers. If you look at the bay from the above for long enough, your head starts to spin a little, and all you can see are strange lines and forms made by seemingly chaotic movements of windsurfers. There are few interesting scenes to see, if you know what to look for. I am leaving to you to decide who are the goblins in this dance. :-)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

No wind day on Karpathos

When you see the weather forecast telling you that there will be no wind on Karpathos, do not believe it. Because, instead of silence, you will probably get something like this:

Monday, July 20, 2015

Luderitz - My personal challenge

by: Alberto Possati



Since I've been able to windsurf (I've started back in 1978) I've  always been fascinated by speedsurfing. To go fast is fun, I kept saying to myself. Back then, my windsurfing activity was restricted to 2-3 weeks every summer, in which when possible I looked for the windiest spots I could find, to maximize my time into the water.

As years passed by, my love for windsurfing was always pretty alive and when, a few years ago, a good friend of mine asked me to attend to a Speed World Cup event with him, the first thing I thought was that I couldn't match up the situation. "It's too late", I said to myself, I thought I should have started earlier. But, somehow, in a few months I found myself on a Fuerteventura beach waiting for some wind. That was the 2006 Speed Word  Cup which was held in Sotavento together with the Fuerteventura PWA slalom event. I was not alone: there were all the top slalom sailors in the world, wanting to test their speed as well, as well as a few 'down to earth' guys like me. I never saw these top guns if not in windsurf magazines, and to be in the water with them was bit intimidating. But I was there, I spent money to be there and...yes, I had to go down the course, and I did it. And I was hooked. Hooked! That event really changed the last ten years of my life. I realized I could do it, there was a lot to learn but I could do it. Great!

Every year I started to attend to all the speed events that I could, together with a bunch of very good friends that I met during the events. UK, Ireland, Greece, Namibia, France, we crossed the sky many times to follow our passion. Results were nor very good neither really important to me, I felt more like the competition was in between myself and the speeds I recorded, instead of winning over somebody else. In other words, even now I like to see my speeds improving, but usually I'm happy if a friend is faster than me. In the end, he's been better than me, and I feel it more like a push to improve myself than a defeat. But it was interesting to see how slower I was compared to the experienced riders, so to have an idea of my performance.

Back in 2008, I started to think that a record attempt could have been closer to my expectations, so I registered for the Masters Of Speed event in the Canal of Saintes Maries De La Mer, the fastest sailing spot in the world, at least back then. But the event didn't go through, and my last competition was in Karpathos, Greece in 2009. Then, somehow, speedsurfing stood still for a few years: no more races, no more calls. A pity, I thought.

In 2012, I heard about a new speed canal in Luderitz, Namibia. They were organizing a speed
event in this newly dug channel that I heard to be
extremely fast. I tried to place my registration and...I was in!! First thought was obviously "will I be able to fly down the strip without killing myself?", second thought was "I'm too old for that" and so on. Lots of excuses, lots of little fears crossing my mind. Final thought, luckily, was "let's go there and see".

Luderitz is hard to reach, especially with 3 quiver bags. I flew 14 hours, drove alone for 2 days for 1.200 km through 2 unknown southern Africa countries and when I got there I said to myself that the record attempt was going to be "bread and butter", compared to what I faced during the trip. Actually it was not really like that, but the excitement I started feeling the day I reached Luderitz was really a great, great feeling.



The next morning I was at the canal at 10, with many other speedsailors. The atmosphere was nice, with many friends welcoming, and that was really helpful. That fist day was really windy, something like 35kts gusts, and I ordered myself "now you have to go". Not an easy task, when you see the the canal in some spots is probably no more than 6m wide and you are told it can have shallow spots here and there. But if they were going, why not me?? I only made one decisions: no harness on the first run: in case I fall, I thought, at least I'm free to fly (hopefully, in the water).

From then on it all was very quick: jumped in the water, made my waterstart, started planning. Footstraps in, you gain speed with wind on the side then, when the canal bears left, you slingshot yourself down the strip, with the wind pushing you with a 130 degrees angle. No harness, no breathing. Shhhhhhhhhhh, the water boiling under my 49 iSonic. Some 20 seconds after I stopped (actually I crashed, with no consequences) and my GPS was showing 39,5 knots average over 20s. With no harness!?! No you kidding….WOW!

So I finally wore my speed seat and threw myself down the course again and...42.xx knots showed up. And again and again. Then in 2013, 2014. And I'm ready for 2015. My best result, in 2013, was 45.87kt/500m, officially registered by WSSRC. If in 2010 you were telling me that I'd be going that fast I would have laughed and said "forget it". But it is true, and sometimes it still sounds a little weird to me.

Buried into the (too many?) words that I've written in this post,
there's a couple of messages I would like every speedsurfing fanatic to listen to, and the first one is: “YOU CAN DO IT". If I did it, my friend, you can do it. Because I'm an average amateur windsurfer, that has got some better recently thanks to the experiences I've just written about, with the help of many friends. I’m old enough to try to use my head better than when I was 25 but too old to get the best out of my big body. Provided you have the money and time, your windsurfing skills are reasonable and you like going fast, you can do it, and I’d swear that if you’ll be there you’ll have some veterans trying to help you to get the best out of your experience. If I’ll be there, I’ll be one of them for sure.

The second message I’d like to send you is that, at the end of your stay in Luderitz, you’ll probably find that GOING DOWN THE COURSE AT 40+ KNOTS IS ONLY PART OF THE OVERALL EXPERIENCE. The incredible place, the different culture. the riders from different countries, the spirit that keeps them together, all these things make this venue much more valuable than the speed attempt itself. Moreover, the Luderitz Speed Challenge is not a race, it is a record attempt. So there’s no official ranking, and basically you
race against yourself, or your GPS if you prefer. And this is what I like so much.

If you go to Luderitz, I’d swear you will never forget it.



PS: my first year in Luderitz I used my Starboard iSonic Speed 49 with Severne Reflex III 5.6. Now I know that to go faster you need a 40-44 board, 5,6+6.2 slalom sails and a few 18/19/20/21 asymmetrical fins. Sizes depend on your weight, too. Helmet, Weight+flotation jacket and spine protection are a good advice. And your GoPro, obviously.




Saturday, July 18, 2015

Karpathos pictures

Folow Soulwindsurf on Facebook or Twitter for fresh pictures from Karpathos in July and August 2015.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Vasiliki, Lefkada, Greece



Vasiliki was hanging on my "places to visit" list since I started windsurfing. It was about time to check it out and see if it stands up with its reputation as one of the best windsurfing spots in the world. After a week spend there with my son Borna, I can confirm: yes, it does!

We took a ferry from Trieste (Italy) to Igoumenitsa (Greece). I grow accustomed to longish ferry travels. They are time consuming (some 30 hours with this one), but if you like it slow, in the company of some good book, watching amazing onboard sunsets and enjoying long talks with your travel mate(s), that is the right thing to do. In comparison with get-me-there-asap philosophy (which is an unfortunate consequence of modern living) this is more alike oldish way of traveling, with much time to think and adjust to enjoyable moments ahead.

Lefkada is officially an island, but you cross over with one short undersea tunnel and a 20 meters long pontoon bridge. After that, you enter the islands capital city, with the same name - Lefkada. We didn't spend much time there. It looks like very crowded topical Greek city, with lots of car, and no place to walk undisturbed, so we just give it a glance and drove through it.

Our navigational system directed us on the main road to Vasiliki, following the eastern shore of the island. However, following our own gut feeling, we decided to visit some famous beaches on the western side, like Milos beach, and (that one we did latter), Eregmni beach. The western side road is going over the hills, up and down, with lot of turns. But, if you are patient, you are rewarded with some of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. And those beaches... My, o my! No, we didn't windsurf there, but that blueness which dazzle your eyes when you look at it from above, and makes you wish you lost your self in it, when you jump in to swim or dive... that is something special, indeed. The western beaches of Lefkada are abundantly decorated with white foam created by moderate swells breaking over their sandy shores.


Windsurfing

Deliberately or not, the bay of Vasiliki was created for windsurfing. It is protected by the hills, the beach is mostly sandy and the see is shallow some 100 meters from the shore, making it ideal for learning all kind of windsurfing skills, from beginners to advanced. The wind there is created each afternoon by local thermal differences. It blows down the hill on the western side, and it is quite regular. You can count on it each day, even if the rest of the island doesn't get any pressure wind at all.

The direction, however, changes from day to day, and also during the day. The usual, light to moderate wind is crosshore, so you can sail crosswind parallel with the western shore. Sometimes, it blows a little bit more from the northwest, and it seems a lot stronger. But, you get a smaller area for windsurfing, and a more offshore feeling.

Choppy it is, always. And gusty it is, always. But, it is not really an issue - it never gets annoying or tiresome. During my stay I never have seen anyone left on the see without a wind. You can always find your way back, especially if you mind the timing and respect the after 19:00 silencing down.

Those searching for flat waters and speed runs... well, you can find them in Vasiliki, but not everyday. You have to wait for a right direction (I would say, northwest is the best one). In that case, you have some 200 meters upwind, and more than a mile pure downwind! If you are lucky, and gusts are merciful, you can catch a great speed, no doubt. But, after that, prepare for a bumpy upwind sailing, directly through a lot of chop. (I was not lucky regarding gusts, and only two days out of seven, we got the right strength and direction - but +36 knots of speed was done with ease on 98 liters board and 7,0 sail).

For a regular windsurfer, though, Vasiliki is a real heaven. Mostly, you can see sails from 4,0 to 5,0. That means -  a lot of wind everyday. And that is all we need, isn't it? The be honest, the only thing I didn't like, goes with a place being so friendly and so uplifting as Vasiliki is: a lot of people. Sometimes, you have difficulty finding your way to clear space through a lot of windsurfing beginners near the shore. And there is simply no spot without a windsurfing sail, so you have to be always on guard for possible close encounters.

Along the shore there are many windsurfing centers; the most famous and with best choices of new boards and sails is, of course, Club Vass. Any freerider or freestyler will find there whatever s/he desires equipment wise. You can bring your own equipment and pay the storage, or, if you don't mind to rig it every day, you can easily park the car some 20 meters from the shore and spear some money. However, if you plan to windsurf every day, it could be somewhat tiresome activity, so better take the comfortable and more secure approach and join some of the Centers there. (Since it is never a good idea to teach windsurfing to your own kin, I left my son Borna in a good hands of the instructors of Quicksilver Windsurfing School.)






The food and the rest

Starting with the rest, Lefkada is typical Greek island with typical Greek activity. I can not say anything about the fun and the parties, but I am sure the ones who enjoy in such activity will find something for themselves. If nothing, each Friday night the Englishmen from the Club Vass will give you some kind of a surprise. You can enjoy in thematic costume party (pretending that you are cowboy or the Indian, old Greek or alien). Man, you can even "enjoy" the BBQ stuff without the costumes, if you are into it (as you can see on the photo).

But, we took more like daily approach to investigating the island. So, we found beautiful long beaches where you can be alone even if there is a lot of people on it. The special little something is a waterfall near the town of Nidri (20 minutes drive from Vasiliki). You can take the morning hike uphill (3,5 km), and arrive there when it gets hot - just for a nice, refreshing swim in the small lake beneath the waterfall. A rare opportunity given that it is a fresh water on the island.

Now, the food is usually excellent. There are taverns all around, and you can hardly make a mistake picking the one randomly, in Vasiliki or somewhere along the road. However, if you are a gourmand, as we are for sure, I have two recommendation for you. Both are placed in Nidri. The first tavern is called "The Barrel". Usually, I would not mention the prices, because, usually, it is understood that quality is expensive. But in this case, the prices are even lower than in the taverns around. But the taste of the food is much more refined.

The second recommendation is probably one of the best taverns, if not the best, on my Greek cuisine list. It is called "Ta Kalamia". Placed on the entrance of the main pedestrian area in Nidri, this tavern has a special "no menu" philosophy. That means, you can chose between four kind of dishes (vegetarian, see food, meat and mixed) and the cook - a genuine food artist by the name of Vanghel - will bring you his version of a perfect meal, made for you. Now, call it a rhapsody, call it a symphony, or a music made in heaven, but that is how his food taste like! If you ever come to Lefkada, Ta Kalamia, and Vanghel, the artist cook, is a must, at least for one night. But, I suppose, you will come for more, as we did. Love and food - that is written on the entrance to Ta Kalamia, and I have no doubt that you will find them both.


Conclusion

I have been there, and I will come again. :-)