That old chestnut – further windsurfing adventures in Vassiliki

Words: Tez Plavenieks

Pics: PROtography, EDGE Productions, Tez and Fi Plavenieks

Not that long ago in a land not too far away scruffy long haired warriors congregated on a white pebble shoreline waiting for (as he was then known) ‘Eric’ to make his presence felt. Thermometer readings were such that you could fry eggs on tarmac and stray dogs/cats had a slightly singed look about them. Chatter focused on weapons of choice and as the previous night’s hangover started to abate (slightly) the first puffs of breeze made themselves felt.

White caps increased and tattered flags began flapping violently in the wind. The once calm and serene picture suddenly transformed into a frantic mass of vibrant colour, sail cloth, Epoxy and hysterical pulling, affixing and attaching ropes, booms and sails to boards. In no time at all a fairly calm sea had gone from being just that to a thronging mass of windsurfers darting about across the bay – Eric was now at full strength and it was Def Con 1.

After a few hours the sun sank behind towering mountains flanking the bay and Eric released his grip slightly – the turbo powered blow backed off and calm started to fall once again. Soon it was all but over and antics focused once more to the infamous Zeus Bar – after all, such a cracking session was cause for celebration. And then, it would all be done again tomorrow…

All the same but different

If you remember the above scenario from a few years ago then you may be surprised if you haven’t set foot upon the hallowed white pebble shores of Vassiliki Bay recently. For sure, the scenery looks the same: mountains on either side, olive groves and buildings to the rear, a quaint fishing village nestling in the far lefthand corner and bubble gum blue water stretching towards Cephalonia in the distance. But scratch the surface and things aren’t quite as they once were…

For a start Eric isn’t Eric any longer. The previously named thermal breeze is just referred to as ‘the cross shore’. And then there’s those hedonistic antics of windsurfing folklore. Bar the odd one or two nights it’s not really the done thing. Nowadays you’ll more likely find windsurfers (especially the semi or pro rider centre staff) getting an early night after a healthy evening meal, ready for the dawn call and a spot of Yoga, stretching, running or biking. All in preparation for the afternoon’s full power windsurfing action.

If you think about it this makes perfect sense. As a sponsored athlete you need to perform – either in comps or during training sessions. Alcohol and hangovers aren’t really conducive to best performance – especially when the level of competitive windsurfing is continually on the rise. Freestyle in particular requires riders to be right on the money and sticking ALL moves. Gone are the days of turning up for your heat half cut and expecting to advance through to the final. And let’s be honest, a healthier lifestyle is certainly more beneficial to us all (even if I do slightly yearn for the hedonistic days of old Vass).

And if you’re on a windsurfing trip then there’s plenty to see, do and make use of before the cross shore kicks in. Sleeping ‘it’ off during the morning really does mean you miss the ‘best of the rest’ Vassilliki has to offer. Families are now more prevalent than ever before and as any parent will tell you: kids and booze don’t mix too well the following day.

It’s going off!

One thing that’s certainly the same is the wind…

For those unaware – or if it’s slipped your mind – Vass works on a thermally generated breeze that screams down the mountainside to the right. Calm water abound during the morning but come the afternoon and it’s full steam ahead, usually.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve stayed in Vass, how many times you’ve visited or how well you think you can predict the conditions the wind always delivers a few scratchy head moments that dumbfound even the most experienced. There are countless theories of how/why/when Vass winds blow but I’ve yet to find anyone that can give me an accurate.

Some days it puffs in at lunchtime and delivers an hour of nukin’ gusts. At other times it visits late in the day, just before sunset. A handful of occasions it never shows up at all (as was the case the two weeks prior to our trip). During normal summer months, on a two week stay, you should be in for at least something. Without rubbing it in our visit coincided with a full power 100% windy week that only got better as the days progressed. Upon touching down back in the UK we could see from social media updates it was still ‘on’.

A word of caution for Vass newbies though: avoid early season – May – and late summer if you don’t want a skunking. High summer’s always a better bet for Vassiliki wind.

Gear, skills and spills

Numerous windsurfing operations dot the strip along Vass Bay. The one that stands head and shoulders above the rest (in our opinion) is Club Vass. There’s simply nowhere else that offers the sheer amount of brand spanking new current season kit. Severne (Blade, Gator, NCX, Freek and Turbo) make up what’s on offer sails wise. Boards come in all shapes and sizes (freeride, slalom, freestyle, freewave and wave) from Starboard, Fanatic, RRD and JP. And then there’s the kiddy kit which is also exceptional…Teeny tiny rigs and child friendly boards ensure your little ones can get out, learn and improve. (Our toddler, who isn’t yet two, had her first go at windsurfing during our Vass stay! Testament to the kit as much as her will to get involved).

If you listen to some windsurfing industry pundits then doom and gloom permeates when it comes to windsurfing. Windsurfing may be a faff sometimes but there’s no denying it’s alive and well in this tucked away corner of Greece. And there’s no lack of skill from the masses either.

Maybe that’s a nod in the direction of how easy kit is to use these days but during even the windiest periods there were beginners, intermediates, advanced and pro riders all mixing it up on the water. Never has it been so easy to raise your windsurfing game. In years gone by the strongest of blows would’ve cleared the brine of all but those capable – not so any more and it’s great to see.

SUP, biking and other shizzle

As we’ve said there’s so much to do around the actual act of windsurfing and I’d thoroughly recommend getting involved. An extensive range of inflatable stand up paddle boards from Fanatic and RRD make getting on the water during those glassy mornings tempting. Very different to a few years ago when stand up wasn’t really a thing.

Milky flat calm water delivers great conditions for pottering, touring, fitness and SUP Yoga – why wouldn’t you? Floating on the flat not your bag? No worries. Hook up with the mountain bike group and speed off along some awesome tracks and routes that give access to cracking views of the bay, village and surrounds.

If you’re really struggling to find other ‘stuff’ to do then hire a car and explore the island. For those who do take their own kit let’s not forget that the northern Lefkas beach of Mylos also offers good windsurfing conditions. Mainly bump and jump it’s definitely a consideration for when the cross shore isn’t happening in Vass.

Time for sleepy head bed

If you’re considering your own Vass windsurfing trip then you could opt for one of the many packages offered by the numerous centres in resort. These will give flights, transfers to and from the airport, (some) meals and kit hire/instruction.

For those not inclined to package it all up there are plenty of accommodation options available. We chose the sleepy Riverside Apartments set back just off the main drag. Nestling among olive groves and bougainvillea our one bed apartment was incredibly tranquil and just a short 10 minute walk to the beach. Although all rooms were taken it remained perfect for a family of three with toddler in tow – highly recommended.

Eats and drinks

Refuelling is a must and Vass Town, if you can call it that, has a myriad of tavernas, cafes, bars and refreshment pit stops. For 2016 we spotted a couple of new establishments that offer typical Greek fayre – grilled fresh fish, meats, salads and meze options.

Windsurf: That old chestnut – further windsurfing adventures in Vassiliki

Vassiliki

Words: Tez Plavenieks

Pics: PROtography, EDGE Productions, Tez and Fi Plavenieks

Not that long ago in a land not too far away scruffy long haired warriors congregated on a white pebble shoreline waiting for (as he was then known) ‘Eric’ to make his presence felt. Thermometer readings were such that you could fry eggs on tarmac and stray dogs/cats had a slightly singed look about them. Chatter focused on weapons of choice and as the previous night’s hangover started to abate (slightly) the first puffs of breeze made themselves felt.

White caps increased and tattered flags began flapping violently in the wind. The once calm and serene picture suddenly transformed into a frantic mass of vibrant colour, sail cloth, Epoxy and hysterical pulling, affixing and attaching ropes, booms and sails to boards. In no time at all a fairly calm sea had gone from being just that to a thronging mass of windsurfers darting about across the bay – Eric was now at full strength and it was Def Con 1.

Vass windsurfing PROtography

After a few hours the sun sank behind towering mountains flanking the bay and Eric released his grip slightly – the turbo powered blow backed off and calm started to fall once again. Soon it was all but over and antics focused once more to the infamous Zeus Bar – after all, such a cracking session was cause for celebration. And then, it would all be done again tomorrow…

All the same but different

If you remember the above scenario from a few years ago then you may be surprised if you haven’t set foot upon the hallowed white pebble shores of Vassiliki Bay recently. For sure, the scenery looks the same: mountains on either side, olive groves and buildings to the rear, a quaint fishing village nestling in the far lefthand corner and bubble gum blue water stretching towards Cephalonia in the distance. But scratch the surface and things aren’t quite as they once were…

For a start Eric isn’t Eric any longer. The previously named thermal breeze is just referred to as ‘the cross shore’. And then there’s those hedonistic antics of windsurfing folklore. Bar the odd one or two nights it’s not really the done thing. Nowadays you’ll more likely find windsurfers (especially the semi or pro rider centre staff) getting an early night after a healthy evening meal, ready for the dawn call and a spot of Yoga, stretching, running or biking. All in preparation for the afternoon’s full power windsurfing action.

Pic: EDGE Productions

If you think about it this makes perfect sense. As a sponsored athlete you need to perform – either in comps or during training sessions. Alcohol and hangovers aren’t really conducive to best performance – especially when the level of competitive windsurfing is continually on the rise. Freestyle in particular requires riders to be right on the money and sticking ALL moves. Gone are the days of turning up for your heat half cut and expecting to advance through to the final. And let’s be honest, a healthier lifestyle is certainly more beneficial to us all (even if I do slightly yearn for the hedonistic days of old Vass).

And if you’re on a windsurfing trip then there’s plenty to see, do and make use of before the cross shore kicks in. Sleeping ‘it’ off during the morning really does mean you miss the ‘best of the rest’ Vassilliki has to offer. Families are now more prevalent than ever before and as any parent will tell you: kids and booze don’t mix too well the following day.

It’s going off!

One thing that’s certainly the same is the wind…

For those unaware – or if it’s slipped your mind – Vass works on a thermally generated breeze that screams down the mountainside to the right. Calm water abound during the morning but come the afternoon and it’s full steam ahead, usually.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve stayed in Vass, how many times you’ve visited or how well you think you can predict the conditions the wind always delivers a few scratchy head moments that dumbfound even the most experienced. There are countless theories of how/why/when Vass winds blow but I’ve yet to find anyone that can give me an accurate.

Pic: PROtography

Some days it puffs in at lunchtime and delivers an hour of nukin’ gusts. At other times it visits late in the day, just before sunset. A handful of occasions it never shows up at all (as was the case the two weeks prior to our trip). During normal summer months, on a two week stay, you should be in for at least something. Without rubbing it in our visit coincided with a full power 100% windy week that only got better as the days progressed. Upon touching down back in the UK we could see from social media updates it was still ‘on’.

A word of caution for Vass newbies though: avoid early season – May – and late summer if you don’t want a skunking. High summer’s always a better bet for Vassiliki wind.

Vassiliki blasting

Gear, skills and spills

Numerous windsurfing operations dot the strip along Vass Bay. The one that stands head and shoulders above the rest (in our opinion) is Club Vass. There’s simply nowhere else that offers the sheer amount of brand spanking new current season kit. Severne (Blade, Gator, NCX, Freek and Turbo) make up what’s on offer sails wise. Boards come in all shapes and sizes (freeride, slalom, freestyle, freewave and wave) from Starboard, Fanatic, RRD and JP. And then there’s the kiddy kit which is also exceptional…Teeny tiny rigs and child friendly boards ensure your little ones can get out, learn and improve. (Our toddler, who isn’t yet two, had her first go at windsurfing during our Vass stay! Testament to the kit as much as her will to get involved).

Club Vass kit

If you listen to some windsurfing industry pundits then doom and gloom permeates when it comes to windsurfing. Windsurfing may be a faff sometimes but there’s no denying it’s alive and well in this tucked away corner of Greece. And there’s no lack of skill from the masses either.

Maybe that’s a nod in the direction of how easy kit is to use these days but during even the windiest periods there were beginners, intermediates, advanced and pro riders all mixing it up on the water. Never has it been so easy to raise your windsurfing game. In years gone by the strongest of blows would’ve cleared the brine of all but those capable – not so any more and it’s great to see.

Vassalliki Bay #2

SUP, biking and other shizzle

As we’ve said there’s so much to do around the actual act of windsurfing and I’d thoroughly recommend getting involved. An extensive range of inflatable stand up paddle boards from Fanatic and RRD make getting on the water during those glassy mornings tempting. Very different to a few years ago when stand up wasn’t really a thing.

Milky flat calm water delivers great conditions for pottering, touring, fitness and SUP Yoga – why wouldn’t you? Floating on the flat not your bag? No worries. Hook up with the mountain bike group and speed off along some awesome tracks and routes that give access to cracking views of the bay, village and surrounds.

Morning SUP Vass style

If you’re really struggling to find other ‘stuff’ to do then hire a car and explore the island. For those who do take their own kit let’s not forget that the northern Lefkas beach of Mylos also offers good windsurfing conditions. Mainly bump and jump it’s definitely a consideration for when the cross shore isn’t happening in Vass.

Time for sleepy head bed

If you’re considering your own Vass windsurfing trip then you could opt for one of the many packages offered by the numerous centres in resort. These will give flights, transfers to and from the airport, (some) meals and kit hire/instruction.

For those not inclined to package it all up there are plenty of accommodation options available. We chose the sleepy Riverside Apartments set back just off the main drag. Nestling among olive groves and bougainvillea our one bed apartment was incredibly tranquil and just a short 10 minute walk to the beach. Although all rooms were taken it remained perfect for a family of three with toddler in tow – highly recommended.

Eats and drinks

Refuelling is a must and Vass Town, if you can call it that, has a myriad of tavernas, cafes, bars and refreshment pit stops. For 2016 we spotted a couple of new establishments that offer typical Greek fayre – grilled fresh fish, meats, salads and meze options.

Vass Town

Having eaten out on numerous occasions there are definitely some outlets better than others but by and large most are pretty good and offer OK value. If dining out isn’t your thing then grab a pizza or gyros and head back to your digs.

There’s still the option of hedonism in Vass and the notorious Zeus Bar still occupies its harbour side spot. Anyone looking to party will find this and a number of other bars ready and willing to accommodate. Just don’t blame us for the headache next day!

The end my friend

Our Greek sojourn to the flat water windy mecca of Vass was super successful and as we headed back towards Lefkas Airport it’s nice to know that windsurfing is alive and well – even if only in pockets of the world. If windsurfing is to become a ‘destination sport’ (and I certainly hope not) then I couldn’t think of a nicer summer sailing spot that ticks all the boxes. Perfect for all levels of rider, families, singles, groups or any other demographic Vass is definitely worth checking out for the first time or returning for another look.

Huge thanks to Hutch SUP Wear, Riders on the Storm Clothing, Rockerline Clothing, Club Vass, PROtography and EDGE Productions.

Don’t forget to check out the first part of this story, featuring Northern Ionian SUP touring, in SUP Mag UK’s high summer 2016 issue.

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Club Vass is a great centre and does have the best kit on the beach. It is worth saying however that there are other options which also offer great value for sailing or windsurfing. On my last visit Ocean Elements and Neilson were also operating in Vass and if you fancied some great multihull sailing there is always Wildwind. Vass is a great place for a water based holiday. The staff in all the centres work hard to ensure you have a good time, Hope to go back again this year.

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