No Place for Beginners – Karpathos, Greece
No Place for Beginners
Wind loves the Dodecanese Island of Karpathos, located in the sparkling Aegean, midpoint between Crete and Rhodes. The three hundred and two-square kilometer island is ideal for windsurfing because the wind funnels in north to northeast between nearby Kassos Island and the hills of Karpathos. The proof is seen in the island’s trees, many of which are bowed growing southward.
Karpathos is no place for beginners, with an average wind strength of five to six on the Beaufort wind scale. Starting in May, the Meltemi wind often reaches eight, sometimes even nine. Ships can’t navigate and the waves are too high for ferries. Windsurfing materials will probably hold to an eight, but with nine, it’ll get uncomfortable. Alexandra Haugg, of Club Mistral, estimates the island has wind ninety percent of the time in June, July and August.
The three surf clubs on the island are open from early May to mid-October and they offer regular surf clinics. About eighty percent of the customers are men, but the percentage of women enthusiasts is climbing every year. Most surfers come from Austria, Britain, Germany, Greece, Holland and Italy. A few from Australia, the United States and Canada find their way to Karpathos in their quest to battle the white horses.
Sails for Karpathos are small, just 3.0 to 3.7 square meters. Equipment can be rented by the hour, half-day or day. Those who opt for a week’s rental will usually not be charged for any days the gear is not used.
The clubs operate in a cluster on Afiarti Beach. You’ll see the F2 flag almost flying off the
pole as you get close. Club officials have wind meters, but why measure? In Gun Bay you’ll
find a meter-high wind wave about every five hundred meters, ideal for perfecting your surfing skills. You can count on Devil’s Bay to offer a slightly stronger wind strength. The red, yellow,
green and blue sails meet the challenge head-on, as they bob and whip around, sometimes making it to the shoreline, more often tipping before. Speed Lagoon, not for the faint of heart, is where you can force your board to speeds usually only achieved by catamarans.
Surfing may be the island’s top attraction, but it’s not the only game. Starting around Easter, a few backpackers start to appear. Besides the windsurfing enthusiasts, most visitors are hikers or mountain bikers. Then there are those seriously dedicated to nothing but enjoying days of tanning and swimming. You just won’t encounter streets and beaches overflowing with tourists on Karpathos. The relatively small number of tourists to have discovered the island hits in July and August, when sunshine averages 12.5 hours per day.
By October, all the charter flights have ended, marking the unofficial end of the season. It’s not that the six thousand inhabitants wouldn’t welcome more outsiders. After all, the Greek word xenos means both “foreigner” and “guest”. It’s just that tourists prefer following the crowds to larger, more established islands to play in the sun.
Karpathos, some 250 sea-miles from Athens, is barely on most maps. So most people just don’t know about it. What luck!
How To Get To Karpathos
In high season there are three ferries per week from the ports of Pireaus and Rhodes, fewer
out of season. A weekly catamaran operates from Rhodes in high season when direct charter flights are available from Austria, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Germany, the Scandinavian countries and Slovenia. Private planes and helicopters can be chartered from Athens or Rhodes. Olympic Airways services Karpathos via Athens and Rhodes.