Surf Club Keros on the Greek island of Lemnos is no secret among kite- and windsurfers. What most people don’t know is that the club offers accessible housing and activities.
Already in early summer 2015 the Surf Club Keros lured with an adaptive kiteboarding camp onto the Greek island of Lemnos. I myself decided to combine this camp with a roadtrip. Starting in the Austrian city of Innsbruck via the Balkan peninsula, the road took me to the Greek mainland from where I should cross to the Island on a ferry.
To my surprise I already met Giannis and Makis on board of that ship. The first is one of the associates of Surf Club Keros, while Makis is the figurehead of Greek wheelchair sports par excellence. So I clearly was in great company which entailed two advantages. First of all my companions shortened the time of crossing massively for me. Secondly, after arriving on Lemnos, I only had to follow them to reach the camp.
As it was pitch-dark and I had my hands full trying not to loose Makis‘ black Jeep out of sight, I could not really see a whole of a lot of the landscape during the ride to the camp. The only thing that became clear to me was that the camp was definitely off the beaten track as the roads steadily became smaller until they had shrunk to a single-lane dirt road for the last kilometres. When we finally reached our destination two things stroke me right away. Silence and darkness. Apart from the Spartan illumination of the camp, only in the distance one could make out some faint sources of light.
Whitecaps on your cappuccino
The following morning when I peaked of my van, still a little drowsy, it blew my mind. The view was breathtaking. The dominant steppe, only interrupted by some vibrant green olive groves, offered the perfect contrast to the turquoise water of the bay. For now there was only a light breeze but I could vividly imagine how the bay would slowly fill up with whitecaps as soon as the wind picked up.
Whitecaps … froth … milk froth … cappuccino … coffee – it definitely was time for breakfast. But first I had to move into the safari tent and take a shower. You would want to make a good first impression after all. After the shower I went straight to the breakfast buffet. Fresh fruits, Greek yoghurt, cheese, bread, eggs in every form imaginable etc. etc. – the land of milk and honey. Of course I myself could not get around scrambled eggs. Additionally I was served coffee and orange juice right to the table.
During breakfast the other participants of the kite-camp gradually came crawling out of their holes. From all over the world sitting as well as upright kiteboarding aficionados had followed Giannis‘ call. France, Britain, Switzerland, Austria, South Africa and Canada. A mixed bunch which would team up more and more each day.
Balance act in the nature reserve
The first day of the camp basically stayed windless which did not bother too much. Like this there was more than enough time to recover from the journey, get to know the other participants and explore the camp. The latter I would describe as uncomplicated but stylish. From the reception to the bar and the lounge, the framework is mainly finished in wood and designed openly. Everything is subordinate to the main attraction – the panorama of the protected bay.
Nevertheless the owners managed to design the facilities accessible to a large extend – a difficult but successful balancing act. However the icing on the cake is undoubtedly the service. The dangerously high quality of the food, the neatness of the facilities as well as the obliging staff are what constitutes Surf Club Keros.
Despite the luxury it should not be forgotten that Surf Club is basically a camp of tents. Although those are mostly accessible and accommodate private bathrooms, they are and will remain … tents. This means that in spite of air condition the „room“ temperature is only to be regulated limitedly and with a hint of bad conscience. Also the possibility that the more intimate sounds of life stay unheard is vanishingly small. Finally it is inevitable that one or the other insect gets lost within the tent.
Free tip: It’s not recommendable to leave sweets or any other kind of food openly in the tent. Additionally to the normal luggage also earplugs, insect repellent and a headlight might come in handy.
Dis-charging the batteries
As the second day should also stay without wind, I made use of the time to examine the centre on the beach and prepare my gear. In spite of only being located about 500 meters linear distance of the camp, it is preferable to access the quarter-hourly running shuttle. Going to the beach in the wheelchair takes a while and can become a little dusty – the 5 minute car ride is way more relaxed.
Of course also the centre remains faithful to the Surf Club Keros style – simple, unpretentious and with outstanding service. You can relax in one of the cosy hammocks or charge your batteries at the beach bar. In case you need to discharge them actively, you can make use of the little wooden shack behind the centre. Where you normally would expect a thunderbox to be, you can luckily count on a normal water closet. There is also enough space to change comfortably. Simple but functional. Remember: You are residing in a protected area.
Argonauts in a kayak
Even if the wind should not really play along as planned, there is no need to worry about boredom. On a calm day a field trip in a kayak or SUP within the bay can be considered a great alternative to kiteboarding.
Should you ever need a break from the beach, a yoga session or a massage at the camp can be pretty convincing. Also an island excursion is warmly recommended to Lemnos visitors. As beautiful as camp and beach are, if you limit yourself to those 2 locations you definitely miss out on great experiences. Lemnos can be considered a special spot on the earth after all. According to Greek mythology even the Argonauts were once welcomed on Lemnos with warmth and hospitality. It is said that in those days the island was exclusively inhabited by women. No wonder that the crew did not really want to leave.¹ If you want to know more about the sights of Lemnos, just ask Chara at the front office or read what she has to say about 5 cool things to do and places to visit on Limnos Island.
Meltemi for couch-surfers
As soon as the Meltemi starts to pick though, all this does not matter anymore. From now on only the wind and the kite count. Cata-kite, kite-couch or sitkite board, the aim is clear: Autonomous sitkiteboarding. The instructors will surely give their very best to lead the students to the sport step by step. Once the you’ve managed your first rides, you have the whole bay at your disposal to improve and enjoy planing over the water.
After the session the camps residents mostly use the time to shower and rest. The sunburn is treated with an after sun lotion (long live the placebo effect) and off to dinner, where you usually ingest more calories than you have burned before. Nothing a good digestif can’t fix though (one way or the other) – Johnnie Walker sends it’s regards.
Even though residing in tents won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, Surf Club Keros is clearly worth a visit. Once you’ve adapted yourself to camp-life, there is nothing standing in the way of unforgettable vacations. So hop into the air plane – it’s about time to salt the spokes.
The wind season on Lemnos normally lasts from May to September, whereupon July and August are the most popular months of the year. With „Keros for All“ in the beginning of June, Surf Club Keros offers an annual adaptive kiteboarding camp. Also the British sports association Access Adventures organizes an annual kiteboarding camp for wheelchair users – date 2019: 12th – 19th of September. Although it is recommended to make use of one of those offers, it is also possible to book vacations in Keros individually – just check the capacities for adaptive kiteboarding lessons in advance.
During summer the Meltemi reigns in the Aegean and makes for a wind yield of about 70%.² Usually the wind blows with 4 – 7 beaufort from northeast³, which in the bay of Keros means wind from the left.
Local specifics and dangers:
Talking about „dangers“ in the bay of Keros is actually unnecessary as I can barely imagine any spot safer than this one. Apart from a small opening, the bay is pretty much closed to the open sea. Only in the north of the bay there is one or the other rock hiding underneath the water surface – thanks to the crystal clear water though, one can recognise those already from the distance. I’d say the most outstanding specific of the bay is it’s diversification. In the north a glassy speed spot, the middle of the bay starts to get some chop which grows to a nicely sized wave towards the south.
Concerning sitkite gear, Surf Club Keros specially stands out within the teaching sector. A so called cata-kite allows to safely train the steering of the kite while speeding through the bay together with at least one instructor. Another great feature is the kite-couch in which student and instructor can comfortably sit next to each other while learning how to fly a kite. Of course there are also motorboats to guarantee safety for everybody. And finally – how could be otherwise – there are sitkite boards available at the centre. Even though those cannot be considered state of the art, they serve perfectly to learn and gain first experiences.
As mentioned above, the luxurious safari tents are fairly accessible for wheelchair users. Up to 5 persons can stay in each one of those spacious tents. Also the bathrooms are spacious and accommodate and open shower where a lawn chair can be easily placed when required. As the tents are assembled on platforms, wheelchair users usually enter those via metal ramps which admittedly are a little steep. In the buffet and lounge area the accessibility is flawless. Ramps wherever you need as well as an accessible bathroom make the heart of the camp really relaxed for rolling folk.
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- On the website of Access Adventures you can read an interesting article about their first adaptive kiteboarding camp in 2016: First international kite camp!
- Surf Club Keros: surfclubkeros.com ; Facebook; Instagram;
- Access Adventures: www.accessadventures.co.uk ; Facebook; Instagram;
Fotos by Surf Club Keros