Gone with the wind
Now that dismal January is safely behind us and March is about to take the monthly baton from February’s grasp, the thought of a holiday to break free from seasonal inertia is more appealing than ever before. The remnants of Christmas still clog up our veins and the lethargy that is so habitual at that time of the year is hanging around like a bad smell. All we want is the sun on our face, the sea licking the shore with its gentle regularity and the sand teasing our glistening body.
Better still, with all of this guaranteed why not consider an active holiday to exorcise those indolent demons? One that is inexpensive and situated in an attractive European destination like Egypt and Greece, for example. They are two countries that offer a stunning landscape and cater for water sport enthusiasts.
Vassiliki in Greece is arguably one of Europe’s most acclaimed windsurfing destinations and is on the periphery of the stunning Lefkas Island. Windsurfers of all levels are drawn to its flat water in the afternoons, while ardent mountain bikers tackle the conspicuous mountains that protrude Lefkas Island. Whatever the terrain, Vassiliki is a place of beauty and enterprise – you just need to decide what activity will best regenerate you.
Dehab in Egypt also shares the accolade of an unprecedented profile for wind and kite surfing. It boasts over 300 days a year of wind, as Dahab lies in the wind tunnel off the gulf of Aquaba and these powerful winds that bless the lagoon are ideal for beginners who are keen to learn either sport. The more desirable windsurfing spots are approximately 2 km south of Old Dahab in the expansive lagoon of Dahab City. The water is a flawless surface for both beginners and advanced surfers and is surrounded by hotels, restaurants and stores where you can rent equipment.
Embedded in these locations are expert instructors who help preserve the future of activity sports and encourage new interest into the area. Often natural ability can be developed into prospective professionals by instructors, and children in particular are supported by these mentors if fun turns into a hobby, which then turns into a possible vocation.
Simon Davies, who is Overseas Operations Manager for tour operator Neilson active, started his life as a young and ambitious water sports fanatic. “I remember the day when my dad brought me a small boat and we would go sailing together,” says Simon. “I was an eager and fearless 10 year old who was desperate to get out on the water. Even at that age I felt just as comfortable on water as I did land.”
“Dinghy sailing was my first love and the platform for experimenting with other water sports,” Simon continues. “As I grew up I got to know more and more kids who were into wind and kite surfing, and it was astonishing how high the standard was at such a young age. But I knew it was an activity I wanted to pursue and succeed in, and after nine years of progressing and learning I became an instructor at 19 years old.”
“An opportunity then arose with Neilson in Turkey where I spent three memorable years as an instructor,” Simon reflects. “The beach clubs in Turkey are just as renowned and exquisite now as they were then, with Ortakent and Teos (the two famous windsurfing destinations in Turkey) still leading the way for amateurs and professionals. At 24 I came back to the UK where I have been ever since. Although my role means I no longer teach, I am still very much involved with the activities we offer and will never lose the passion for water sports. I have met some incredible people along my travels and some fantastic raw talent too. Although I had good support around me as a child, kids now have better facilities, equipment and leadership if they intend to follow their dreams of becoming an established sports personality.”
Simon will be pursuing another one of his dreams by attempting to kite surf the English Channel this year in aid of the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA). He is one of five friends who will raise money and awareness for the disease that leads to the debilitation of muscles, loss of mobility and difficulty with speech. One of their good friend’s fathers contracted the disease recently and kite surfing across the temperamental Channel will be testament to the endurance and bravery he has shown. “The crossing represents a great challenge with many dangers,” says Simon. “We are crossing the busiest shipping channel in the world, there are many elements to take into account such as weather, equipment failure and of course fatigue”
With the immeasurable success team GB had in sailing at the Beijing Olympics, the sport, along with windsurfing, is undergoing a welcomed resurgence. The British Olympic Association (BOA) has highlighted that water sports could be the UK’s most potent force behind a fruitful London 2012 and appreciates that nurturing the young who have the flair and passion at the earliest opportunity is paramount.
Like any sport, children with the raw ability have to be recognised and supported if they are to be serious contenders in their field. That said, sport is still fun and infectious and childhood memories of stepping in your first boat, falling off your first surf board or swallowing that large gulp of sea water can never be taken away from you.
More Details on Motor Neurone Disease Association can be found at www.mndassociation.org