1st CRETE WAVE CONTEST – FANEROMENI 2012
SUMMER SWELLS IN GREECE
1st CRETE WAVE CONTEST – FANEROMENI 2012
Fully exposed to most Eastern Mediterranean swells and still largely unexplored the island of Crete steps up as the perfect playground for a Greek wave sailing expedition. The unique geography of the biggest island in the country sticking out at the far south of the Aegean sea, enjoys a mild year round climate, and receives a fair share of swell and wind patterns from just about any direction. A strong local community of wave sailors has been bred in these waters exploring, for many years now, every possible beach break and reef in search of new sailable spots.
Come winter and big frontal systems will bombardise the West, East and South coasts and a fetch from as far as North Africa means long period swell lines that can produce the powerful cross to cross off conditions that we all crave for. During this big wave period of November till April it is not uncommon to surf and windsurf very often indeed in conditions that surprise and resemble more to Oceanic destinations. And every year locals and visitors keep on discovering new spots…
But what happens in the winter is another story that needs the narrative of a different travelling article. Greece and its islands are renowned for the Summertime. Travelling visitors from all parts of the world come here in the masses to enjoy the unique Aegean light, the local cuisine and culture, the postcard sandy beaches full of scattered bare bodies that melt under the blazing hot sun, cooling off thanks to the local breeze known as the Meltemi.
But even during this summer period when prevailing winds blow from the North, Crete can provide the goods. Our first stop finds us in ‘Lasithi’ in the NorthEast region where the 1st Crete wave contest was held this August
Meltemi blows hard all over the Aegean in the summer. On many occasions and especially during July-August these dry North winds will reach the strength of a gale Force8. In those –not so rare- days swells will funnel down the Ikarian Sea and then connect with the North Cretan Sea. Open sea waves may reach or even exceed 3 metres in height before exploding on North Crete most probably with gnarly onshore closeouts. However, thanks to the mountainous coast in Faneromeni (just 15′ to the west of Sitia city) the wind locally and magically drops and swings to right angles. Port tack from the West. Combined with a gnarly rocky reef and the result is a Force4-6 with groomed sideshore waves.
The launch is upwind of the point and a bit tricky from a very small ‘beach’ with boulders where you need to mind your feet and carefully time your entry between set waves. But as soon as you make it out and get on your first one all doubts immediately disappear. The wave itself definitely registers in the ‘Slab’ category. Short but hollow and fast it forms a distinctive peak that makes for one big hit (perhaps an aerial if you are brave enough) before fading out for one more turn on the shoulder , maybe two if you get lucky. Sometimes on the bigger sets the shoulder itself will reform and pack a punch for another aerial.
All in all a beauty in boardshorts.
Mind you though there is no much room for kicking out of the wave and the close proximity to rocks suggests a couple of important things such as: not picking the first wave of the set (go for the second or third) and to definitely stick with your wave all the way downwind to the channel. Dont even think of kicking out as the whitewater will just eat you. Unless you have a certified kamikazi diploma, do take it easy as masts and egos break here like toothpicks! stay focused and bring a couple of spare masts. Indeed busting stuff is a usual phenomenon here!
It had been a while since the last wave comp in Greece… we were already through mid summer when excitement reached high levels in the news that the local Heraklion Windsurfing Club decided to step on and call for an event in Crete and whats more in Faneromeni reefbreak, for a first time. A waiting period for the month of August was set. Stuck at the helm skippering charter sailboats since April meant I had not holded a windsurfing boom for quite some time. But when 3 days off work perfectly aligned with the promising forecast on the newly established local BigSalty charts I got on the ferry to Crete without second thought.
20 strong competitors from around the country showed up in the first day. Faneromeni was kind and greeted us with 1,5-2m waves and planning 5m weather. All sailors were sent out for a 3 hour warmup before the bell of the church rang signalling the first skippers meeting. Split into 4rider heats, judging waveriding only with the best 2 waves counting, the contest started. Everyone giving their best in the water, perhaps too much, as in the second heat of the day all 4 riders end up on the rocks! As the day passed on the waves started getting bigger. Some broken masts and very nice rides later, with a full qualification round complete, we all went to have some dinner and raki (local drink) in nearby Sitia before returning after to the spot and our tents. Under the influence of raki and the loud noise of howling winds and crashing waves we slept dreaming for more.
Second day dawned and it was big. 3m waves and very strong winds had messed up completely the spot. But in the afternoon , as expected, the winds backed once again to the west easing off into another perfect sideshore Force5. The finals were held exactly as they should be. In probably some of the best conditions of all summer. Mikhalis Farsaris, Vagelis Divis, Kostas Kostopoulos and Alex Nikoletopoulos were the 4 riders that made it to the Final. A very close call as all riders were riding strongly but in the end it was local Mikhalis Farsaris that came up on top styling the event with excellent wave selection and fluid powerful turns with Vagelis Divis and Kostas Kostopoulos ending in the second and third position. With the contest now complete we all gathered at the terrace of the small church overlooking the rocky point to celebrate. Under the fading light of sunset on one side of the sky and the August full moon on the other we simply wished that we get more events like this one in the future.
Big thanks goes to Alex for the words, to the Heraklion Windsurfing Club for setting this up and congrats to the riders that participated at this event !
Alex is supported from secretspot.gr
Pics: Dimitris Papathanasis a.k.a pirosvestis