Vassiliki, located on the southern shores of Lefkas Island, part of the Ionian island chain, has long been an established windsurfing destination – certainly for Europeans anyway. But the notorious katabatic wind that puffs cross shore in Vass bay is a late in the day phenomenon, leaving the whole morning free for other watery exploits. Evenings were traditionally (and still are) a time to sample the many Greek tavernas lining the harbour front of Vass town or getting all hedonistic in the Zeus bar. The restaurants are abundant and serve up delectable Greek delights while the Zeus Bar is still on offer for those looking to party.
In years past, before SUP was even a twinkling in Laird’s eye, Vass mornings were a time to shed the woolly headed feeling, grab a frape and generally laze about in anticipation of the afternoon’s full power wind driven activities. More recently, however, multi-discipline aficionados have started to wise up to Vass’ glassy morning conditions – perfect for SUP race training, SUP yoga, SUP touring or simply getting your morning H20 fix by heading out for a float.
When people talk about glassy conditions there’s usually a bump or two in the mix. But with regard to Vass, mirror flat really does mean just that. At 8am there’s barely a breath of wind and the nature of the enclosed bay ensures that most open sea swell is completely blocked. The sun already has his hat on but mercury levels aren’t quite as fierce as later in the day.
Launching from the white stone beach stand up paddle boards glide unhindered – a few short strokes provide momentum and, before you know, the shore will have been left far behind. Looking back towards land, the Greek sun hovers high above the mountains and olive groves that provide a picturesque backdrop. Stop paddling for a moment and you can hear everyday life waking up as quiet town Greece’s hustle and bustle echoes across the brine.
Citrus smells waft across the water and insects and birds flutter through the sky, with the occasional dog bark carrying through the still morning. Looking down, the azure blue colour of the water begs you to dive right in while fish dart and weave just beneath the surface – peaceful and serene pretty much sums up the early morning sweep in Vass.
Focusing back on the job in hand and it’s around four miles to the end of a right hand flanking headland that marks the start of Vassiliki bay. Those with an inkling of mathematical nouse will have worked out that an ‘out and back’ will be around eight miles and therefore a perfect training run for anyone into racing. Even if this isn’t your thing then it’s a great cruise and the perfect way to build an appetite, ready for a hearty breakfast back at base.
For those feeling super fit then an out, quick hop across to Vass town, blast back inshore and final sweep towards the centre will see you arrive at the put in lathered in sweat and ready for a cooling off – usually a dive head first into the brine. One thing worth noting is just how much fluid you’ll lose through perspiration.
SUP options galore
The actual quantity is of course directly proportional to how hard you’re working the paddle, but carrying a hydration pack is definitely worthwhile – especially if you head to Vass during July or August when air temperatures are even higher.
SUP yoga has taken off and continues to grow, with Vassiliki’s millpond conditions providing a great area for those wanting to tap up their inner chi. Club Vass, who hosted SUP Mag UK during the trip, run informal classes and it’s a great way of ridding yourself of those annoying muscular knots, having smashed a few miles out, and simply unwinding. Many of our top UK paddlers utilise Yoga to good effect – why not take a leaf out of their book and follow suit?
The Southern Ionian is littered with a plethora of islands, springing up from deep blue waters, and while it’d be a mammoth exploration to paddle between them – certainly for a week – there are a few nooks and crannies worth exploring within Vass Bay.
If you decide to do a Vass discovery then be aware of the wind. When Eric (as it’s known) kicks in full power then paddling back will be a mission – to say the least. If you’re on the masochistic end of the spectrum then maybe this is your bag – a beasting back upwind will certainly burn the calories, that’s for sure!
Further round from Vass bay is Agiofili beach – a secluded spot that’s tricky to reach by land but easily navigable by SUP. It does get busy during the height of summer and once again you’ll need to keep an eye on local conditions. It’s definitely worth a look, however, and great for getting off the beaten track – especially during the early part of the day. Club Vass run tours in the mornings and this is one of the stops they head for. If you do head here then it’s worth bunging your snorkel gear on the front of your board as the underwater views can be amazing.
Club Vass is like a big SUP (and windsurf) sweet shop. The centre carries a whole range of equipment that’s ready to go at the drop of a hat. The majority of gear is of a blow up variety. A large selection of Fanatic Airs, of various sizes, Starboard Astros and RRDs all nestle under olive netting on racks.
Those wanting hard board performance won’t be disappointed, however, as a number of touring boards from Starboard and JP are also ready and waiting. We mainly used 14ft tourers but there’s something for everyone and adjustable Fanatic paddles ensure you’ll find the right sized sweeper.
Take your own paddle
It’s worth considering, if you are a little more serious about your SUP shenanigans, that taking your own carbon paddle would be worth it. While the kit on offer at Club Vass is certainly good, there aren’t any carbon sweepers on offer (somewhat understandable given the number of windsurfing guests who have their first taste of paddling while on holiday, high spec paddles wouldn’t survive for long). A number of other SUPers from the UK had travelled with their own paddles and it was certainly proving worth it. It’s far easier to fly with a stand up paddle than your board.
Having said that, if you’re keen to explore the rest of the island then it could be worth rolling up an iSUP and chucking that on the plane. From the flat, calm waters of Nidri Bay to the northern tip and Mylos Bay, there are a whole load of alternative put in spots that are a simple car journey away. Porto Katsiki beach, in particular, is well worth a look and would offer a stunning location for SUP photos. High sided cliffs and pristine white sand make this a must see spot – even if you don’t SUP here.
If you’re looking for an easily accessible, relatively affordable and family-friendly location for a SUP holiday then you’d do a lot worse that hitting up Club Vass. If you’re a multi-discipline aficionado and love a full power afternoon windsurf then there’s even more reason to visit. Offering idyllic flat water morning glassy conditions, stand up paddling in Vassiliki bay is sublime and a great spot for introducing kids and other family members.
At the time of travelling, Greece was going through a pretty tough time economically and yet, we never saw any issue arise from financial problems. Businesses were carrying on as normal and there were no dramas. It’s worth, however, obtaining sufficient Euros to cover your whole trip before travelling and if possible have them as denominations of ten. Chances are that if you try and pay with a 50 Euro note you’ll struggle to get the correct change.
A huge thank you must go out to Club Vass Holidays who helped with this trip. Also big shout out to Ed Allen at Edge Productions for photos, plus Cave Active and Hutch SUP Wear who provided paddling apparel. More info can be found at: