As an Austrian, lakes are our ‘local’ spots and Lake Neusiedl our prime one and home to the famous PWA competitions in years past. Variety is the spice of life but and keen to discover some ‘fresh’ freshwater, we only had to travel a few hours across the border into Hungary to discover another lake, Balaton, which due to its large size offers multiple spots covering all wind directions and it even has some tiny waves to play on in the right conditions!
The grand scale of Balaton is key to its utility for windsurfing. It has a total length of 77 km, a width between 14 km and 1.5 km and a total shore length of over 160 km. The average depth of Balaton is 3.2 m with a maximum of 12.2 m, which you may think is relatively shallow but is not extraordinary for the area as the average depth of neighbouring Lake Neusiedl is roughly only 1 m.
What is remarkable about Balaton, certainly on the south side, is the accessibility to the lake, in almost every conceivable place along the southern shore, roads or random streets lead to the water’s edge. In comparison, the north shore is wilder, less populated and has many parts located in a national park, with huge reed belts forming natural buffers between the land and water. Of course the important question for windsurfing is where is the strongest wind? Lake Balaton can be divided into a lower, middle and upper area. The lower area is located in the southwest and gets the most wind. North and northwest winds are accelerated over the volcanic mountains and through the valleys and so the wind blows strongest from this direction at the section from Balatonfenyes to Balatonlelle. Szantod, in the middle of the southern shore, works very well when a strong southwest wind hits the whole lake. Sometimes the eastern part of the lake can be touched by local fronts that can bring wind, whilst the western part of the lake remains flat calm, so it pays to keep a good eye on weather and wind forecasts. Indeed, even though there may be no wind on some sections of the lake, it will still have waves, because the waves have formed in a part of the lake where wind is blowing. In fact on our next trip to Balaton we plan on bringing a SUP and longboard to try and catch some of those waves at Balatonlelle! There are so many places to explore in Balaton, so here’s a guide to help you.