Prasonisi in Rhodes is noted for its unspoilt beauty, great winds and both flat water and onshore wave conditions. Nicolas Jones and Jem Hall give us the lowdown on this special Greek spot.
Words Nicolas Jones & Jem Hall // Photos Nicolas Jones
When you think of Rhodes, images of ancient Greece may well be conjured up – the Colossus statue astride the harbour of Rhodes or perhaps the madness and mayhem of Faliraki. Or maybe it’s a more tranquil scene, a white washed villa fringed by Mediterranean pine overlooking the beautiful azure waters of the Aegean perhaps. But Rhodes is also home to some perfect windsurfing conditions. What is a perfect windsurfing spot though? After all, perfection means different things to different people. Some may wish for warm water; some for flat water, others for waves; some for medium and stable winds, others for strong winds; some for peace and tranquillity, others for great food and convivial company; some prefer their own board while others wish for a range of kit to try out. Well, Prasonisi ticks all of these perfection boxes. And that’s before we even talk about wind stats. But we are getting ahead of ourselves – where are we? Prasonisi is a tiny settlement, not even a village, on the southern tip of Rhodes, as far from the madding crowds as you can get on this island.
Flying in to Rhodes airport you look down at an ancient and famous town that is surrounded by a hinterland of villas and pools that stretch along the coast interspersed with large hotel complexes. Prasonisi is located at the southern tip of the island, in every way the complete opposite to the north end of the island. From the airport it’s an hour and twenty minutes drive and once you escape the purpose built resorts that litter the northern half of the island the road leaves the coast and passes through typically Mediterranean countryside of olive trees and small fields bordered by stone walls. The odd white-washed farmhouse dots the scene. The occasional luxury hotel development on the coast can be seen off in the distance, but otherwise it is just a scene of pastoral tranquillity, a scene that has barely changed since time immemorial. Finally a sign indicates a left turn onto the small road to Prasonisi. It winds up over a hill, and then the road sweeps down and to the right and there below you is Prasonisi – a wide stretch of sandy beach that narrows before meeting the island upon which stands a lonely lighthouse – the sentry at this southernmost tip of the island. The wind blows from the right, so to the right of the beach is the wave beach that works best when the strong wind has been blowing a couple of days to really build the swell. To the left is the flat water beach – the cross-offshore direction means that even in strong winds the water is flat. Set back from the beach is a small cluster of buildings that comprise the two tavernas and their associated rooms. That’s all there is to Prasonisi – beach, wind and bed, it’s that simple.
“That’s all there is to Prasonisi – beach, wind and bed, it’s that simple.”
Christof Kirschner was the first to open a rental centre on the beach in 1999. There was a kantina (snack bar) on the beach, which grew in size year after year and eventually the first taverna was built, that was quickly followed by the Lighthouse taverna that is still there to this day. Prasonisi now consists of two tavernas, with some attached rooms and two small supermarkets, and that is pretty much it. All the land around is owned by the military and so effectively Prasonisi cannot expand any further out and local planning means that development is limited to two storeys, so Prasonisi has hardly changed in the past 15 years. What this also means is that there are a limited number of beds in Prasonisi and so this also keeps a lid on the numbers of people on the water – meaning plenty of space for you to enjoy.
The arrangement of the hills on one side and the island on the other side creates a natural wind tunnel, a Venturi effect, so the wind is accelerated as it passes from the wave beach, across the sand and then out into the bay, that is the flat water side. This Venturi effect can boost the wind by 1 force i.e. a force 4 wind becomes a force 5. The cross-off shore wind direction combined with flat water makes this the perfect spot to improve and boost your windsurfing skills.
This Venturi effect contributes to wind stats that are second to none. From June to September 75% of days are over force 4, that’s 16 knots plus. Typically it is windy in the morning, or builds through the morning until a slight hiatus at 2 p.m. Perfect timing to allow you to take a break to enjoy a delicious Mediterranean lunch at the Lighthouse taverna or perhaps a light salad or gyros ( a Greek pita type dish) at the kantina that is situated on the beach next to the ProCenter. Then in the afternoon it kicks in again. And often there is the bonus ‘golden hour’ sessions at the end of the day. From 5 p.m. onwards the angle of the sun makes for some gorgeous light and with fewer people on the water you have the place to yourself – it really is a sweet session in Prasonisi. And this typical wind profile is the reason that Jem Hall, amongst other coaches, loves Prasonisi. He’ll tell you later about it in his own words, but basically he can intersperse a few light wind sessions (practising tacks, gybes, or some light wind freestyle with a more forgiving setup of larger volume board and small sail) with the windy sessions.
And the ProCenter Prasonisi can support you in whatever your windsurfing ambitions may be. There is a huge range of JP boards and Neil Pryde sails available for every taste – so you can channel your inner Amado Vrieswijk on a JP Freestyle board or set some speed records to challenge Antoine Albeau on the slalom Super Sport range. And for those that love blasting around and flying into a carve gybe then the Magic Ride freemove board is the one for you. All available in a range of volumes to suit. To match this extensive range of boards are every sail in the Neil Pryde range, from the Fly to the Speedster. And should the wind drop, well perhaps it’s time to give foiling a go on a Neil Pryde Foil Pro. Check out www.prasonisi.com to see the full range.
But put all of that to one side for a moment. The quality of Prasonisi life that is most prized by those that visit is the opportunity to unwind and de-stress. Life is so simple here, there are no distractions, no noisy crowds. One’s life is reduced to one point of focus – the wind. At breakfast you look out across the empty beach to the water and watch the flags fluttering on the Baywatch style lifeguard towers, giving promise of the joys to come. Then stroll to the centre where you choose your weapons of choice before heading out into the wide bay to enjoy all that nature offers here – beautiful warm azure waters and plentiful wind. Lunch is a choice between the kantina on the beach for a quick snack and drink with fellow windsurfers or return to the Lighthouse taverna and choose between fresh salads, fresh grilled fish, octopus or a mezze to share with friends. Mezze is like Spanish tapas, where you combine plates (typically to share) to make your meal – for example humus and pitta bread; gigantes (butter beans in sauce); a Greek salad; tzatziki (cucumber and yoghurt dip) and melintzanosalata (smoked aubergine dip). You also have the classic Greek dishes of chicken gyros, moussaka and kleftiko. The Lighthouse is family run, with three generations involved, who are all super friendly and welcoming. Certainly I feel like I am coming home each year that I return and so do many others.
So in the afternoon once again return to ride the winds until it’s time to share a well earned cold drink with friends at the Kantina, feeling the buzz of a great day on the water, perhaps relishing a new move conquered or just enjoying the warm glow of friends’ accomplishments. What joy it is to sit there looking out across the flat empty bay as the sun sits low in the sky, enjoying the warm air blowing across you, bringing back to mind the memory of riding that wind to your own personal windsurfing glory. A million miles from the stresses and strains of busy and hectic lives back home. This alone is worth the visit to Prasonisi.
Prasonisi is situated at the southernmost tip of the island of Rhodes, the part of the island least affected by the effects of mass tourism. Whilst the beach may attract day trippers, in the evenings you have the place to yourself to enjoy the tranquillity. Prasonisi is not a ‘touristy’ spot.
But should you wish a change of vibe then in the vicinity there are plenty of charming Greek villages with traditional tavernas serving delicious Greek food. The setting is typically picture postcard – in the square of the village, or next to the church or chapel, perhaps under a large spreading tree or under vines trained across a pergola. And 45 minutes drive away is the beautiful white washed village of Lindos, the ancient capital of Rhodes. It boasts a stunning acropolis perched atop a cliff top, overlooking the cove opposite Lindos. Enjoy dinner under the stars in a rooftop restaurant and cocktails in one of the many bars.
THE PERFECT TONIC
Rhodes is a beautiful Greek island set in the Aegean Sea with a huge amount to offer all visitors. And for the keen windsurfer, Prasonisi is an absolute diamond of a spot, boasting great wind and a fantastic range of new kit to play with at the Procenter Christof Kirschner. In contrast to the daytime thrill of great sailing, the evenings offer peace and tranquillity. All in all a windsurfing visit to Prasonisi is the perfect tonic for those seeking fun in the sun and escape from busy lives.
JEM HALL ON PRASONISI
“Reliable Rhodes” is the name I have penned for this island and this now comes with the addendum, “Perfect Prasonisi.” Over 17 years of clinics it has delivered around 4-5 days per week of planing winds, with some weeks 7 out of 7. The wind system there and geography of the land gives you good wind and two water states – onshore waves and flat water. I love this place so much, from the fab food to the friendly people and fantastic coaching conditions. It holds a special place in my heart as I have ‘built’ so many of my clients there! You will be well looked after by the Lighthouse Taverna sisters and Gildi, and also at the ProCenter by Martin, Petra and her team. This piece already well covers how the place has evolved and just some of its magic, and so I will just give you a few tips on how to get the best out of the place in and out of the water.
My favourite sessions are when my rippers join me on the flat water downwind from the main crowd as we race each other, do chop hops, try forwards and fly into full power gybes. Less often but still such fun are the onshore wave beach sessions where we work on wave strategies, backside riding and just trying to send it high in our jumps. Whatever your level you will improve your fundamentals here from early planing to going faster and then flying upwind. It is hands down one of the best places to learn to carve gybe, duck gybe and carving 360. This is due to the fact that the cross off wind gives you a perfect fast line in flat water to lighten the sail and fly into your carves.
“A windsurfing visit to Prasonisi is the perfect tonic for those seeking fun in the sun and escape from busy lives.”
A tip is to sail a bit further out and downwind to get cleaner water and wind. Also it is easier to keep upwind if you really look to point higher on starboard tack, i.e. heading out to sea, you can then free off on the way in. All this wind and flat water also really helps improve tacks too, and this is a very important move! Do not ‘over-sail’, it will be good wind and often. People can get caught out and miss the fab morning sessions around 9:30 till 11:00 and also the sunset power hours from 17:00 to 19:00. At lunchtime the wind often takes a break so you can too. Tune your sail to get the best out of it and play with the outhaul a lot. You get your own dedicated board here so get the straps in the right place and bring a few change up or down fins. For example, if you are on a Magic Ride 103 then the stock 36 cm is fab for medium wind but the board lights up in stronger winds with a 30 cm or smaller fin in it, or the freewaves are fab on the wave beach but can work better with a smaller centre fin. You also get your own dedicated rental boom so you can place your preferred fixed length lines on this and feel so so comfy. If the wind is light take out a beginner board and a small sail and work on your skills, this is fun and time well spent and the wind is very constant so it can be very rewarding. Take a lycra and hat for the sunny days and on the windier days some neoprene is well advised, a long leg suit if you feel the cold or just like protection, otherwise a shortie or long sleeved neoprene top is what I and a lot of my students use. On my coaching clinics the main skills learnt are the fundamentals previously mentioned, carve gybes and other carving moves, tacks and also some of the aerial stunts. I mainly use 5.8 and 6.5 sails but can be pinned down on a 5.0 too; 5.0 to 6.2 is the most used sail size but there can be very windy days too. Most booked boards are the 103 / 112 JP Magic Rides and 94/103 FSW boards.
On the wave beach conditions are cross-onshore and the waves bend to give starboard jumping on one corner (near the taverna) and the top corner has some port jumping (near the rocks / island), but the main bias is for starboard jumping. Waves are normally head high and best when windy, needing at least 4 hours to push up the wind swell. Frequency of wave days is around 1-2 days a week on average, more frequent in high season (mid July to mid September ) when the Meltemi winds are strongest and most stable. On the wave beach I suggest using bigger boards than normal to punch out and get more action.
FSW boards work great and the sections on the wave beach for backside hits and some frontside hits are way better than you can imagine.
It is warm so bring cotton shorts, short sleeved shirts and light t-shirts for the evening. When it chills down you may need a hoodie. Learn some Greek, like Kalimera (good morning) as it gets you in the zone and is appreciated.
Eat lunch at the Lighthouse taverna or grab a salad / burger at the kantina truck on the beach next to the centre, this place is also fab for sundowners / après surf beers. You have to order a big range of Greek mezze starters at either lunch or dinner, including calamari, dolmades, big beans (gigantes), Greek salad and saganaki cheese, to name just a few. Try the Octopus as a main too! Take your Euros with you as there are no ATMs in Prasonisi, but the taverna and supermarkets take credit cards. Go for some beach walks / jogs in the early morning to refresh your aching bodies and take in all that is happening.
Take a night out in Lindos and eat at the Olympia restaurant, followed by some drinks in Antika bar, or the Arches nightclub (busy after midnight) and if you want to really charge then go to the Amphitheatre open air nightclub. The best tip ever is go there and enjoy a very unique place. Check jemhall.com for details of my upcoming clinics, but be warned the Prasonisi clinics can sell out up to 2 years in advance.