Travel restrictions may be uncertain at this time, but reader, Rob Jarvis, reminisces on the joys of Kefalos Bay, Kos, in Greece, giving us a guide to a spot that he considers a freeride/slalom paradise and awesome flat water freestyle arena!
WORDS – Rob Jarvis // Photos Jackie Jarvis, Simo Reinvald and Florian Ragossnig
I’d been on quite a few windsurfing holidays before I discovered Kefalos, and for me it was quite literally a case of ‘love at first sight’. I was staying elsewhere on the island of Kos, but had been told by a local that as a windsurfer, Kefalos was definitely a place I should check out. So, one sunny afternoon in July, my family in tow, I drove our hire car down to the southwest coast of Kos, where the quiet village of Kefalos lies about 20 minutes (or 30-40 euros by taxi), from the airport. The road through Kefalos runs behind the front row of tavernas, apartments and hotels for much of its length, making the beach quiet and peaceful. I parked up behind the Sacallis Inn Beach Hotel, where unbeknownst to me at the time, I was destined to eat several hundred lunches over the course of the next two decades, whilst watching the action on the water from the restaurant’s perfectly situated veranda!
I strolled through to the beach and… WOW! It was blowing a solid force five (as it does most summer afternoons), the crystal blue water was mirror flat and a dozen or so windsurfers were blasting back and forth across the two kilometre wide bay, clearly having an absolute ball. All of this in what was then and remains to this day, outrageously stunning scenery. ‘This place is definitely for me!’ I thought, as I sat watching the action. Over the next hour the wind steadily picked up…there was nothing for it, I had to get out there! With promises to dig holes in the sand and eat ice cream with the kids reneged on, I was off to find the hire centre. Unsurprisingly, my devotion to our beloved sport that afternoon saw me drop out of the running for ‘parent of the year’! It wasn’t the first time that had happened!
KEFALOS BAY WINDSURFING
I discovered the hire centre, Kefalos Bay Windsurfing, is right next to the Sacallis Inn Beach Hotel, and is situated towards the northeastern end of the bay. The centre is owned by Jens Bartsch and run by Jens and his relaxed, friendly and super helpful team. Once or twice on my travels I’ve encountered hire centre staff who are a bit more interested in being ‘cool’ than being helpful, but the opposite is true at Kefalos Bay Windsurfing.
Their claim is that, ‘they’ll treat you as a good friend’, and that’s exactly what they do. Their range of up to date windsurfing kit is really extensive, very well looked after and covers all levels from beginner, to blaster, to advanced freestyle trickster. Brands offered for hire are Sailloft Hamburg sails and Patrik and Fanatic boards. You’re not tied to one board, you simply select what you need for your level/the prevailing conditions and expert advice is always on hand if you need it. Lessons are also available for all levels and Kefalos is the perfect place to improve. Wind foiling equipment is also available and Kefalos is the ideal spot to learn either, or both! If you want to take your own windsurfing kit, the centre will rent you storage space, taking a maximum of one board and two sails.
I take my 120-litre slalom board and a 7.1 & 7.7, but some people take freestyle boards, like my son Steve, who takes a 100-litre freestyle board and 5.0 and 5.6 sails. Private kit storage capacity is very limited and most people hire from the centre, because it provides far greater flexibility and the quality of the kit that they provide is excellent. In my view, if you’re a freerider, taking your own kit limits your options and you’ll regret it when everybody is changing down and you can’t. My daughter Sam always hires and typically uses a 100-litre board and a 5.3, changing down to a 4.7 as it picks up. The conditions are incredibly consistent and there’s a rescue boat on the water every day to give you the confidence to push yourself further than you might otherwise be comfortable doing. Jens’s passion for windsurfing sets ‘the vibe’ at his centre. He absolutely loves this great sport and he wants you to love it too. The centre can provide everything you need, but I’d recommend that you take your own harness and maybe a summer shorty, although I usually sail in ‘boardies’ and a rash vest. A tight fitting cap and a shed load of factor 30 are also a good idea! The windsurfing centre can be contacted at [email protected], and you can check out the various hire packages available at www.kefaloswindsurfing.com.
WIND FOR ALL
Kefalos is suitable for all levels for two reasons. Firstly, the summer wind on Kos is a northerly thermal called the Meltemi, which is gentle in the morning, but really picks up in the afternoon and as it gets squeezed between the mountains at either end of Kefalos Bay it accelerates ‘big time’! The moderate to strong afternoon winds are very consistent from May through to September and Kefalos rarely fails to deliver during the summer months. June, July and August are the windiest, boasting force 4-6 winds most afternoons. It’s not unusual to score 14 out of 14 planing days in mid– summer!
The mornings provide light winds, ideal for beginners and improvers, as well as a spot of SUP’ing (which comes free with your board hire package). SUP yoga is also available at an extra cost. Essentially, the consistent and predictable thermal that builds during the day, allows you to choose the conditions you go out in.
Secondly, with the wind blowing pretty much dead offshore in the middle of the bay, and steadily increasing the further out to sea you go, the distance you choose to sail from the beach also affects the strength of the wind. If you’re feeling underpowered, head out a bit further and you’ll be up and running before you know it! If it’s getting too windy for you, simply head in a bit.
Don’t be anxious about the wind being offshore, as if you’re not confident in your ability to sail upwind, the rescue boat will happily fetch you as often as is necessary. For the slightly more experienced, when you want to head in, there’s an ‘express way’ home! A bend in the wind, created by the mountain at the southwestern end of the bay, allows you to make the journey back to the beach in no time. Simply hug the foot of the mountain until you’ve gained enough ground upwind to bear away and head straight for the windsurfing centre.
If you’re up for a challenge, there are some more than capable sailors amongst the instructors and the Kefalos Bay regulars to ‘joust’ with on the water. Centre owner Jens is blisteringly quick on a slalom board, as is Kefalos Bay regular Adonis Petrohilos. Then there’s Kefalos icon Dick ‘The Flying Dutchman’. Dick spends all summer, every summer, blasting around the bay and it’s very rare to see anybody get past him! If you don’t plane out of a gybe these guys are gone, but it’s great fun trying to match them for speed, even if you can only hang on in there for a few seconds! If freestyle is your thing, see how you measure up against instructor Ollie Anderson, an awesome freestyler, or former centre manager Flo Ragossnig, a nationally ranked freestyle maestro! The great thing is that there’s no ego on any of these guys, they simply love windsurfing and have gotten very, very good at it! And they’ll happily give you tips if you ask them.
Kefalos boasts a wide range of accommodation options to suit all budgets. There are a few hotels, a couple of which are 4-5 star if you want to ‘push the boat out’, but most of the accommodation available is in the form of comfortable 2-3 star low-rise apartments, boasting quiet pools and spectacular sea views. In the summer months prices start from around 50 euros/night for a decent two bed apartment. Nick Giannou, who can be contacted on [email protected], acts as an agent for some of the accommodation in Kefalos and is really helpful. My particular favourites include Kontessa Apartments, The Royal Bay and The Sacallis Inn Beach Hotel. Delphini Studios are also a great option, they provide ground floor accessible, twin bedded, self catering studios and are run by a windsurfer and his partner and cater for able bodied people and people with seen and unseen disabilities. Contact Cat and Andy via [email protected] for bookings.
Eating out in Kefalos is cheap and the quality of the food is excellent, I can’t remember ever having had a bad meal and I’ve been going there for 20 years! There are plenty of good tavernas and restaurants to choose from. Check out, The Stop Inn, Captain John, Stamatia, Sacallis Inn Beach Hotel and Sebastians to name but a few! The nightlife is very very chilled; if clubbing is your thing, you’ll be disappointed, but the bars are very friendly, inexpensive and have a great vibe. My particular favourites include, Maria’s Bar, B52 and Sydney’s, but there are plenty of others to choose from.
Kefalos Bay is an incredibly beautiful spot and disregarding the windsurfing for a moment, if you’re looking for a quiet relaxing holiday in a stunning setting, with an uncrowded beach, then Kefalos is for you! You cannot fail to relax the moment you arrive. The combination of the surroundings and the warmth of the welcome are intoxicating. Many become totally besotted by it’s simple beauty and return year after year, myself included.
If the wind gods fail to deliver, which is an extremely rare occurrence during the summer months, alternatives include exploring the island in a hire car (35 euros/day is typical), SUP’ing, cycling, water-skiing, parascending, shopping in Kos Town (which according to my wife is pretty decent), or simply recovering!
And if you feel like a change of scene and it’s windy and you’re also into kitesurfing, there is a kite centre on the northwest coast of the island, a short drive from Kefalos. There are a few other spots on the Island where you can windsurf, Agios Thelogas in particular can offer excellent starboard tack wave sailing and is only a ten minute drive from Kefalos. The waves are however relatively small in the summer, it generally only gets to logo high in the spring and autumn and you’ll need to take your own kit.
Prior to the pandemic, direct flights to Kos were available from many of the UK’s major airports and hopefully that will still be the case going forward. It’s a 4 to 4.5 hour flight, depending on which UK airport you depart from. Prices vary depending on exactly when you want to travel and how far in advance you book, but £150-£400, for a return flight is typically the range. In normal circumstances, EasyJet, Jet2, British Airways and TUI, all operate direct flights to Kos Airport.
I consider it an absolute privilege to spend time in Kefalos. I’ve been enjoying windsurfing holidays in Kefalos Bay for two decades now; it’s hard to get tired of consistent thermal winds, glassy flat water, the super relaxed friendly atmosphere and the stunning scenery! My wife, who isn’t a windsurfer loves Kefalos too. Although the idea of keeping this quiet spot a secret certainly has its appeal, I’ve found over the years and my friends can attest to this, that I simply can’t seem to stop talking about it! Why not give it a try; I’m sure you’ll be very glad that you did!