There are a million reasons to visit Athens. The cradle of western civilisation since Antiquity, Athens has today blossomed once more into a stunning and cosmopolitan urban destination that attracts millions of visitors from across the globe annually, all in search of rich history, tantalising cuisine and fascinating Greek culture. But fewer people perhaps know about Athens as a stand up paddle destination, and they’re certainly missing out. We chat to Greek downwind SUP rider extraordinaire Dimitris Komninos (of supzone.gr fame), who gives us the low-down on some of the best places to practise stand up paddle, both in Athens and on the neighbouring island of Evia, which, with its strong summer winds, crystal clear waters and countless beaches, is a bit of a well-kept secret in the world of SUP. And for good reason! With the help of this eminent local waterman, let us unveil some of the mysteries of this lesser-known stand up paddle haven and get to know a little bit more about where to go for an optimal Greek SUP experience.
I live in Athens for the most part, but I am fortunate enough to have a house in south Evia, a large island (the second biggest in Greece!) to the east of the capital.
The east coast of Athens is among my favourite places to go downwinding. The town of Artemida is around 45 minutes from the centre of Athens, and only 15 minutes from El. Venizelos International Airport. It’s probably “the” hot spot for those chasing the wind in the Athenian hinterland.
From windsurfers and kitesurfers to downwind paddlers, the place becomes super busy every time the wind blows down from the North. The downwind run here is about 7km and it is safe even for an amateur paddler. In summer time, the Meltemi winds blowing in from the Aegean Sea make conditions ideal for downwind paddling with a lot of wind and considerable bumps.
Apart from Athens, the island of Evia is also a great place for downwind paddling. Our summer house is located in the small town of Karystos, on Evia. Karystos is a wonderful place situated just 1.5 hours from Athens via ferry. There are a lot of beaches and you can have some great SUP outings along the extensive coastline.
The gusts blowing through Karystos in the summer time are very strong due to the Meltemi. When the wind blows hard, the bumps make for some immense fun and you are constantly able to surf on beautiful, endless waves that continue to lap in. The major drawback however is that the run is short, at only 4km. So what I do here with my friends, almost every time, is a double downwinder.
When I’m not in my home in south Evia, I often visit north Evia and the town of Pefki in particular. I go there every summer. The north of the island is about a 3-hour drive from Athens. In Pefki, the run is quite different because the wind is daily and the Meltemi doesn’t play a leading role. The wind in Pefki is a result of a thermal phenomenon and it starts to blow every day at midday until some point in the afternoon. The wind isn’t as strong as it is in Karystos however, at usually around 18-22 knots.
But here you can paddle for longer distances. Up to 15km. It is also very safe even for a novice paddler because the run trails along parallel to the beach. Both places are wonderful not only for downwinding but also for some casual paddling when there is no wind, so I can’t recommend them enough.
In both Athens and Evia, you can find a very healthy number of paddlers who enjoy the sport and practise it regularly. Every year new people join the community, and it’s really been growing a lot as of late in Greece.
It’s relatively easy to find places to rent stand up paddle equipment in the places I’ve mentioned above, as we have a lot of watersports clubs in Greek coastal areas, and places like Artemida and Karystos are no exception to this rule.
The Nissakia Surf Club in Artemida is a multi-sports watersports centre, specialising in all kinds of water-based activities, including windsurfing, kitesurfing and, of course, stand up paddle. The Club offers both rentals and lessons in these areas, and it also houses a restaurant and bar.
There are some spots where you can have a good SUP surf session in Evia, but you have to be ready to surf in windy conditions.
Evia is more conducive to downwinding and touring, but if you want to surf, there are a lot of other places in Greece that are more suited to this kind of activity, such as Crete or the Peloponnese.
When you’re on Evia and you’re looking for downwind adventures, chances are, you’ll either be taking advantage of the wild, unpredictable Meltemi-led conditions in Karystos (south of the island), or the less intense, but more consistent, conditions on offer in Pefki (north of the island). Whatever the case may be, there is plenty to see!
Karystos has more beaches, and when it is calm you can enjoy stand up paddle outings while exploring this beautiful coastline.
Pefki has more greenery and you can enjoy flatwater paddling and down winding both on the same day, with the changing conditions. Both places are lined with good restaurants serving high-quality Greek food, and they are inhabited by friendly locals and holidaymakers. No need to choose between the two locations. I suggest you visit both
And if ever you do find yourself visiting Athens or Evia on a SUP trip, I myself would be happy to help out or lend some further advice. You can check out our site, Supzone, for more information and contact details!