I’ve just gotten back from an amazing week on the island of Lemnos, Greece.
If you’ve been a long term reader of my blog, you may remember my mate Ben from my 2017 Colorado Ski Trip. He’s been on a couple of trips kitesurfing trips with Access Adventures but now it was time to go solo! And invite me along of course.
Ben made all the logistical arrangements, liaising with Surf Club Keros and I was in charge of booking flights. I ended up booking it in Australia because the Aegean website wouldn’t let me add the wheelchair assistance we needed so I called in the expertise of my mate Tom who works at Flight Centre Australia.
There is a red eye flight that leaves Heathrow around 10pm with a layover in Athens, before arriving in Lemnos around 6.30 the next morning.
Surf Club Keros provide an airport transfer and were ready to go as soon as we walked out of the airport and loaded our bags. The site was about a half hour drive from the airport. Even though we arrived at the site around 7.30 we only had to wait around 45 minutes before our luxury safari tent was ready for our travel weary bodies!
The tents are on platforms, up two steps, but SCK also have a few ramps available for those who need. The ramps vary in steepness so it was lucky Ben had my massive guns to give him a shove up.
We booked a XL luxury safari tent which could probably squeeze in 4 full sized humans – there is a twin double, a comfy couch and a bunk bed in the back. We also had an accessible wet room, with both a standing shower and a roll in.
We did have an issue with the plumbing at one stage, but we mentioned it to the staff and they fixed it straight away – literally, the maintenance guy was around at half ten with his plunger.
After a quick nap to refresh the batteries, Ben and I made our way down to the beach.
Surf Club Keros has two sites – the main accommodation site and the surf station down on the beach. They have started a shuttle service to get between the two which goes around every 20 minutes, or as needed. Ben and I pretty much had our own service for the duration as we used the ute (pick up truck for the non Aussies) and chucked his wheelchair in the tray.
The surf station has plenty of shade, although it does get busy! All the equipment for surfing, kitesurfing, windsurfing and other water activities is down here as well as a beach bar, a little shop (selling merchandise and lessons) and a loo for those who don’t pee in God’s toilet (the ocean). The entrance shop and shaded area are all wheelchair friendly via mats which also extends towards the sea, stopping about 3 metres. Ben got his chair as close as possible to the edge of the sea – he’s kindly done a write up for me from his perspective, check out the bottom of the post for that 🙂
When Ben booked, we were told to sort out our kite surfing courses when we got there. Unfortunately this meant that when we rocked up, they were a bit lost to find me a course to go on (Ben was sorted with 2 instructors, a safety boat and a driver). This actually turned out to be a bit of a blessing in disguise for me, because there was no one to share a lesson with, Andreas (the kitesurfing manager for SCK) hooked me up with private lessons with an instructor who had arrived the day before.
I got one on one time with Meri, who was able to explain everything clearly and in laymans terms (remember I’d not even heard of kitesurfing before this trip!) Surf Club Keros have a package deal for private lessons – 10hours for €600. Meri and I split the 10 hours over 4 days (3 hrs/3 hours/4 hours) and it was just enough time to make friends with the kite (and the wind) and get me up on the board – obviously followed straight up by a face plant! I opted for an extra 2 hours for the following day and managed to get up and surf a bit which was amazing! I’m now qualified as independent in kitesurfing!
The content of my lessons included:
setting up and packing down the kite – also learning how to untangle lines!
launching kite as both assistant and pilot
flying the kite, single handed
Body drag, two hands with power strokes
Body drag upwind
self landing and self rescue
water start (getting up on the board!)
While our holiday was based around our kite surfing lessons, there was plenty of time to relax and chill down at the surf station. Both Ben and I made use of the hammocks as our lessons were at different times.
I had an early lesson on the Thursday so after Ben came back from his lesson I convinced him to turn back around and go for a swim. Getting into the water was a bit easier than getting out, but we’re awesome so we managed it without any danger or damage!
Most days we were back up to the main site around 5 or 6 where we headed straight for the bar! Greece do a sweet cider called MilaKeleftis (that’s what it sounded like at least! English: Apple thief) which was my go to drink – besides the few cocktails that I also indulged in. Dinner didn’t start until 8 so we had to do something to pass the time 🙂
We had prebooked the dinner buffet for 6 nights as we made plans to go out to the local tavern with Andreas and his partner Kathy. Andreas and Kathy were both kitesurfing instructors on Ben’s previous trips and are trained up for adaptive kiting. Unfortunately Kathy is sporting an injury so there was no surfing for her. The tavern we went to is in the nearest town to the campsite and somewhere Andreas and Kathy frequent often. Ben and I put our tastebuds in their hands and let them choose our dishes (a lot of options are gluten free, so although I restricted the table from some yummy looking stuff we were all still full and satisfied at the end of the meal!) No MilaKeleftis here though unfortunately!
Our last day rolled around quickly, I had finished my lessons but Ben took advantage of the light wind we had and was able to book a couple more hours and managed an awesome run on the sit kite.
We had a super early departure for the Saturday morning (5.30am!) for our flight back to Heathrow but everything went smoothly (well besides losing each other in Athens airport – yeah thanks for that airport assistance) but we made it back to London around 11.30. Ben had a short 2 hour drive back to the Midlands and I had a full day’s journey back to Glasgow.
From a wheelie perspective
This was my third trip to Surf Club Keros, having been twice before with the Access Adventures charity with a half dozen other participants each time and a handful of volunteers. This time we went with just the two of us and organised it ourselves.
The surf club owners are really helpful and eager to try and improve things for accessibility needs. There’s ramps around the site, and matting on the beach to help get around between the main areas. The XL safari tents are pretty spacious, and have a built in wet room with a plastic chair to transfer onto for showering.
My previous trips, I’ve used regular tires which worked out OK but it was very difficult to get around in the sand, so I tended to get a lot of help on the beach. This trip I took off-road/mountain bike tires which made it easier in the sand, but I struggled with the ramp to the veranda for the tent. Luckily I had Rachael along to help get me up the ramp, and the staff were willing to help out too when needed. Using a freewheel made things a lot easier as well.
The accommodation is up a hill from the surf station, but they run a shuttle bus service back and forth a couple of times an hour and when we wanted to get between them we just let them know and they’d organise a vehicle for us. Often they’d bring a pick-up truck so we didn’t have to dismantle the chair at all and that just went straight in the back.
They’ve adapted the kitesurf lessons well for wheelies and are always seeking input on how they could improve things further. Having learnt across 3 trips, each time I’ve progressed onto different stages. Previous trips we were not as lucky with the wind, and I’d only had 2 days of practical lessons the first trip, and 4 the second, using the other days for theory lessons and other activities with kayaks, SUP and, day trips out to the big town on the island, and general larking around in the water.
Initial lessons we started out with training kites on a beach, sitting on surf/SUP boards with seats attached to them to keep us stable. We then progressed onto a giant inflatable sofa with kitesurf harnesses attached so you can start to get a feel for how the kite can make you move around.
After that I progressed onto the body dragging, where the instructor holds onto you and you use the kite to move yourself around in the water. Initially it feels like you’re waterboarding yourself, as when you first start to get power from the kite it tends to pull you forward and often under the water. Once you’ve done it a bit, you get used to how to hold your body and float and stay above the water more.
When you’re getting proficient with that, you get onto the catakite/kiteamaran which is a de-masted catamaran with a harness to attach the kite to. This really helps you get used to using the kite to generate power, as you can concentrate on just the kite skills, while the instructor steers the boat to keep you upwind and keep tension in the lines. I did this a few times and it seemed to help a lot.
Balancing with the sit-kite board is another skill to get used to, especially when crashing the kite as it can spin you around and pull you backwards in the water which can be disorientating and feels a bit out of control. SCK dedicate a rescue boat to adaptive lessons, normally with an instructor in the water with you, and another on the boat ready to dive in and help right you and get you pointed the right way again.
The last couple of days on this trip were quite light winds, but things really started to click for me, and I had a few good runs. Tolis my instructor would hang onto the back of the board and keep me straight and upright until I had generated enough power from the kite to pull me along. Keeping the kite moving I kept going and my longest run was well over a minute before I ran out of wind.
Future trips I’m going to need to work on steering the board, as currently I generate power but then the board goes straight towards the kite which loses the tension from the lines and loses the power. If I can steer the board onto an edge and away from the kite then it will be easier to keep going for longer and eventually will be able to travel upwind.
Everyone there’s super friendly and helpful, and each time I go back it feels like I’m going to stay with friends. As Ellie the manager said when we were leaving, you don’t say goodbye, you say see you later. Even before we were home Rachael was already planning a trip back there next year, and I might be able to sneak a trip in at the end of summer if I’m lucky.
Flights London – Lemnos:
Carry on only – AU$755.30 / £423.23
with baggage – AU$482.29 / £482.29
Accomodation: €574.56 / £507.81 (£253.90 each)
Breakfast (7 days): €80.64 / £71.27 (£35.64 each)
Dinner (6 days): €97.92 / £86.53 (£43.27 each)
Private – 12 hours: €720 / £636.34
Private, adaptive – 11 hours: €462 / £408.32
Food and drink: €382 / £337.56 – this was for the two of us – I’m not a piss head, promise!
Merchandise: €56 / £49.50
dinner out (for 4 people): €70 / £61.87
My total (not including Ben’s lessons) : £1626.13