Nicolas Skarlatos is an Anglo-Greek windsurf slalom and formula champion and windsurf instructor. He lives on the coast of Athens, practicing and teaching windsurf and kitesurf in Ag. Marina bay. This is where Beyond Athens met him in a moment of relax, inetween trainings, in early November.
BEYOND ATHENS: Hi Nicolas, pleased to meet you. So, what are you doing these days?
NICOLAS: Well, season’s over now, as it is the racings’ season, so it’s like putting up the pieces back together and planning for next year. Racing, choosing equipment for me and my school. Also, we’ll be working with the racers here, getting them ready for next year, training hard. We have a big schedule for racing next year, it’s a little bit of everything.
B.A.: Can you tell us some words for this place, Ag. Marina in Attica?
N.: Well, we are in the South part of Athens. Ag. Marina is a very windy place when northerly winds appear, what we call the meltemi, as usually happens in summer. It’s an off shore wind, very fast but very easy for the beginner because there is no wave. It’s a great school here, actually, because you get different changing directions of the wind: N, NE, NW…Also it’s very technical and tactical for those who want to become regatta sailers.
B.A.: What is your main approach in your classes?
N.: My main approach is to keep things simple. Communicate a lot with students, be honest with them even if they are not so good right from the start. But basically I try to change and adjust my method and technique to the skills of each student.
B.A.: And what is it that gives you more satisfaction in your job?
N.: Well when you see one of your students in the footstraps going fast, that’s a great feeling, a huge satisfaction, I’m actually yelling with them (laughs), feeling what they are feeling.
B.A.: And how often, how fast does that happen?
N.: Well, it’s pretty often. It’s something we try and attack from the very first day. I try to move them on as fast as possible to the harness and into the footstraps. That’s the goal of every person who wants to learn windsurf.
B.A.: Right. Going fast! (laughs).
So, you told us earlier about the meltemi. What are the weather and wind conditions here year round?
N.: From fall to springtime you get a variety of winds, depending on the systems that affect Greece. It’s a bit of everything in winter basically. Meltemi is a typical summer phenomenon. Here it doesn’t get really cold. Very rarely temperatures get below 10 degrees C, and the sea is always above 16, 17 degrees C. Now it’s November and it’s around 21, 22 degrees C. You get some winter only from January to March.
B.A.: Can you tell us now something about Athens, its coast, and why should someone decide to come here to learn or practice wind or kitesurf?
N.: Athens it’s obviously not the best place in the country where to surf, but it surely is a fantiastic place in many standards. It’s warm, it’s windy, it’s safe, the waters are secure, the Saronic Gulf here is considered by many more as a lake than a proper sea. Moreover, we are only 20 mins drive from the Athens International Airport, the city center with all its monuments, museums, restaurants, shopping and nightlife only half an hour away. Also, in 10 minutes you can reach Glyfada, a nice suburb with lots of diversion. To sum up, there is no other European capital with such excellent conditions for surfing. Athens offers everything.
B.A.: And what about your collaboration with Beyond Athens, and your Wind and Kitesurf Camp?
N.: Well, we started off with Andreas last year, and it’s been great pleasure and fan so far. We are facing some challenges as not many people abroad think of Athens as a great spot where to surf year round but we are positive that this will slowly change. The idea of the camp is putting people together to come over and visit the beauties of Athens, live its nightlife and live a week as a local, while learning or practicing windsurf or kitesurf.
B.A.: Can you say few words about the Kitesurf camp?
N.: We have a great trainer here, Yorgos. Kitesurf is a somewhat trickier matter, you need space and good wind. Fortunately here we get good stats of wind, but when that is not the case, we can move to other spots not far from here for practice. It’s easy to branch out and move the equipment.
B.A. What is the level that can someone reasonably reach within that training week?
N.: It depends a lot on the conditions we get, but on an average basis I would say that our aim regarding windsurfing at least is to get people into the harness in that week if they’re beginners, and for kitesurfing is getting on the board and going fast.