Butterflies in the water

With their perpetual winds and cool, clear waters, Turkey's coastlines are thronged year round with windsurfers, like butterflies in the water.

A strong wind is blowing, churning up wild waves of white foam. A wind perhaps not cold but capable of leaving those exposed to it in the lurch, heads bowed to its superior force. Those bold enough to attempt to resist begin fluttering like butterflies in the water. Orange, blue, red, green and dappled, their wings begin to beat. With the wind at their backs, they skim across the sea, virtually flying.

If a butterfly landed on the water it would never fly again. Those who perform this miracle are the windsurfers, each one like a delicate butterfly with colorful wings. They flap their wings in a 'pumping' movement to swell their sails. The harder they pump, the faster their wings beat, the roar of the sails drowning out the rough wind. And the butterflies begin to fly, the surfers to put on their 'show'. Wind, sea and surfboard are all you need to join in the fun. But the surfer must be patient, getting up when he falls, never giving up trying, undaunted, stubborn to a fault. This business isn't so different from learning to ride a bicycle. But instead of asphalt roads, picture a clear sea that is cool even under the summer sun. And the harder you try, the more you'll see that staying up without tumbling into the water is not as difficult as it looks!

Windsurfing has been popular in Turkey for just over ten years. Because the history of this sport doesn't go back much farther than that in the whole world. The invention of Hoyle Schweitzer and Jim Drake, colorful figures who spent their days wave surfing and otherwise living it up on the beaches of California, it dates back to 1965. The story began when these two wave surfers, bored on days when the water was calm, raised the banner of rebellion and mounted sails on their surfboards. In their wake came a period of semantic confusion as terms such as boardsailing and sailboarding were bandied about until somebody finally hit upon the name windsurfing. It may surprise you to know that windsurfing actually begins on land, the first and crucial point being balance. Only after repeatedly practicing the correct standing position until success is achieved does one enter the water.

This is followed in turn by getting up on the surfboard, raising the sails without falling off the board and, finally, learning how to move. Raising and controlling the sails is a difficult job demanding strong arm, shoulder, chest and back muscles.
If you're already feeling defeated, here's something to cheer you up: surfing is like riding a bicycle, once you learn it you never forget how to do it.

The windsurf board has three parts that attach to it: the mast, the sail and a Universal Joint for connecting the rig. The board is made of a substance like polyester or polyethylene, and filled with PVC foam. It should be durable but light enough to float on water. The bottom of the board is perfectly smooth to allow rapid movement through the water, and the top is slightly rough to keep the surfer's feet from slipping.
There are three windsurfing styles: Olympic class, Fun and Formula class. Fun is done with a small surfboard (aka funboard), Olympic with a larger board; both boards are made of comparable materials and the styles utilize comparable sailing skills and other techniques. Formula class on the other hand, while done with a funboard, is a style that emerged with the use of a variety of different tactics.

Fun, safe surfing requires attention to certain details. Going out to sea without first checking all your equipment really well, for example, could result in disaster. You should also know that returning to land by sail without a rope is extremely difficult! A word to the wise: Don't be shy about taking lessons. As far as possible don't windsurf alone, make it a habit to drink a lot of water even if you're not thirsty, wear the right clothes, and know your limitations. And avoid all movements that could put your life in danger.

Wave surfing may be popular in countries on the ocean, but Turkey's shores have some perfect spots for windsurfing. The first one that comes to mind is Alaçatı at Çeşme on the Aegean, which is acknowledged to be one of the best places for windsurfing in the whole world. The reason for this is its wind that never stops blowing, and a sandbar that makes the water shallow some 700 meters out. The official season is from May to October, but windsurfing buffs, and those inured to the cold, take up residence here all year round. 'Pearl of the Aegean' Bodrum also has something to say on the subject of windsurfing. Bitez Cove, whose sandy shores and shallow waters make things easier for novices, is on the experts' list as well. Not least among Bitez's many advantages are its easy accessibility, and its shops renting surfing equipment which are open all year round. The wind, which picks up speed in the afternoon, attracts surfers from all over the world. Also not to be forgotten is Akyarlar Feneri, famous for its winds and a favorite with surfing buffs for its high, rough seas. Akyarlar is known especially for its gentle offshore breezes that come up in summer. Finally, though most people probably aren't aware of it, Istanbul too has claims to being a windsurfing venue. The city's Black Sea coast, especially the Gümüşdere Beach at Kilyos, stands out for its choppy waters and strong winds. For surfers who can't go far on the weekend, Büyükçekmece Lake is also ideal although it offers neither a surfing school nor an equipment rental center. And while it's a bit far from the city center, Tuzla on the Marmara shore also offers a very satisfactory windsurfing experience. The upshot? Turkey's coasts are fairly bursting with opportunities for you to flap your wings on the water. Instead of a run-of-the-mill summer holiday, or a couch potato weekend, you can escape to freedom just a few miles from home. All you have to do is take a few essential lessons and gain some critical knowhow. That's it. As for the rest, go with the wind!