Discover Surf School Istanbul, Turkey's sole surfing and kitesurfing school, which just happens to be conveniently located on Suma Beach, one of the city's summer hotspots on the Black Sea shore of Kilyos
Run by a bunch of qualified, globe-trotting, dynamic Turkish surfers, Surf School Istanbul is making waves in Suma Beach, which doubles as one of the city's closest beach retreats, and at night transforms into Turkey's answer to Ibiza. If learning to surf happens to be on your 'bucket list', or if you are already a surfing beach bunny, then Surf School Istanbul is a place you need to know about.
Set on the European side of the Black Sea where the Bosporus ends, but in essence, just past Sarıyer, Surf School Istanbul offers the perfect excuse to escape the city and head for Kilyos, which in the summer months has direct shuttle service from prime transportation hubs such as Taksim. Many expat's have already caught on, or 'caught the wave' as it were, and the number of Turks gaining interest in this exhilarating sport is also fast on the rise due to the efforts of the dynamic duo Hakan and Seda, who are running the show in Kilyos during the summer. But they are part of a much larger movement to gain international recognition of the potential of this sport on Turkey's many shores and successfully so, as the country was named the International Surfing Association's 72nd member in 2012.
In Kilyos, you can check out some of the pioneers of this movement and see them in action while taking lessons from the Turkish pros themselves, who are a group of chill and fun Black Sea surfers. Owned by Hakan 35, and Seda 33, the couple met in Bali as a result of their shared interest in surfing and in 2011 decided to open Surf School Istanbul as an operation. With the birth of their son Kai last year, Surf School Istanbul is now a permanent fixture. However, Seda and Hakan also have the best of both worlds as they spend summers teaching both kite surfing and surfing on Suma Beach in Kilyos and spend the winters in Bali, which has now become their way to surf and get away for the winter, while enjoying the tropical lifestyle. Surf School Istanbul is located on one of the most popular beaches with outdoor nightclubs in the Istanbul vicinity. Opened in 2011, they have since included kite surfing and stand-up paddle (SUP) to their roster and provide training and all the equipment necessary to learn the sport of surf.
The facility where Surf School Istanbul is located has four restaurants serving up international fare, as well as a fresh fruit juice bar. All of Surf School Istanbul's patrons and students are able to have access to the wide facilities available at this hotspot, known for its summer line-up of top DJs, electronic music and overnight dance parties that blend into days on summer weekends.
Easily the most happening spot in town, spending a day in Suma can already transpose someone to another world, as a fellow expat referred to the mystical world of Alice in Wonderland when describing the vibe of entering this bumping Black Sea beach in the summer, which is less than an hour away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Surf School Istanbul has brought good vibrations and surfing to Turkey as well as a number of qualified local pros, which aim to spread the vibe through the country and teach the sport to others. Hakan Ozan gives both surfing and kite surf lessons. Another national Turkish surfer Cihan Akca also provides surfing lessons, and Emrah Koz and Volkan Tezercik are on hand to provide kitesurfing instruction.
I had the opportunity to talk with Hakan and his lovely wife Seda about how their surf school adventure began and how the love of this sport attributed to tropical destinations and ocean waves. "Hakan began surfing in Bali," Seda tells me, adding, "It's as if that island was created for surfers." Hakan learned how to kitesurf in Kilyos, and knows the spot very well. "You could say he is a Kilyos local," Seda explains, however he has also surfed in many spots around the world and in Turkey. One of the most recent destinations Hakan has surfed in just happened to be the southern province of Hatay," she shares.
I asked this dynamic surfing duo what it is like to surf in Turkey and where some of the prime locations are, to which they told me, "In the summer, the entire Black Sea coast is conducive to surfing, especially in Kilyos and Rumeli Feneri. There are great waves in the winter on Turkey's Mediterranean shore, however unfortunately the season is short. Kitesurfing can be done all season, providing there is wind. The water is quite cold, but here in Istanbul; we like to get in the water in winter too. However, the Black Sea has always especially had its own appeal for us."
I also asked these surf fanatics where their favorite place all over the globe was to practice the sport, to which they responded enthusiastically, "Of course, Bali! We also love Morocco. Sri Lanka is great to, but Bali is the one place we cannot go without. There are spots appropriate for all levels, the water is warm, it has the island life and all of that is what draws us to this island every winter. Kitesurfing is also done in Bali and one of our favorite things to do is to combine it with surfing by riding the waves while on the kite."
I asked what sort of students tends to frequent their surf school in Istanbul, to which they told me, "We have a lot of foreign students. People from all sorts of vocations come to take lessons as well as expats living in Istanbul for work, tourists that come to sightsee as well as groups such as Erasmus students." As for the gear, the Ozan team tells me their preference for kite surfing gear is North Kiteboarding, while their surfboards come from all over the world, with an emphasis on imports from Bali. They also have a fully equipped rescue team on hand and on their website they vow to help those they take under their wing, by assisting them in further taking on the hobby and getting them set up with the best advice and equipment.
Although, Surf School Istanbul is located less than an hour away from most destinations in Istanbul, the Kilyos hotel district offers many accommodation options should you want to escape for an overnight stay to this popular summer venue. This Friday, June 5, just happens to be Aloha Day at Suma Beach, so why not embrace the Hawaiian spirit and take a ride on the wild side by surfing in the Black Sea. To get more information and get in touch about lessons, check out the Facebook and Instagram pages for Surf School Istanbul.
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