Turkish islands on the Aegean are all blessed with serenity. If you are fed up with the chaos of the big cities, these islands are just a ferry trip away. The islands, however, do not just attract the wearisome, they also attract athletes and sportsmen, who like to shake up the blue seas. Gökçeada's history goes back to ancient Greece. It has been inhabited throughout history, starting with the Persians, then the Romans, Greeks, Venetian and Genoese. But, now it seems the island has a new group of residents: Surfers. Thanks to the windy seas around the island, windsurfers and kite surfers are soaking up the last bits of summer.
Once called Imbros, Gökçeada is Turkey's biggest island on the shores of Çanakkale province, covering some 297 square kilometers. It was also the first island to earn a "Cittaslow" title. Surfing enthusiasts from Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Belgium, and Germany camp on the island's Aydıncık area. They challenge gravity on water and let the wind carry them. Surfing activities around the island start very early in the morning.
Surfing trainer Volkan Günel, who runs a windsurfing school in Aydıncık, said that they welcome people who have set their heart on doing the sport on the island, famous for its winds.
He moved the surfing school he started in Istanbul in the 2000s to Gökçeada recently. "I came to Gökçeada in February and fell in love with its wind and nature. All the winds in the world blow here. Think of yourself in a place where all the winds blow. It is like heaven. It is windy throughout the whole year. The weather is hot. It is a place which is not affected by the stream of the Bosporus and nature is perfect."
What makes Gökçeada a heaven for surfers is that you can surf here nine months a year. The surfing schools generally open at the beginning of April and close at the end of October.
"Sometimes, we spend the new year here," said Günel. "As the island is close to Istanbul, Gökçeada is flooded by Istanbulites. We are really happy with this situation."
Thanks to the island's location, you can surf almost 24/7. And being a large bay, some 800 people can surf at the same time in Aydıncık.
"You can somersault in the air, rising heights of 10-15 meters. This is a heavenly place. Nature is also very beautiful. There are diving opportunities, a waterfall, a forest and a salt lake along with kitesurfing and windsurfing," said the surfing instructor.
Günel implied that many sportsmen from Romania, Bulgaria, Australia, the U.S., France, Italy and Germany as well as from different cities in Turkey come to the island. Surfers from around the world are happy to find all the wind they want at Gökçeada. Kiteboarding specialist Hüban Dayıoğlu, who has been doing the sport for years in Gökçeada, said they cannot catch such wind at any other location. "More people should come and visit the island," he said. Romanian sportsman Gabriel Gaman said, "My friends and I have been kiteboarding and windsurfing at Gökçeada for more than 10 years.
Wind blows for surfers
There is no denying that the wind in Gökçeada has always been there but it was discovered by surfing enthusiasts only over the last few years.
Gökçeada Mayor Ünal Çetin is confident that in a few years, Gökçeada will be a world-class surfing hub. "There are many different surfing locations in our country, like Akyaka and Alaçatı. But, Gökçeada has earned a place of its own among surfing enthusiasts thanks to the wind here. It is quality windsurfing. Over the last years, visitors, particularly from Europe, have come in numbers to surf here. Our guests from Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Belgium and Germany almost dance with the perfect winds of the island. We have great mobility on the island because of kiteboarding and windsurfing."
He noted that the local government also tries to contribute to this interest. "Gökçeada will be one of the most important surfing destinations, not just in Turkey but in the world."
Surfing an opportunity FOR tourism
The mayor stressed that they have done developments works in Aydıncık, the windsurfing point at Gökçeada. "Our sustainable tourism model is to make the island a windsurfing destination for the next generation. It can be done by promoting ecotourism, agritourism and consumer tourism. Nature sports are also important. When nature sports are mentioned here, surfing always comes to mind first because of the wind quality. We are ready to give all kinds of support to make Gökçeada a leading kiteboarding and windsurfing destination worldwide."