In late November (2017) Katerina and the Greece Has Soul team hatched a plan to go to VIKOS GORGE to perform an aerial dance. It would be the result of a wish of Katerina’s – broadcast on live television earlier that autumn. Turns out the people from the Zagori Excellence Network (ZEN) had their eyes peeled when Katerina made the announcement. So they called us in.
We left Athens with Katerina Soldatou and Andonis Kitsikis one Tuesday morning and sped along the brand new roads leading us West to Patra, over the Rio Antirrio Bridge and North along the Ionia Odos to Ioannina. The ride was smooth and easy but expensive. I think we racked up about 60 euros in tolls including the €13 bridge toll, before reaching Ioannina. But time was of the essence…
We headed North-West from Ioannina to the Aristi Mountain Resort where we met the rest of the crew – Vassilis (Billy) Theodorou (Rigger), Spiros Badios (Production Director) – MANIC SIDE, Costas Zissis (Local Photographer) and Dimitris Maziotis (ZEN Representative). ZEN is a pretty cool organisation – a network of sustainable businesses in the general Zagori area, including activities like mushroom guiding, hiking, tours and of course great food. So when Katerina mentioned we were interested in promoting opposition to the proposed oil drilling in the area, they jumped on board and gave us the green light to put it on the table. After a decent meal and a couple glasses of Tsipouro it was off to charge our batteries for the next day.
When we arrived at the spot in the morning the setting was peaceful and quiet. The Gorge itself is the deepest in the world, YES – THE DEEPEST IN THE WORLD – and it’s in Northern Epirus. We got to work immediately hoping to get the dance finished the same day. Billy was the main rigger, with help from Spiro Badio. Andoni and Costa were taking photos which left me with the responsibility to film and eat snacks.
The dynamics of the weather here are something we couldn’t have accounted for really. Basically the gorge acts as a funnel, sending northerly winds heaving down its narrow passages, creating intense anabatic winds all along the upper walls. We only realised what this meant when Katerina finally got out onto the line. Hanging there, more than 800m above the ground, the winds were literally taking control of the fabric, launching it up over her head, and all the way up onto the top of the cliffs. It was scary, and dangerous, so we pulled the plug and decided to sit on it for a day.
The sun was on it’s way down, I grabbed my skateboard and went ahead of the convoy down the hill. Spiro hit the same run the following day on a longboard and a freeboard. Freeboards are these crazy mix of snowboarding and skateboarding, with a center wheel underneath each wheelbase. Super stylish when you get it right, and super silly looking when you get it wrong. Not for me to say though. My skating was conservative and boring, but the cold wind on my face felt great so I don’t care.
That evening we stopped at Kanella & Garifallo, a mushroom specialty boutique restaurant owned by Vasili Katsoupas, also the President of ZEN. He had been on site with us all day too, but none of us realised he was also the owner and head chef of this epic little gem. The risotto was amazing, and the steak was also apparently a winner (sorry I never tried it – I wasn’t eating meat that day). Make sure to check it out on facebook by clicking here
The next day we got up to the spot early. It was quiet again. No wind. A little chilly but not cold. We put “Territory – Blaze” and “Jamie XX – Gosh” on the car speakers while we prepared all the gear. Katerina got kitted up, we all said our ok’s, and started working. I found myself a little spot to film, hanging off a rock balcony, attached to a tree, with a view if Katerina and a triangle of sunlight on the canyon walls behind her.
It was really cool to watch. She was dancing, moving, trying to navigate the fabric and her safety line simultaneously, making the heavy strands look light and easy to handle. She danced for about 40 minutes, and everyone was quiet and just watched. We had some visitors too, some French tourists who were pretty blown away at this find they made on their Greece trip.
Once Katerina called it, she made her way back to the near edge, where she was helped back up by Billy and Spiro. We all hugged. It was a good moment. And it was still warm and early. We headed down to Konitsa to check out the famous stone bridge there. Built in 1870, the bridge is a symbolic landmark in the region. Katerina had this crazy look in her eye, like a minx, looking up and down the shaded facade of the stone bridge. It was round 2.
We had a day left and Billy was keen to do a base jump. He had already scoped out the spot he wanted to jump from, and after enlisting Costa and Vassili to drive us into the upper plateau, it looked like it might just happen after all. A good two hours into hiking and we reached the edge of the gorge. The most interesting rock formations populated the landscape, like something out of a sci fi movie, with layers of stacked rocks just kind of plopped around everywhere.
The spot was a perfect little launch balcony over about 400 meters of sheer cliff. A bunch of trees gave us good anchors to secure ourselves from. Spiro and I got working on filming the jump while Billy made his last preparations and rituals. He almost tripped in his own harness at one point, on the edge, without a safety line. Not stressful at all.
Before jumping Billy called his girlfriend for a quick chat. He was standing on the edge, looking down, through the gorge, totally focussed. It was really touching. Antonis in the meantime had edged out onto a precipice next to the big tree, for a better view of the jump. Billy had asked us for silence before he jumped. He was going to count down from 15. The drone was in the air but not too close and loud. everyone else was quiet.
15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5… silence
He jumps. Still silence. He opens his chute, steers away from the rock wall, and there’s this big gasp let out by everyone left up on the rock. You just felt this huge release, a relief just takes over your whole body, like you’d been holding your breath for ten minutes and just took your first breath. Truly Awesome!
Be sure to check out the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jts6MqC46-Y&t=1s
and Greece Has Soul online at: https://greece-has-soul.com/
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With snow all over Greece and strong northerlies bringing in some super low temps, we decided to kick off the season with a little home shred. For Athenians that usually means Parnasso or Kalavrita, but the truth is Athens has a much closer snowy spot. PARNITHA. Home to the former king’s estate, red deer, an archaic casino and a few decent snowflakes a year.
The last minute crew assembled in Athens and we headed up early. Hill Bill, Iason and I (Themi) parked the car just past the refuge and went for our inaugural run, from the top antenna base down to the refuge. It was Christmas eve so the mountain was more full than I’d ever seen it before. Families playing in the snow, lots of hikers and runners. Super cool to see it so busy. We kept walking up to the very top, strapped in and made our way through the thick trees.
After a half hour or so of trying to find our way through the forest, with lots of tight turns and some shallow rocky presents along here and there, we got back to the refuge. No day would be complete without a little jib sesh.
Night fell – hot chocolates and a gentle breeze all the way home…
Early in January 2017 I got a call from Constantine Papanicolaou (Frozen Ambrosia), asking me if I wanted to go hook up with some Austrian skiers who had come to check out Greece. The Snowmads. Obviously it didn’t take much convincing, so a few days later we headed up to Parnassos where the guys had parked their truck.
Oh yeah, they had this epic truck. A converted fire engine from Germany that had already done its share of travelling to places like Iran and all through Europe, and could house 8 to 10 people in a squeeze. Unfortunately somewhere along the way someone had decided to graffiti this beautiful mural all over the side, covering the original German Fire Truck design altogether. Oh well…
When we met them there were 7 guys – Fabian Lentsch (The Boss), Markus Ascher (The Bro), Marco Freudenreich (Heir Direktor), Jochen Mesle (The quiet guy), Elias Holzknecht (Die Objektif), Tim Thomas (The Yankee) and Aymar Navarro (The Spaniard)…
They had already been in Greece for almost a week and had a serious hard on for what was turning out to be a pretty epic season already. The mountains were covered with snow down to almost 1000m and the roads were mostly knee-high above 1500. No challenge for the Snowmads truck of course…
We spent a few days tracking out some of the Parnasso backcountry, even though the snow at the top was windblown and icy by the first night. It was obvious that the guys were impressed by what they saw as they took every opportunity to go for hikes and get out in the terrain.
After Parnasso the Constantine and I left and made our way back to Athens to work on other projects. The Snowmads needed a place to park the truck while they stopped through Athens to get supplies on their way to their next destination – Kalavrita. So I suggested a spot by the sea close to my family home in Southern Athens. Flisvos was where the King of Greece used to keep his private yacht, now its a yacht harbor with a park and boardwalk along the sea.
After a night of raki and souvlaki on the town, this ratatouille of foreign skiers loaded up the truck and set off towards Kalavrita. A couple days later I travelled up to find them completely emmersed in exploring the mountains. At this stage the crew had changed slightly, with the addition of Julian Zenzmaier (RastaMan) and Neil Williman (The Kiwi). Jochen had scoped out a big road gap somewhere in the trees and the rest of the boys were just cruising around different zones, playing around in the soft stuff. The nights were cold up there, I stayed in the trusty borrowed Ford Maverick, while the ‘mads made fire and food and played cards in the truck. So yeah, I spent more time in theirs.
After a couple solid days, we all left the area. The ‘mads were going North to Omympus, while I spent a few days filming the 1000 MODS music video for “Electric Carve“.
So about 6 days later, way after they originally said they were going to leave, I met them for another epic mission. We headed back to Parnassos, parked the truck by Fterolaka and hiked over to the SouthEast bowls, locally known as the Louki of Velitsa (Το Λούκι της Βελλίτσας). It’s still unclear wether we ever actually reached the furthest bowls, but after almost 4 hours of hiking we found a pretty decent zone with some steep rocky gullies.At this point Raphael Webhofer (The Surfer), Roman Rohrmoser (The Veteran) and Rueddi Van DeClub (The Philosopher) had also joined the team. Fabi, Raphy and Roman all went ahead to start climbing the opposite walls, while Marco, Ruedi and I got in position to start filming. In order to get closer to the wall I descended down into the bowl, knowing full well that meant a pretty heavy climb back up. I got my drone in the air and headed over to the ridge where the three boys were getting ready to drop in to their lines. Then something kind of funny happened. I flew my drone over the ridge and over to the other side. As soon as it went out of line of sight I completely lost all communication with it too. Everything was gone. I had no idea where it was or what it was doing. My instinct told me to hit the RETURN TO HOME button, and I did, but before I had the realisation that the line it would draw between its current position and its home location could send it right into some rocks or some snow. Then I saw it coming straight at me and the controller popped back into sync. I brought it home to change batteries and sent it straight back out before the skiers knew anything had happened at all.
Later on that night we checked the footage and were all amazed at how close it did come to hitting the ridge. It had gone further down the ridge than I had thought, and lucky for us that night, I had forgotten to stop recording. So there’s the most epic shot of the drone coming over the valley ridge, skimming about 1m clear of the ridge line. Drone porn for sure!!!
The next day I was out of there again, not before a little hotspring session at Thermopylae – the place where the 300 Spartans stopped the Persian invasion back in… a while ago. Always good to have a soak after the mountain…
The final time we would see each other was on the top of Mt Dirfis, on the island of Evia. The boys had made it over in the morning from somewhere else, and Hill Bill and I were on our way up but, as usual, got a late start out of Athens. Around 4pm we finally got to the peak and met the guys up there, already done with a few hours of hiking and filming on the North side of the mountain. We had just made it up so took a moment to drink some water and eat some nuts and stuff. Marco asked me to get some drone footage of the sunset descent, so I headed down to a better position and started getting ready to fly. In true fashion, everything went wrong at the crucial moment – my phone wasn’t syncing, Marco’s phone had 6% battery and the sun was literally almost over the horizon. I kept the drone in the sky even after the phone died, and just flew it manually, with no way of knowing what it was looking at. The guys skied down, I landed the drone and we headed off before it got too dark. Another Drone-Venture was over with the Snowmads in Greece.
For anyone who hasn’t already seen it, go ahead and check out the film…
Thanks to Fabi and all the boys for the hospitality and the good times.
Last Sunday we managed to get a ton of warm winter clothes donated for refugees. The clothes have already arrived and are being distributed by TruckShop in Thessaloniki, and hopefully some fingers and toes will be a bit warmer this winter!
Huge thanks to Katerina Soldatou and her amazing aerial dancers, LATRAAC Skate Park and Canteen and everyone who came down to enjoy a tasty beverage in the sun!
Missed the event? Don’t worry, you can take your warm winter B Sides to the donation program at Khora in Athens. Find them here – www.khora-athens.org/donate/
Stay tuned for more mini-events on www.thethingaboutgreece.com
Ευχαριστούμε και το Βαλάντη Χατζίας για τις φωτογραφίες σκέιτ!
Also check out
Katerina Soldatou at www.aerialeverafter.gr
Latraac at www.facebook.com/LATRAAC/
Truckshop at www.facebook.com/freedomofchoiceproject
Riders Fro Refugees at www.facebook.com/ridersforrefugees
Ahhh the boat trip. It all started in Athens as an idea to take Ben Bowd and another rider to some uncharted spots around the Greek islands. Initially Dimitris Softas was supposed to join us, but unfortunately couldn’t make it so sent his protege Lykourgos instead. I met Lykourgo (Wolfy) at the dock as his sponsors We Ride Local rolled in straight from Raches in Northern Greece. He was this dishevelled little kid, who had obviously spent a lot of time in the sun, and just oozed energy.
We left the port in a hurry to blast through the oncoming storm and make it to Mykonos by the morning. That of course never happened. We did get to Mykonos eventually, but the storm most certainly hit us. As the winds started to pick up and the stars were covered by clouds, everything started to go wrong. The sail got jammed as we were overpowered, so we were literally on edge until we decided to force it. In a rush to take it down it tore a 1 meter hole in the bottom. Then the man overboard signal goes. Ben is nowhere to be found and most of the crew were zombied out on dramamine. The boat was now swaying almost along a 100 degree pivot, with waves crashing, and we were missing a person. The alarm was so loud though that even the deepest sleepers were woken, and luckily so because just as we were about to panic Ben shows up out of the spare cabin at the front of the boat, “just coming to get a biscuit” he said.
Over the next 12 days we travelled around 4 incredible islands in the Cyclades, fixed our sail, met some amazing people and did some heavy riding.
So in May of 2016 we set off on a journey to find out more about kitesurfing in Greece. After some buddies tipped us off to some of the most influential riders in the country we set off towards Lefkada to meet Ben.
He had picked up a couple wins (actually more like all of them) since the beginning of the kite surfing championships here back in 2008. Seemed like a good place to start. At first he seemed like this shy, introvert kid who loved playing with big machines. A few hours in we realised he had a lot to say so we got talking… Turns out Ben is this dyslexic mechanical genius, who left school at the age of 14 to work with his old man renovating houses, and eventually repairing boats down in the local boat yard. He’s the kind of guys who can build a shopping mall out of a paper clip. And the kitesurfing… wow. It was like I was watching someone dancing on the water. The way he moved his body and his relationship with his board and his kite resonated in me the connection between a dancer and the stage, or even a partner.
The whole dancing thing really stuck with me throughout filming with Ben. It was only a few months later though that Ben would reveal he had in fact done classical ballet for almost ten years. Once kitesurfing was in the picture though he dropped the tutu for the board and focused his energy there instead. No wonder he moves like a dancer.
– Be sure to check out the Full Series here –
Speaking of dancers, the next rider to join the project was Lykourgos Neofotistos – this firecracker little kid from Chalkida, who could probably export some of his energy to China and still have enough to climb the great wall a few times over. The first time we met him was actually at the dock where we were about to board a sailboat set to explore some hidden spots around the Cyclades. The guys from We Ride Local had been an active part of this project since the get go, and when they suggested Lykourgo (Wolfy) as a second rider we were excited to see what he had to bring to the table.
Turns out Ben and Wolfy were like bread and butter. They instantly clicked and lucky for us because the rest of the boat trip was rocky as hell! But that’s another story.
After getting to know Ben a little better, we found out Tom was going to be back in his home of Lefkada for the summer. So we went back to Ben’s hometown to meet his best riding buddy and equal in the competitive rankings. For how quiet and shy he can be, Tom is definitely a powerhouse on his kite. He throws low tricks and stomps huge rotations, and almost makes Ben look bad. Together these two are amazing to watch… One session in Agios Nikolaos they decided to throw some doubles, and landed a pretty epic double KGB. It was clear these two go hand in hand…
– Be sure to check out the Full Series here –
Aaaaaaah… The Handsome Stallion – The Ace of Spades and the Tooth Fairy all rolled into one.
Dimitri is old school, although he isn’t much older than the rest of the boys. He’s just got that hardened style… dignified and classic. The first time I ever saw him ride was in Drepano – throwing super stylish grabs like they were going out of fashion. Simply perfection. No wonder Lykourgo looks up to him… His local kite spot is Raches, where Lykourgo rides too, and no need to say – these guys are serious bros.
Youri Zoon, 2 times world champion and super influential rider on the Kite scene worldwide. He’s been coming to Greece to kite for a couple of years now, he says he likes the food and the wind, in that order. We were lucky enough to catch up with him in Santorini and go for one of the most epic sessions on the whole production. 1st time riding the CALDERA Volcanic Crater… Of course it was off to Drepano before the wind died down completely, as he couldn’t leave without saying a quick hi to his buddies there.
– Be sure to check out the Full Series here –
Wind & Water is the kind of project that takes on a life of its own. In fact I find this is the case with all projects that lead to something good. Roughly 6 months of work on this bad boy, spread over 2 years, with lots of ups and downs, and lots and lots of helping hands.
It took us to a whole bunch of different spots around Greece, and got us into all sorts of pickles, like that time our sail got torn in the middle of a storm or that time we got chased by the… never mind. From Lefkada to Evia and the Cyclades islands to Costa Navarino, we heard the same words repeated over and over and over again until I literally couldn’t bear it any more… “Λες να βάλει αέρα;” – “You think it’s gonna blow?”.
And so in light of getting this bad boy wrapped up, I tip my hat to the crew: Alex, Dimitri, Ben, Lykourgo, Softa, Tom, Peter, Billo, Oresti, Thomas, Rami and everyone else. Keep on pumping you crazy beasts…
Check out the whole series by clicking here www.netwix.gr/thethingaboutgreecewindandwaterbyvice
When the lifts finally shut and the mountain traffic came to a not-so-glamorous halt, we dropped in to munch on the leftovers. The psychotropic mountain setting was exactly what I needed to escape my modern day troubles. I couldn’t leave my phone behind of course, but I did put it on airplane mode for a bit.
Half way up the hill we realised we weren’t alone. Christos and some friends had been shaping the kicker. park break…
It was that kind of temperature where you could be in shorts, but then the wind changes and maybe its not a good idea any more. Confusing.
Then off to the top. We decided to make it up before sunset this time, so we hustled up, well actually it was more like me chasing Bill, and reached the nearest peak – Gerontovrahos before sunset for a change.
After a couple warm beers and a long talk about minimalism and moustaches we headed back. We discussed important issues on the ride home. But the silence was good too. It’s part of the whole thing. Reflecting on a big day. I had falafel with extra hot sauce that night. Bill had the steak.
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So Winter 2016-17 started with a quick stop up to Mt Dirfis with Bill. In classic fashion we left Athens late because I wasn’t ready, took forever to get there, and didn’t get onto the snow until well after midday. Bill was less than impressed but we decided to come down before it got too dark and just shrug it off…
A month or so later we came back, knowing that the boys from the YAMAS production by the Snowmads were there filming some sunset shots. We got there late again but hustled up and met the boys on the top for some cookies and milk.
A couple of bad jokes later we strapped in and headed down for sunset. I had forgotten my jacket so I was already getting cold, when my phone battery ran out mid drone flight. Marco Freudenreich lent me his phone while the drone was still buzzing around our heads, and I used the remaining 9% of his battery trying to get the signal connection to work, and filming blind. I doubt you’ll see any of those shots in the upcoming film.
Bill and I headed down in the dark and listened to Alan Watts audiobooks all the way home…
1. Fruit salad or beefy steak?
I guess both… I can’t decide!!
2. What bowls have you ridden in Greece and what’s your favourite one?
I’ve ridden most of them but my two favourite ones are latraac and the blue enigma bowl which is super hard to ride!
3. Do’s and Don’ts for bowl riding
l’m gonna talk about the (Don’ts) only. If you are not feeling hundred percent your body do not drop in the ramp, just let it go. There is always next time. That’s my first rule to everything.
4. 4 down?
Yeah! I started riding 4 down last year and it’s way better than the usual grind wheel setup. You can turn really fast and it’s perfect for bowl and stuff l think.
5. What does dkms stand for?
There is not any deep meaning behind it, it’s just my last name. (Diakoumeas) hehe!
find @dkms on instagram