Kitesurfers’ paradise on Hel
The Hel Peninsula is regarded as one of Europe’s best kitesurfing spots. Its local “surfer’s village” has developed a good reputation the world over.
On a windy summer day the sky over the Hel beach is speckled with colourful kites. This peaks over the weekend, when lovers of the sport come from all over Poland to the kitesurfers’ paradise. The shallow waters of Puck Bay and the moderate winds make the Hel Peninsula the perfect place for practicing a sport which combines elements of windsurfing, surfing and paragliding.
“Because of its vast shallows, Puck Bay is considered one of the best kitesurfing spots in Europe,” Tsays Tadeusz Elwart, who has owned the Chalupy VI camping site in Wladyslawowo for the past 15 years. “People from all over the world have recommend it to one another. We recently had guests from Berlin, who were given the tip to visit Chalupy while in Thailand,” Elwart tells Polska.pl .
Marek Podgórski from Warsaw, a chartered auditor and water and extreme sports enthusiast, thinks that the Hel Peninsula’s biggest advantage is its universality: “the shallow bay on the one side of the peninsula is a good place for learning, and the sea on the other is excellent for advanced kitesurfers,” he explains.
Such perfect conditions have made the Hel Peninsula a globally renowned surfers’ village—with campsites, shops with specialist gear and clothing, as well as restaurants that cater to as many as several dozen thousand visitors. Representatives of multinational companies dealing in kitesurfing merchandise have told Elwart that they had never seen such a place elsewhere, as even in California or Hawaii surfers tend to simply stick together as opposed to having an entire village to themselves.
That is why the peninsula on the Baltic in summertime also attracts aficionados from Sweden, Norway and Germany. It earned itself a good name thanks to windsurfers who a few years ago swapped the board for sailing and kitesurfing gear, which is made up of the board, kite and bar. Smaller and easier to control, it can fit in a backpack, unlike the windsurfing board, which requires a car to transport. Although a kite can measure up to 20 sq. m and can be a challenge to set up, kitesurfing enthusiasts think that it is well worth the hassle given the subsequent adrenaline rush felt when gliding in the air.
The Hel Peninsula, referred to as Poland’s beginning, or end, owes its “third youth” to kitesurfing. Thirty four kilometres long, with a width ranging from 300m at its base, through 150m in the narrowest point, to 3km at the tip, the peninsula emerged 200-300 years ago. Previously it used to be a stretch of single islets, and it was impossible to reach Wladyslawowo without getting your legs wet. The intermittent patches of land were transformed by wind and eastern sea currents into a scythe-shaped peninsula, which after the Second World War became one of the hottest seaside resorts. In the 1980s Wladyslawowo’s Chalupy neighbourhood with its naturist beach was made famous by “Chalupy welcome to,” a song by Zbigniew Wodecki. The peninsula somewhat waned in popularity after the political transformation. At the start of the 21st Century, Chalupy was rediscovered by water sport – and in particular windsurfing – enthusiasts. For a few years now Hel has enjoyed a new lease of life thanks to kajtki, as kitesurfing equipment is popularly known.