The catamaran is not a novelty (see the Playboy photo set titled Bo knows beachcats from1980), but it has gained popularity around Lake Balaton only in recent years. Since it is getting easier to buy and navigate catamarans, it is a perfect option for both competitors and hobby sailors. After some time spent sailing a keel, it opens up whole new dimensions when one of the hulls rises and you're soaring two metres above the water at a speed of 40 km/h. The catamaran could become an important element of every family vacation, because you can jump from it just like from a paddle boat. It lacks the purple dolphin slide though. If you want to learn the basics of sailing a catamaran, the Európa Camping in Alsóörs offers courses. The course which contains 15 lessons for two people costs 75 000 HUF.
If you prefer to watch, check out the exciting catamaran competition, Musto Match Race in Balatonföldvár on 10 August 2013. After you saw them sail you will want to join. The trimaran is triple-hull brother of the catamaran, but it is not so widespread on Lake Balaton. Its modern version is foldableg which makes transportation much easier. Its performance is equal to that of the catamaran, so a trimaran is also perfect for competitions, plus you can sunbathe on the trampoline between the hulls.
Don't be surprised if you see sailing vessels even crazier than the trimarans. The Hobie TriFoiler is an endangered species, but some of them tend to show up at the Hobie Cup in Alsóörs. Unfortunately, surfing the waves is almost impossible on Lake Balaton, but windsurfing is quite popular in Hungary. It has been a favourite for decades, so now you can rent windsurfs in almost all the larger lakeside villages and towns, and you can learn the basics at Balatonfenyves, Siófok and Balatonfüred. You’ll know it's time for kite surfing when the wind is blowing in your face and the others are looking for some calm. Kites are driven by the wind. Instead of a sail, you use a kite to navigate, which requires a reasonable amount of upper body strength. It is more active - and more dangerous - than the other kind of surfs: it's not simply about going forward, but jumping, performing tricks and falling every once in a while. The kite school's course (contains five lessons) costs 10 000 HUF now (instead of 20 000 HUF). It consists of three lessons on the shore, one wakeboard lesson and one kite surf lesson on the water. If you find kite surfing too wild, you should try wakeboarding. The idea is the same, but they drag you round and round a cableway by means of a wire rope--there is no sail. It is less dangerous and easier to handle, what is more you don't have to wait for the wind of your dreams. You can try wakeboarding at various spots around Lake Balaton (for example Balatonfüred, Siófok and Vonyarcvashegy). A one-hour ticket costs 5 000 HUF, and they provide you with the basic equipment. Two hours of practice is enough to learn the basics, then you've got to practice a lot, which comes with falling and climbing back over and over again. So patience is essential. Don't worry, you can take lessons as well. The brand new hit is SUP (Stand Up Paddle): you need only a board and a paddle. You can ride the waves if you find any, but the main thing is to stand on a light desk and paddle forward. You don't have to break the waves like a dolphin, but the exercise strengthens your upper and lower body anyway. And it looks way cooler to ride these than sitting in the lame canoes of the beach rentals. The SUP center of Lake Balaton is in Tihany; you can rent and buy equipment here, or take lessons if you want to become a pro in paddling.
Szörfsziget (Surf Island) in Siófok is just an hour car ride from Budapest and it is haven for surfmaniacs. You can learn windsurfing, wakeboarding, or rent a SUP. The place is ideal: they have beach chairs, beer and WiFi as well. Earn bragging rights by uploading your view of the sunset to Instagram right away. Viharsarok Vitorlás Központ (Viharsarok Sailing Center) is a similar lypleasant place in Balatonföldvár's Keleti Szabadstrand (Eastern dbo Beach). You can learn to sail a catamaran and to surf an ordinary board too. If you're not into these, try the swinging beds on the shore made of old surf boards. Hungary is pretty familiar with kayaking since the country has been a powerhouse in kayak and canoe competitions. It used to be popular only on rivers, but recently kayaks started to show up on Lake Balaton as well. These are not the professional ones which are hard to keep balanced, but stable sea kayaks designed for rough waves. They can carry one or two persons at a time. They are perfect for a relaxing program in the afternoon, but tours that last days are also great options. If you don't trust the wind and would rather use your own power and paddle, then try Balatonfenyves on South Shore, or Sajkod on the North Shore. The freshest addition to the sailing scene on Lake Balaton is at the same time the one of the oldest means of sailing. The proa brings Polinesian traditions to Hungary.
The rise of Proa is not fuelled by a 'respect the elders' attitude. Proa is multihull vessel, but it doesn't look and work like a catamaran. It is the greenest mode of transport on Lake Balaton and it costs only about 100 000 HUF, because there is a growing boat building community around proas. When our proa is ready, we can float around peacefully, or if we can attend "pacific spirit" races in between beaches. Libera is an exception since it is not some small vessel, more like a sailboat. It sails like an elegant swan, so it could well have been an inspiration for Tchaikovsky in the 19th century. Its movements are quite graceful, but it is pretty difficult to make gigantic structure work. Its mast is 20 meters tall with a giant mainsail on it, and the boat needs a crew of 10 to balance the whole thing on the waves with the help of ropes hanging from the top of the mast. Liberas are a rare sight in Hungary, so consider yourself lucky if a giant swan with a tireless crew onboard sails past on the open water. Libera teams often organize open days, so even if you are not Jack Sparrow's son, you can get a share of the sailors' experience. Driving a motor boat on Balaton has been banned for decades, and this means that jet skiing and water skiing are forbidden fruits. The only exceptions are water taxis and rescue teams. If you insist on driving a speed boat, choose an electric one, because they are allowed to be out on the waves. You can buy and rent electric speed boats in both traditional and modern style. Speed boats save you the trouble with ropes and all, but you should definitely have the required documents and licenses before you leave port.
Before stepping aboard
There are a few things you should know if you don't want to be tugged to shore by the coast guards. Since the above boats are considered to be water sport vehicles you must follow a few rules of use. You must wear a lifejacket and you must be at least 14 years old to drive. You can't use water sport vehicles at beaches dedicated to bathing (unless you want to dock), and you can't father than 1500 meters from shore. Special rules applied for different kinds of boats, so if you're about to head out from the bay, you should consult the Rules of Sailing.