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Surf and State

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  • Kiss Ádám

9/4/2013 2:00 AM

Our journey, when we paddled from the South Shore to the North Shore of Lake Balaton was awesome, but forbidden. Why can''t you use those water vehicles on Balaton, which are accepted on rough seas?

On the last day of summer we stood on a surfboard each in Balatonföldvár, and paddled to the North Shore to Club Tihany. We went to Sajkod beach along the shore, grabbed some food, and caught some sleep there. Then we returned to Balatonföldvár. There was hardly any wind, the sun was shining and the view was way better than the giant posters of Ibiza on the living room walls of big city flats. There was no better way to end this summer.
Paddling on a surfboard makes you feel like you are walking on water. The Sajkod part of Tihanyi-félsziget is like an island from a Jules Verne novel full of pirates and other fictional characters. It looks wild and untouched from the shore and from the water as well. This is the only place at Balaton, where you can't find literally anything between the shore and the rocks. No beach, no hotel, no railway. You'll only find a jungle-like reed here, and those guys who hide here with their speed boats. And don't forget about Teázó az erdő mélyén either.
It sounds even more romantic that the whole trip was illegal. So don't follow our lead. Please. Really.

Crossing the Rubicon

We are not complete amateurs when it comes to water sports. Sit back, relax, fasten your seatbelts and use your lifejacket. Say the word if you have ever seen a proper guide for the regulations about doing water sports at Balaton. Mentioning the Sailing Regulations is not fair, because an average person gets annoyed with these texts after two minutes. Yes, everything is written down here, but understanding this legal text requires as much time as finishing The Secret of Monkey Island series.

Photo: Like You Were Walking On The Water. - Borbála Sebestyén

The Regulations say that only "big" sailboats and speed boats are allowed to cross Lake Balaton. Not even sea kayaks are welcome here, so Gábor Rakonczai was allowed to cross the Atlantic Ocean, but he cannot go further than 500 meters from the shore of Balaton. It is somewhere around the buoys which mark the 180 cm water level on the South Shore. This is the line you cannot cross with kayaks or other water vehicles. The small boats and the surfers are allowed to go 1500 meters from the coast. It means that if you don't have a proper sailboat, you can only cross Balaton within the Tihany-Balatonföldvár-Zamárdi triangle.
It took us one and a half hour to figure out which vehicle belongs to which category after our tour. We had a fun afternoon though, because we thought we could go 1500 metres on a surfboard as well. We wanted to find a loophole, because Tihany is no further than 3000 metres from Balatonföldvár in Szántód's direction. This would mean that we didn't go further from any of the coasts than we were allowed to.

Stand up paddle

Nowadays you can even try stand up paddling in the middle of Budapest on the pond of Városliget. It is strange that this sport has become so popular in a country, which lacks seashores. Although an artificial lake doesn't give you the true stand up paddling experience, Balaton is just perfect for that.
Club Tihany helps you if you want to act like a proper Polynesian, because you can rent a board, a paddle and an instructor as well in the SUP Center until the end of September. If you happen to have a big surfboard at your bungalow, then all you need is a proper paddle. The lifejacket is mandatory, but you can use it as a pillow on the beach, too. Or you can sit down on it if standing is not comfortable enough for you. Okay, we should stop here; we've broken enough rules so far. A waterproof phone case is recommended, so you can bring your money and your cell phone so you can post photos on Instagram.

Photo: Sajkod From The Water. - Ádám Kiss - We Love Balaton

If everything went according to laws, then all surf and kayak rentals could close their business. You are not allowed to break the 5 km/h speed limit if there are swimmers around you. Question: who measures your speed? The law regulates how much distance you should leave between you and a ferry, a professional scuba diver or another paddler who is coming in your direction. It is impossible to follow these rules in real life, because there is no way that the coast guard could tell if you were closer to a catamaran than 1000 metres.

Separation of surf and state

Many kayak, surfing and sailing fans are fed up with these regulations and also the fact that by crossing the line, they risk the attack of a helicopter fleet like in Apocalypse: Now. What is more, a severe fine is expected if the coast guard is in a bad mood.
The freedom fighters of Szabad Balaton Movement and association and Balaton Critical Mass argue, that the regulation is not practical at all, and it is bad for tourism. You receive a fine if you use a well-known water vehicle, which previously discovered a continent. But you don't get fines for sailing while you're drunk. The protesters want to see reasonable regulations, which would allow everyone to paddle on Balaton without any illogical restriction. They have started to negotiate with the authorities and collected signatures as well. As long as things don't change all we have is the inflatable crocodile water mattress--or else paddling in sin.

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