New History of Greece - Cretan Surfing Tribe - Part I
We all are searching for something; acceptance, freedom, love, respect...
It was 2004 on Super Bowl Sunday, Venice beach CA. The breakwater was 4-6 ft high, glassy and a group of locals and transplants where all surfing the fun right that rarely gets good. After the session the crew was on the beach squawking about this and that and a man looked up at me wearing punk rock clothing, with a harry Krishna haircut, meditating with a skateboard between his legs and asked "What is the deal with the waves around here.” My reply was "Do you want the long version or the short?" We spoke for a few moments and I asked him if he would like to join the group for an afternoon get together at my place. That afternoon he showed up, we began to talk and my brother Andrew began to play music that did not stop until the dawn. He actually never left for a year and a half. Andrew and Tasos Taiganides aka Pyn Doll started a band and played LA for a while.
Sometime near the end of his stay we were eating at Gladstones which is a restaurant where Sunset blvd meets PCH. We were outside on the deck having a bread bowl and too many cigarettes when he began to tell me about a place in the Mediterranean. It was a remote island called Crete. His family was from there. We began to discuss the idea of an Art Commune there. So that summer my brother and I left with two board bags to go and see about this enchanted island. When we arrived what seemed to be days later with all of the connections and boats, we found ourselves in a 1000 year old village where time seemed to stand still.
Crete is where the Western world began with the birth of the Minoan civilization. Well over 5000 years old. They were advanced and peaceful.
Art, theater, dance, running water, flushing toilets, and a form of air conditioning. The rest of the world did not have much of these amenities until the 19th century. The island is alive with history. When you arrive in Heraklion (the capital of Crete) you look out towards the sea, the island outside the city is where Zeus was born. So many of the myths and technologies came from here. Where I am from the oldest legend is George Freeth and Mickey Dora.
As it turned out there was surf here. But it was closely guarded by a group called the C.S.T. I was shocked that a group like this existed in such a remote part of the world not known for having any waves. Tasos was the first surfer in the Mediterranean. He was in Hawaii in 1974 then in Dogtown for a month in 1975 where he picked up surf and skate culture through what he saw and brought that back to Crete. He surfed alone for decades on the island. Lifeguards would say when he paddled out that "I am not going to save you." In Greek culture the sea is a dangerous place, when he would surf the crowd would applaud for every wave.
Years later he met a South African/Cretan named Zoon. Tasos was in a cafe in Heraklion when he overheard a guy talking about surf. Tasos introduced himself and they were on the search for surf the next day. For years the two of them explored the far reaches of the island. Through this the CST was born. Starting with two, as time went on the group grew to well over 30 members. Never were photos allowed of any surf spots. It was always kept secret.
The CST was a group that was from all different parts of the island. There were no surf reports, nor Internet in the old days. So they relied on taverna owners. People who had restaurants on the sea. The deal was if there was surf and they called the CST. In return the group would eat there. They taught the taverna owners the difference between good and bad surf. For a long time until recently this was the surf report. Hard to put into perspective that this is how things worked. I saw it first hand. They would have almost every taverna number on the island and begin to call the different sides of the island to see where the best chance of getting waves were. Photos where forbidden, never wanting any outsiders coming or even knowing. But the world has advanced a lot over the past decade. The CST invited me to come do an article about the surf and life of Crete. To set the record strait that this was the original tribe of surfers in the Mediterranean.
Photography by Matt Wessen, story written by Matt Wessen, edited by Anna Wessen