Naias Nautical Club

Text: Maro Voulgari

A collective miracle on Paros!

A group of young people brings on the coming of spring to the island. A spring of creativity, cultural expression, coexistence, ingenuity, communication, and harmonious transition from the old to the new.

Naias Nautical Club, established in Naoussa, Paros, five years ago, is a positive, refreshing breeze of creative motion that blew favourably into Paros’ open sails. Everyone fits in here – old and new inhabitants, sea captains and lands people, locals and foreigners, the young and the young at heart. A bunch of young people, dedicated to serving their homeland and motivated by their love of nature, the environment, the sea and seafaring, decided to set up a nautical club. And although everyone expected it to be an exclusive, elitist group of people dealing with boats and water sports, it actually turned out to be a lively hub of creation filled to the brim with an appetite for action, for the revival of old customs, the creation of new institutions, the initiation of younger generations into the history of the island, and the preservation of tradition in a completely fresh way: their own way. (One of their first actions undertaken by Naias was the revival of the “karava” custom, the handmade tin boat crafted in Paros since 1930). Why are they effective? Because they are selfless. And one’s selflessness sets an example and provides motivation for all the others. And, to top it all, they have an eye for aesthetics, imagination and humour, they are quite familiar with new technologies, they communicate their actions effectively and, as a result, the events they hold are better-attended and more successful year after year.

Naias set up sailing, swimming and surfboard teams, as well as working groups on maritime tradition and the environment, a facilities maintenance team, and an events and festivals team. They participate in the annual, supra-local festival “Kapetaneika”, a huge naval feast which has become an institution that pays homage to Kostas Gouzelis, a pioneer architect on the island who also loved boats. The festival is a maritime meeting point for traditional boats from Paros and the surrounding islands. They are also responsible for the swimming circumnavigation of Agia Kali island, the botanical garden in the schoolyard of Naoussa primary school, the regular cleaning of the Environmental and Cultural Park of Paros, swimming and sailing championships, local facilities where fish are salt-cured and sun-dried, as well as free treat samplings onboard the old captains’ boats… Their goal is to promote water sports in all their forms, but also to bridge the present with the past in an up-to-date and enjoyable way. What’s more, they want younger generations to embrace bygone customs and festivals and people to meet each other enjoying the place where they live, shortly before and after the annual tourist invasion.

The Naias team value and protect the natural environment. They recycle old posters and bedding into trendy shopping bags, create a natural herb garden in the Park of Ai Yiannis Detis, clean up the land and the sea holding trash pick-up events all year round, maintain trails, build terraces on hillsides and carry out anti-erosion works to prevent the soil from wearing away… In addition, they have put together a collection of modern ceramics bearing phrases from the nautical dialect of the island.

The Naias people prefer anonymous collective action to their own individual promotion, making up one of the island’s greatest resources and, at the same time, providing evidence that –to paraphrase a Greek songwriter– history is sometimes written by groups of friends.