Interview: Vassilis Bonios | Photo: Stavros Niflis
Paros is in many aspects a blessed place
Mr. Kaparos, Paros is an international draw for fans of windsurfing and kitesurfing. In the past international competitions were held on the island. You are one of the leaders of this effort. What is your experience from your participation?
Unfortunately, in the last two years not many international competitions have been held on the island. In former years such events drew in thousands of visitors, which was great publicity for the island.
We need to go after these opportunities and not send them away.
What are the difficulties that such an event involves and what are the benefits?
There are many challenges. First of all, finding financial support. The cost is huge. Then the bureaucracy and the ignorance of the local authorities create problems for no reason. Although every event up till now has left the best of impressions and benefits on the island, each time there is a chance to repeat a project, you have to start all over again to persuade the local authorities of the obvious…again and again!
You are an active athlete and not just a businessman. What aspects of windsurfing and kitesurfing enchant you?
The contact with the sea, the wind and the waves, to become one with nature, the freedom they offer you… those are precious feelings. When you are on a surfboard you stop thinking about the problems of your daily life. Also, it is very good exercise for all ages.
In your shops you are not restricted to windsurfing and kitesurfing. You also have equipment for other water sports. What other kinds of tourism would you like to see develop on Paros?
My love for the sea makes me want to deal with anything you can do in, under and on the sea. So, we have equipment for underwater fishing, canoeing, kayaking, wakeboarding, sup etc.
Visitors do not want to lie on a beach anymore with a drink in their hand. Tourists want to discover the island through challenging paths, feel the Cycladic air by bicycle, visit the surrounding islands by boat or canoe, taste the local cuisine, discover the history of the island.
So, I am a fanatic supporter of all forms of alternative tourism and I believe the tourist season can only be extended in this way as many of these activities can take place year-round.
You are amongst those who lived during the time we call the golden era of Paros. What has changed since then and how does this affect trade on the island?
In my opinion, Paros between 1990 and 2000 was first mainly concerned with selling holiday homes and then later with promoting itself as a weekend destination for Athenians. This made us consider foreign visitors as second priority and so we reduced the duration of the season. Now since the crisis we are left with only the short season and low trade activity. Let’s hope that this will change soon.
What do you expect from the new mayor?
A functioning medical centre, a new airport, clean beaches year-round…and many other things we don’t have to mention since he is, as you said, still new.
How are the winters on the island?
First of all, winter has nearly disappeared in the last few years. But like everyone else who lives in the countryside, we harvest olives, we cultivate the land, we go fishing, we see our friends… When it is windy we run to the beach for our favorite hobbies.
Is there any place on earth for which you would abandon Paros?
I was born in Paros, in Lefkes, in the kitchen of our house, and when I was three-years-old we moved to Athens in search of better opportunities. Once in a while, my grandmother from Paros would come to visit in Athens, usually in the winter. After one or two days, she would sit by the window and murmur, “I am not made for this, I am not made for this!”
Back then I didn’t understand what she meant, until I myself returned to live permanently in Paros. Now every time I leave for a few days, I understand that “I am not made for this at all, I am not made for this!”