I surprise myself by not falling off. I even ENJOY it.
The trick is keeping your eyes on the horizon. The clear blue seas and green-fringed headlands help. It is easier than it looks and burns 700 calories an hour.
At Mark Warner’s new beach resort, I realise just what I’ve been missing. Sport needn’t involve cold and mud, sweat and tears. Here at Phokaia Beach on Turkey’s west coast, I suddenly see the point of exercise.
Those endorphins must kick in a lot quicker in such a fabulous location.
A Zumba class or kayaking jaunt can be followed by a snooze in a comfy cabana on the beach or a cocktail by the vast free-form pool.
That’s the secret to Mark Warner’s beach clubs — Olympian levels of sporty fun in a relaxed, friendly environment.
This is no boot camp. Dip in as much, or as little, as you like.
There are free dedicated clubs for kids aged two to 17 and a modest charge for babies from four months.
At Phokaia, the facilities are modern, spacious and well-equipped. Little ones can play in their own mini-castle, while older children get introductions to everything from windsurfing and sailing to tennis and volleyball.
GETTING / STAYING THERE: A week at Mark Warner’s new Phokaia Beach resort is from £829 per adult and £749 per child. Includes return flights from Gatwick, Manchester or Birmingham, transfers, accommodation, five days’ full board, two days’ half board, childcare from two to 17 years, evening childcare, sailing and windsurfing with tuition, kayaking, SUP boading and tennis, biking and one waterski or wakeboard tow.
See markwarner.co.uk for more information or call 033 3305 9795.
That leaves adults free to indulge. Stroll to the waterfront to take out one of the kayaks, sailing boats, windsurfers or paddleboards lined up on the beach on your own or sign up for expert tuition. There’s even waterskiing and wakeboarding at extra cost for real thrill seekers.
The wide, sheltered bay means beginners can get up and out on the water quickly and easily. A few of the more experienced sailors were a little frustrated by the dead-calm conditions while I was there but for a novice like me, it was perfect.
The resort also has four floodlit tennis courts as well as a team of coaches able to help you improve your game — or in my case, simply learn how to hit a ball over the net.
Tennis manager Rafa — a veteran of Mark Warner’s beach clubs — made our hour-long crash course fly by.
His relaxed, easy-to-understand instruction was genuinely fun and while I won’t be a threat to the Williams sisters any time soon, I was inspired.
By then I was on a roll. I’d paddled, kayaked and batted my way through a host of sporty fun on site.
It was time to up the ante and get out and about. Phokaia’s head of cycling Alex was so outrageously enthusiastic I had a helmet strapped on and was setting off for the local town of Foca before I knew it.
This was a gentle, relaxed pootle along decent roads on brand new, top-end road bikes.
There, with Alex looking after our bikes, we had 40 minutes to explore the pretty fishing village. As well as colourful boats jostling in the ancient harbour and fishermen selling their catch, there were cobbled, shady streets to stroll.
We met up with our fellow Mark Warner bike pals for a beer and chat in one of the many bars and restaurants lining the harbour. Tourism took a hit in Turkey after the political unrest but here it was clear from the warm welcome how happy they were to see Brits heading back.
Prices are ridiculously low, from just 50p for a soft drink in a bar to around £1.60 for an hour-long cruise along the coastline in a traditional Turkish boat called a gulet.
Splash out £10 and you can enjoy a sailing trip with all your food and drink thrown in.
While our ride was a relaxed affair, experienced riders can join the cycling team on more hardcore treks on road or mountain bikes, all for free.
With just a few days to sample the new resort, there wasn’t time to try all the activities on offer. While others in our group enjoyed yoga sessions and aqua aerobics, I was confident enough in my new-found sporting ability to sign up for a Bollywood Zumba class.
And this turned out to be my downfall. No matter how hard I tried, my workout was more demented chicken dance than graceful, rhythmic workout.
Embarrassed, I took a dive into the pool to cool off.
All that sport does build up an appetite and Mark Warner doesn’t disappoint. Breakfast and lunch is included as well as dinner five nights a week, giving you two nights either to enjoy the restaurants in nearby Foca or a BBQ by the beach.
The main buffet restaurant serves a decent selection of salads and mezze, plus freshly cooked hot dishes including local specialities. The beach restaurant offers table service at extra cost but prices are low and the food is high-quality.
The beach bar was the perfect spot to watch the sunset and after dinner. Most guests would drift into the al fresco bar area by the main pool.
Evening entertainment is low-key — a weekly quiz and a live band playing over dinner.
Also great fun was the beach tennis get-together, hosted by ever-enthusiastic Rafa and helped along by a beer or three, preferably while you are playing!
The size of the new resort means there are plenty of different accommodation options.
Rooms in the main building are compact but still feature a balcony or terrace and contemporary furnishings. Family rooms under the main pool include a cool bunk bed alcove that the kids will love as well as a lovely little terrace.
Top of the range are the two-storey villas in the gardens, complete with two bedrooms, a vast lounge, dining and kitchenette area and two full bathrooms — they could easily sleep a family of six.
Whatever room you choose, it is the gorgeous grounds and accessible, approachable sports plus all those great Mark Warner staff that turn this friendly resort into the perfect summer holiday destination.
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