For Greek surfer Leonidas Economides it all began in a pool in the seaside town of Vouliagmeni, where his mother took him for a swimming lesson at the age of 6. One day he told her that he was tired of counting the tiles at the bottom of the pool, and wanted to try something else: the sea.
He started with sailing and then moved on to windsurfing at the age of 13. He loved it, and practiced constantly , becoming so good he won the national and European Championships. Later, in the world championships, he finished third in the under 21 category.
Inevitably, all this led to the king of all water sports: surfing. His love for it led him to Florida, where he can surf every day. Now 23, Leonidas recently graduated from college in Boca Raton, and now works in the hotel business in nearby Miami Beach.
What's next? To compete in the Olympics, either in windsurfing or in surfing, if the authorities decide to include it. "It would be a great honor to participate with the Greek delegation," said Leonidas.
In his own words...
"It is a lonely sport. When you come here [to the ocean], you leave your problems behind, you enter the water and as you swim, the fresh water clears your face and your thoughts. Being in the water is like a relaxing spa; you forget everything. There are risks, sharks, we are in an open ocean, but those thoughts go away as you begin to focus on surfing."
On his sponsorships:
"Sponsors work like they do in football; agents take notice of you in the games and seek to advertise through you, so they give you the opportunity to wear bathing suits with their brand, uniforms, shirts, sunglasses and you sign a contract which gets you money and clothes. I've worked with Hurley since 2006."
On his advice to all aspiring surfers:
"Surfing is for everyone; in Hawaii you can see surfers from 4 to 80 years old. For anyone who wants to try, I recommend renting a board. It cost five or six dollars. Then swim, enjoy the water, you will fall. It isn't easy to balance but the feeling of the sun on the board as you surf alone is indescribable."