So long sarong, welcome back beach towel
By Helen Iatrou
Photography by Carlo Raciti www.carloraciti.com
Summer is a wonderful thing, right? Tell me a three-word phrase you don’t love about it.
Here is mine: Soggy beach towel.
Several years back, I became tired of lugging around a beach towel on summer holidays, or even a day trip to one of our local beaches on the sprawling southern Athens coast.
I had searched far and wide but never found the perfect, fluffy, absorbent beach towel of my dreams.
So, I swapped my small collection of big but thin beach towels for my one cherished sarong.
I should note that I was influenced by my husband Carlo, who had long stashed his mustard tie dye sarong in our beach bag.
My silky soft sarong boasts a rainbow of hues, from tropical green to canary yellow to deep fuchsia. It is my sole memento of a 10-day trip we took to Milos, one of our most beloved Cycladic islands, seven years ago.
I had long donned this sarong as a beach cover-up as it shimmies over my curves and shows off tanned shoulders and legs to full effect.
Light and stylish but not ideal
My sarong’s more recent role as beach towel replacement has meant putting it through its paces. I lay it out on piping hot sand, stretch it out on grassy slopes and occasionally even drape it over rocks (yeah, not the best idea).
It seemed like an easy, super-light switch out from my beach towels, which are not exactly superior quality anyway.
My towels would not absorb much water, took ages to dry and ate up precious room in my beach bag.
One regrettable towel purchase features the lizard that symbolises Ibiza, while another is a washed-out blue and orange Athens 2004 Olympics souvenir.
I soon realised, however, that the bold colours of my beloved sarong were starting to fade.
It had suffered a serious beating and is definitely not the best protection between skin and hot sand, cliffs or rocks.
Wherever Carlo and I travel, we prefer to seek out the quietest, most remote beaches (read: no umbrella and sun bed sets, preferably) to set up our beach shade and throw down our sarongs.
A couple of months ago, I noticed an Australian-designed beach towel brand named Tesalate that is made of microfibre which promises to dries quicker than normal and shake off sand like it’s nobody’s business.
The ease with which fine sand stubbornly sticks to a beach towel is yet another reason I preferred a sarong.
Carlo and I had been looking for microfibre towels for our sailing adventures, and had only found some monochrome (yawn) versions.
So, I thought we might give the purportedly sand-repelling, quick-drying Aussie towel brand a shot.
We ordered two towels, created with a microfibre called AbsorbLite (80 percent polyester and 20 percent polyamide) which is exclusive to Tesalate.
It was tough choosing from the vivid designs on offer, which range from minimalist palm trees to tropical Hawaiian florals and the blues and white of the Aegean Sea.
I let Carlo pick out his preferred design and it turned out to be the vibrant, patchwork-like Bohemian; the one I had my eye on from the start.
So, I went for my second option, the technicolour yet low key Waves, which seemed like it would blend relatively easily with my rather extensive collection of bikinis.
The towels, reasonably priced at US$59 (approximately 50 euros), arrived by post from Australia, after a slight Australia Post hiccup.
Tesalate’s shipping policy is pretty cool. The company ships around the world and doesn’t charge for it.
The ultimate test
We couldn’t wait until our upcoming holiday to the Small Cyclades island of Koufonissia to test the towels, so took them out for a spin at one of our favourite beach destinations in Athens – Castus beach bar, situated on pebbled Thymari beach on the southern Athens coast.
We actually laid out our towels on sun beds, as there is little sand on the beach, but it was an opportunity to test the towels’ claim of absorbency and quickness to dry.
While they might be relatively thin, reminding me at first of my shunned beach towels, they performed very well in terms of soaking up saltwater after a dip in the sea.
The temperatures in Athens this summer regularly soared into the high 30s and we had several heatwaves with 40-plus highs.
Therefore, the towels likely dried even faster in the sun, in between dips in the Argosaronic Sea.
The towels certainly dry off a great deal quicker than your average beach towel.
The ultimate test arrived in late August when we hopped on a fast ferry in Piraeus and sailed to Koufonissia.
There, we spent six days trekking between the tiny isle’s precious clutch of fine golden sand beaches, across its dramatic rocky coastline and swimming in impossibly emerald seas.
Koufonissia actually comprises two islands – Pano Koufonissi, the main settlement, and (almost) uninhabited Kato Koufonissi
The consistency of the sand on Koufonissia is a little finer than sugar and salt, but not as fine as powder, and the towels did an impressive job of shaking it off.
We lay out our towels on rough limestone cliffs and dived into a rock pool.
My youngest sister led a tough early morning workout on the beach in which I recruited my towel for cool down and stretching, followed by a meditation session by my middle sister.
Carlo was inspired by the bright colours of the towels and adores the look of Bohemian. He shot images (see below) as the sun started to set at a peaceful, sheltered pebbled beach on Kato Koufonissi and lent a golden shimmer to a waveless Aegean.
Tesalate towels, which measure 160cm by 78cm, are about the same size and weight as a normal beach towel, that is, about 500g, but more compact.
Carlo was not sure whether a thin beach towel would be particularly absorbent but discovered it worked very well.
He found that his towel dried easier and much quicker and, for this reason, was able to better repel sand compared to a standard beach towel.
Carlo noted that the small black zip-up bag provided with each towel is handy as you can dry the towel, roll it up and pack it away in your beach bag.
His towel didn’t feature the standard loop that is a Tesalate feature which allows you to hang it up to dry. He suggested a clip-button loop might be a better idea, as it would make it easy to clip onto a line, if needed.
It seems Carlo may well just retire his faithful sarong, and I think I will, too.
Dance little sister: Styling out Tesalate’s Bohemian at Castus beach bar on Thymari beach in southern Athens
Golden hour: Sunset at a quiet beach on Kato Koufonissi, in the Small Cyclades