Sunday, 21 August 2011

Arugam Bay attracts the 2011 SriLankan Airlines Pro

Arugam Bay has to be one of the most idyllic surfing beaches in the world. Above an Australian surfer catches a wave, a small one, but an hour later the surf was really running big and fast. Photo: Bob McKerrow 

Last Friday I was delighted to read that Sri Lankan Airlines and the ASP are pleased to announce the addition of the 2011 SriLankan Airlines Pro to the ASP Tour calendar. Top ranked surfers around the world will ride on the gigantic waves at Arugam Bay when the world class surfing competition, 'SriLankan Airlines Pro-2011' starts on August 30. It will continue till September 4 on the spectacular shores of Arugam Bay.

SriLamkan Airlines in collaboration with Australia's Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) has taken this major event in international surfing calender to Arugam Bay, recognized as one of the best surfing destinations in the world. It was revealed during a press conference at the Taj Samudra Hotel on Wednesday.

96 international surfers from 19 countries will compete for the ASP Men's World Long board Title while the Sri Lanka's first ever ASP 6-star Womens' event will see 60 top women's surfers in action.

Among the men's long-board surfers there will be few former world bests taking part in this year's competition including Duane Desoto (2010), Bonga Parkings (2008), Josh Constable (2006) and Phil Rajzman (2007) while former ASP World Junior Champions Alize Arnaud (2010) and Pauline Ado (2009) along with elite surfers Alan Blanchard, Courtney Cologue, Bruna Schmitz are expected to take part in the women's short board event.
“Arugam Bay is such a great venue for both competitors and spectators,” Jordan said. “Last year the men (6 star event) scored almost perfect waves every day and now it’s the women and the longboarders’ turn. Sri Lanka is such an exotic destination for surfers and to have a World Title event at Arugam Bay is great for the sport worldwide and within Sri Lanka. It’s great to have a world-class airline sponsoring our events and we are proud to continue our partnership with SriLankan Airlines to showcase Sri Lanka to the world.”

Left: SriLankan Airlines Chairman Nishantha Wickremasinghe presenting the official Tee shirt of the ‘SriLankan Airlines Pro-2011’ to the Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman Dr. Nalaka Godahewa. Picture by Saman Mendis

Arugam Bay has been known as a top surfing area for many years now. During the season, from about May to November, it is easily the most popular destination for foreign visitors to the east coast. It’s a working fishing beach and there is quite a lot of rubbish on the sands, compared with the southern beaches, and is perhaps not the best place to come just for a beach holiday: most foreigners I met were there for the surfing. Many locals want to clean up the beach, and are trying to make improvementto the area. For now it’s still very pretty, and quiet, if you want a place to gather your thoughts, and you can visit nearby mangroves on Pottuvil lagoon, or go to Kudimbigala Forest Hermitage to see Buddhist shrines. The Lahugala-Kitulana National Park is 16km inland from Pottuvil and large herds of elephants move there during the dry season (July and August).

One of the reasons I know Arugam Bay well is that the Red Cross spent more than US$800 on recovery after the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami and built many houses, water supplies, hospitals, clinics, schools and other community facilities. The water supply at Arugam Bay comes from a Red Cross funded and constructed water supply bomes from this one million litre water tank in nearby Potuvil (photo right) and the base hospital at Potuvil was funded by the Finnish Red Cross/Sri Lanka Red Cross. So when surfers turn on a tap, or flush the toilet at Arugam bay, it comes from a Red Cross water supply.

Speaking at the press briefing yesterday Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman Dr. Nalaka Godahewa said with the increasing tourist arrivals Sri Lanka must offer diverse products to entertain them. "Sports tourism will play a major role in the national economy in time to come and this annual surfing competition has attracted the world attention to our country. Arugam Bay is ready to welcome all these foreigners and there will be good facilities for them in the region. The six day event will be full of entertainment for both participants and spectators. We have arranged some other beach sports such as Beach volleyball, Beach Rugby, Kite Flying, Sand Castle, Elephant Rides to give an opportunity to local enthusiasts.

It's a busy beach at Arugam with hundreds of fishing boats, many waterfront hotels, and hoards of surfers on the waves. Photo: Bob McKerrow

The SriLankan Airline Pro-2011 will be supported by co-sponsor Sri lanka Tourisum Promotion Bureau, Grand Hotel, Lanka SportReizen. The international sponsors will be Lufthansa Technik and Swatch. Etisalat will be the communication partner while Arugam Bay Beachwear is the local sponsors. Also keenly involved in the event are the members of the Arugam Bay Surfing Association.

Yes, everyone os off to Arugam Bay at the end of August, including me and the boys. Sunrise at Arugam Bay, as surfers head of for the action 1 km away.Photo: Bob McKerrow

“SriLankan Airlines have always made a point of promoting Adventure and Sports tour ism into Sri Lanka through events such as Golf, Surfing, Rugby and Marathons. With peace firmly established in Sri Lanka we want to showcase the diverse attractions the island has to offer.

Fishermen and surfers mix freely at Arugam Bay and this thriving seaside village is humming with fun and activity. At local bars you can sip delicious Sri lankan-made stout, that almost equals Guniness. Photo: Bob McKerrow 

“SriLankan Airlines are firmly geared towards making this year’s event a huge success and maintain Arugam Bay’s standing as a favourite among the top surfing destinations in the world. We are expecting lots of excitement and great waves like last year’s event.”

Lazily waiting for a wave. Photo: Bob McKerrow

I like to stay at the Tristar as you can walk straight from your room to the beach and they serve good food. Photo: Bob McKerrow


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