For an island surrounded by water, and well-known for it’s if not world-class, at least great-for-ameteurs surfing spots, its inhabitants are surprisingly lax at engaging in water sports.
Expense is probably a factor. But maybe not a big one. Sporting as a leisure activity is mostly only common with a country that has a growing mid-income class population. The poor tend to get their thrills out of their jobs itself and the rich are far too lazy most often to engage in active sports, and the proportion that do are far too small to figure.
The middle-class is more numerous than the rich and have more leisure time than the poor. They are arguably more driven and motivated. They’d make the perfect market to absorb sports as recreation. If the middle class segment grows, we may very well start seeing increased demand for water sports and even proletariat work out plans, cause after a while simply the gym gets boring.
Kitesurfing lessons cost around $80 and you will have to pay for accommodation and transport to somewhere in Kalpitiya i think according to this guy i called after looking at the Kitesurf SL blog (details seem to have been removed since then). Equipment costs a ton more than that.
A cheaper option is surfing. Surfing lessons are about 1000 bucks an hour (including board) at Mirissa but much cheaper Arugam Bay especially off-season. You will have to compete with the tourists for the attentions of the beach boys who will teach you. Owning a board is expensive and cumbersome so you’re better off with cheap rentals. You will need to learn how to swim beforehand though.
The surfing scene in Sri Lanka still largely only caters to foreigners but i think it is the segment with the largest potential of growth. It needs some strategic investment in infrastructure and promotions. Most of the expertise is available homegrown. In Arugam bay, random beach boys (they all have Australian accents) will approach you with business plans for your consideration so head that way if you’re interested in scoping out some possibilities. And buy the owner of this blog a board and free lessons if you make good your deal.
Other forms of water sports include windsurfing, but i don’t think there is an organized community of windsurfers yet. You can rent the needed equipment at most hotels by the side of lakes etc. Iv seen them around Bolgoda and Habarana. Diving is also great and there is a place in Matara that where you can get your license for 30 grand over five days. Apparently you dont need to know how to swim for shit when it comes to diving, but it is advisable to know your way around the water unaided when it comes to all water sports generally i presume.
Other options for middle class sport in Sri Lanka exist; they are things like horse riding and tennis (yawn). A lot of places offer mountain biking tours but they’re way too expensive to take. Better just grab your own bike and scope out your own trails.