Water-Sporting Sri Lanka

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.

  1. The problem with Sri Lanka is surfing has to be in season. Unlike along the coasts of Australia and Cape Town, where tourists can be sure to have the right waves for surfing all year round.

    Also with the war this sort of thing hasn’t been explored much, so I guess now would be the time to pike into it if anyone is interested in making it their niche market. I could be wrong but I don’t see Sri Lanka stacking up with Hawaii, Australia and Cape Town as a popular destination for surfing.

    • Whacko said:

      yeah thats cos those are right up there in terms of quality surfing spots. ours aren’t that great 🙂 surfing does need to be in season, But when its not in season in the East, the season usually begins in the South.

  2. I saw a surfing magazine over here that had a beautiful spread (and front cover) about surfing in SL. The article seemed to imply that for the hardcore surfer, the SL scene was better for not being as commercialised as other spots.

    I think as with most things in SL, the trick is to make it popular (and profitable) without losing the ‘undiscovered paradise’ ambience. Easier said than done, though.

  3. sri lanka is a heaven for watersports. we have amazing rivers and seas. as mentioned, surfing/ kitesurfing is seasonal. i havent been to mirissa though i’ve heard the locals there are not very nice to fellow locals. anyway, in terms of kitesurfing, i would only recommend a few persons – one being Mischi Walter.

    Borderlands (www.discoverborderlands.com) are also very competent service providers. they are a bit more expensive but we cannot compromise quality and safety for a few hundred ruppees.

    • Whacko said:

      thanks for the info! can you shed some light on the required levels of competency in swimming for most watersports? most peole i know aren’t great swimmers..

  4. well, in terms of most watersports – swimming is very important. living on an island i recommend you learn to swim. to give you persepective – i was kitesurfing 2 KM’s into the ocean and then might kite blew a bladder and i had to swim back half a kilometre or so. In kayaking (white water) you must be comfortable to swim a river unaided dodging rocks. in terms of surfing, the strong your siwmming the easier it is to catch a wave. the only watersport i can think of is diving, you can walk on the bottom of the ocean if you cant swim at all!!!! haha

  5. I might add that rowing is a water sport where you do not need exceptional swimming abilities. I have done national level rowing but never a good swimmer.

    but as Dilsiri said, living on an island, we all should learn to swim 🙂

  6. Arugam Bay on the East Coast was home to 2004 National Championships. This area is being re-developed following the cessation of hostilities in Sri Lanka but as yet has a casual/hippy atmosphere. Not the place for luxury hotels – try Lotus Park and Kudakalliya.

    Kitesurfing is the up and coming extreme sport and Arugam Bay is the centre for coaching and German kite-sellers.

    Hikkaduwa, Midigama and Polhenna Beaches in the south and west are good surfing beaches to explore.

    Boards and gear are available for hire locally.

    Do take local advice regarding strong currents and undertow in some areas. For the latest news on surf in Sri Lanka

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