Arugam Bay in eastern Sri Lanka is coming to life after the end of a 30-year war in Sri Lanka cleared the way for surfers from around the world to ride its waves again.
Hotels in the area were packed to capacity this week when surfers flocked to the town to take part in a contest dubbed ‘Champion of Champions’.
“We had a fantastic event. We’ve seen some great waves and spectacular surfing,” says Dave Reed, a tour director for UK’s Pro Surf organization.
“We chose Arugam Bay because its one of the best waves in the world.”
Pro Surf had last toured Sri Lanka in 2003 during a cease-fire with the Tamil Tiger rebels. In May 2009 the organization was crushed by the military and its leadership wiped out.
“Unfortunately because of the civil conflict we didn’t come back within the last four years,” says Reed.
“We are back again and we want to make it an annual event.”
Arugam Bay also known as ‘A Bay’ in surfing circles is renowned as one of the best surfing destinations in the world.
This week, Britain’s foreign office said the Arugam Bay area was safe for its citizens to visit.
“We are very thankful to British High Commissioner, Dr. Peter Hayes for helping us to get the travel advisory lifted,” says tourism promotion minister Faizer Mustapha.
“The north the east had a set back due to terrorism in this country. We see a great potential for tourism in this area.”
Sri Lanka’s Tourism Promotion Bureau has big plans for the surfing enclave. It wants to host a world championship event in the location next July.
“Sri Lanka will be presenting the biggest surfing festival in South Asia along with the World Surfing Championship” says Dileep Mudadeniya, who heads the tourism promotion office.
“The second week of July has been discussed and agreed upon and 200 participants from 60 countries are set to take part in the contest.”
Officials say the end of the war, good surfing conditions, a rural setting, improved infrastructure and the easing of travel warnings will help attract more surfers and fans to Arugam Bay in the future.
The tourism promotion office is looking at introducing night surfing and to encourage domestic flights to cut short travel time from Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo. (LBO)