Arugam Bay gears up for world title championship
By Cheranka Mendis
Sri Lanka’s very own world class surfing destination, Arugam Bay, will welcome 96 world class surfers from 19 countries in what is known to be the world’s first combined competition for the ASP 6-star women’s event and the ASP men’s World Longboard Title (WLT) later this month.
Titled ‘SriLankan Airlines Pro 2011,’ the surfing contest is organised by SriLankan Airlines in association with Australasia’s Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) and will hit the Arugam Bay waves from 30 August to 4 September.
Known to be the second ASP event to be held in Sri Lanka, the competition will run on an operational cost of Rs. 30 million. During the contest professional surfers will chase ASP star points and a prize pool of US$ 145,000.
Announcing the event, ASP Australasia General Manager Dane Jordan stated that event had moved up a notch from last year’s qualifying event to a world title event this year. “ASPN has qualifying events and world title events. What Sri Lanka saw last year was a qualifying event. The country has moved from tier two to tier one in this regard,” Jordan said.
With the twin events, men’s WLT and Women’s 6-star world tour, SriLankan Airlines Pro has attracted 32 world champions along with other high flying professional surfers.
Among the champions that will hit the waves this year are men’s longboard champions Duane Desoto (2010), Bonga Perkins (2008), Josh Constable (2006), Phil Rajzman (2007 and Harley Ingleby (2009 world Champion).
From the women’s short board side confirmed participants include three members of the current women’s top title race- Alana Blanchard, Courtney Conlogue and Bruna Schmitz as well as ASP World Junior champion Aliza Arnaud (2010) and Pauline Ado (2009.) In total 60 top women surfers will attend the event. “Arugam Bay is such a great wave for both competitors and spectators. Last year the men (6-star event) scored almost perfect waves every day and now it’s the women’s and longboarders’ turn,” Jordan said. “Sri Lanka is an exotic location for surfers and to have a world title event at Arugam Bay is great for the sport worldwide as well as the country.”
Local surfers will win an opportunity obtain a wildcard entry after ASP assisted trials. Jordan also affirmed that an international coaching programme for chosen surfers would be conducted simultaneously to improve the training and skill level of local surfers.
“We want to improve surfing and as far as Sri Lanka goes they are only now starting to see the opportunity and skill for the sport,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to see more than one professional surfer from Sri Lanka at future events.”
Chairman of SriLankan Airlines Nishantha Wickremasinghe also at the event stated that the airline took pride in bringing down world class sports such as ‘SriLankan Airlines Pro 2011,’ which would place Sri Lanka firmly on the world’s surfing map.
“There will be surfers from Australia, USA, Germany, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, UK, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, Brazil and many other countries,” Wickremasinghe said. “Sri Lanka is now established as a tourist destination with best wind surfing conditions with high performing winds. The exposure the country will receive by hosting such an event has long term effects to the economy.”
He noted that apart from the professional surfing, the event will hold attractions for the community and guests through other activities. Kite flying competitions, sand castle competition, elephant rides, beach volleyball and beach rugby have been planned out for the morning while entertainment and firework displays have been designed for the night. “The beach is going to be busy. Arugam Bay will be lit up like a jewel.”
The official ‘SriLankan Airlines Pro 2011’ t-shirt was also launched at the announcement. The white t-shirt features a print of the event logo on front.