More than a hundred Japanese surfers will gather on Sri Lanka’s golden beaches for the return of the Japan Pro Surfing Association’s (JPSA) exciting annual competition to the Indian Ocean island.
The roaring waves and palm-fringed beaches of the resort of Hikkaduwa will provide the ideal setting for JPSA Pro Surf 2010 from March 19-23, a joint effort of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and SriLankan Airlines.
The return of Japanese Pro Surf to the resort of Hikkaduwa after a five-year absence is a major milestone for Sri Lanka’s tourism industry, which has been enjoying an extraordinary period of growth over the last nine months. The Government of Sri Lanka has declared next year as ‘Visit Sri Lanka Year, 2011’.
Achala Jagoda, Minister of Tourism said: "The opportunity to host the prestigious JPSA competition in our tropical island is of great importance. Since May 2009, our country has been completely at peace and this would be an opportunity to rekindle tourists’ interest about the wonders of Sri Lanka. We have the ideal environment and the ability to encourage off-season travelers and sports enthusiasts to the country. So this event is the perfect opportunity for Sri Lanka to promote itself as a year-round tourist destination and spread the message of the peaceful condition that prevails."
The JPSA, Japan’s regulatory body for surfing which is a member of the global body Association of Surfing Professionals, had chosen the island for its premier event, starting in 2001. But after five highly successful years, the island’s civil war saw it being shifted elsewhere.
Nishantha Wickremasinghe, Chairman of SriLankan Airlines, said: "We are honoured that the JPSA has once again chosen Sri Lanka as the location for this fantastic event. Sri Lanka has long been a favourite destination of Japanese tourists and the number of tourists from Japan has been increasing rapidly following the dawn of peace nearly a year ago."
Sri Lanka has the distinction of being the only country outside Japan where JPSA ranking events are held and the island attracts more than 800 Japanese surfers annually, both to Hikkaduwa and to Arugam Bay on the southeast coast.
Eranga Basnayake, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority and the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, said: "The southwestern coast of Sri Lanka is exceptionally suited for surfing and the infrastructure is well suited to handle an event of this magnitude. Sri Lanka had already acquired a reputation as a good surfing destination and is probably the best in Asia."
This year’s competition promises to be intense, with eight world ranked surfers among the contestants battling it out for the Rs. 3 million in prize money and the SriLankan Airlines Cup, ranging from professionals to amateurs. The event will also see the participation of 15 international judges and the presence of a number of Japanese journalists to cover the action. There will also be a separate competition for Sri Lanka’s own surfing community.
SriLankan Airlines, which has a global network of 49 destinations in 32 countries, has three flights a week between Tokyo’s Narita Airport and Colombo on Airbus A340 aircraft.
Local ground handling arrangements are being coordinated by Sri Lanka Tourism.