Upul,a sportsman an entrepreneur | Sunday Observer

Upul,a sportsman an entrepreneur

12 July, 2020

“In my childhood, I was awakened by the constant  sound  of the ocean. I could  hear the sea eagles  calling  and  see them flying gracefully. I watched  the  clouds  sailing and waves  topped with milky foam kissing the shore.     The boats   which had left the previous night to harvest fish  are  returning  home.  These were the daily features in my life. I think  of the waves as a girl for  sometimes I can hear  them  as a sweet laugh, another time like a whisper or a chuckle. It is  a lovely environment too. I am lucky to grow up close to the ocean and my life has been intertwined with the ocean.  My whole life has been based on the ocean.

The ocean has been a blessing in disguise in  my whole life,” said Upul de Silva, a  entrepreneur in the  tourist trade and a dual  citizen  of  Sri Lanka and Austria.

The Youth Observer  met Upul  to talk about his involvement  in  tourism and sports.  “My family and I stayed  in Austria during  the pandemic. Austria  has also re-opened the country and   daily life goes on  with a focus on health guidelines,”   de Silva  said. “I  was born in Bentara and spent most of my childhood on the seashore.

I used to see foreigners spend half  the day surfing. At that time I did  not know the rules of the sport.  However, I loved to watch it but we did not  have any equipment to try it out.

During this  time, one of my cousins had  been involved  in  wind surfing and  he and his friends used to practise in the evenings. I  watched them   a great deal. One day, I  got  a chance to try it out. But it was  not easy  at the beginning  and  the first time I attempted it I fell down and  slipped on the waves.  I did  not know how to handle the wind surfing board correctly.

My cousin taught  me how to   control it.  I like to introduce myself as a  wind surfer who has self-studied. I gained  the knowledge watching others train. One day, a foreigner who lived close  to our home asked  me if I  would like to surf. I agreed  and he rented wind surfing equipment to  me. It was a precious moment and the beginning of a new life,” he reminisced. “I am talking about 1997.

It was the beginning of my career  as a wind surfer  on the  Bentota River,” Upul added. “It is a well-known saying as well as the truth of my life that  a journey of thousands of miles begins with a single step. From then on I kept on going forward,”  Upul told  the Youth Observer. He was crowned National Champion in 1999 and proved his  natural  talent for the sport.

It also marked the beginning of  an 11-year  reign as National Champion and  participation at overseas events too.”

“In 2003, I travelled to Germany and attend a workshop  for wind surfing instructors. I completed it successfully and worked abroad and participated in  several international competitions.  I  was once  placed seventh at a World Championship competition. It was the highest  position I ever reached at a World Championship,” Upul said happily. 

During this time he was working as an instructor in  an Austrian Wind Surfing School. “I had a dream to start a  surfing school with the latest equipment. My instinct told  me  it was the   right time to start one.  

The owner of  the Austrian wind surfing school proposed  that I  become  a shareholder and I was impressed  by that request.  I could not believe it. I  accepted it. It was another turning point in my life.”

 Continuing Upul de Silva said,  “After I became a shareholder in the  Austrian surfing school I had a chance to visit Kalpitiya. During that trip I saw the best lagoon in the area for wind surfing.

The lagoon was  not too deep and had strong wind.  From my experience I  realised the value of this area. I dreamt  of starting a  surfing school  in  Kalpitiya one day. During that time there was terrorist activity in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.  I  returned to Austria and  came back  after  the war against terrorism ended.

Then, I decided to buy a land in  Kalpitiya and build a resort and surfing school there. Some of my relations and friends asked me whether  I knew what I was doing.  They   did not see Kalpitiya as  a tourist destination and the reasons why I bought and developed a land there. People laughed at me but  I trusted my instincts completely. I also launched kite surfing events for the first time. 

I also dreamed of launching a surfing school there and I did  it. Then I  wrote about Kalpitiya and focused the attention of tourists on the area too. As a person living and working in  an European country I had to work hard to popularise the Kalpitiya lagoon among  people who love surfing.  The videos and write-ups  by  people who travelled to Kalpitiya made the lagoon famous internationally. During the pre-Covid period I was able to provide hospitality services to around seven hundred foreigners annually.

They visit Kalpitiya during May– September and December–February seasons. During this period several foreigners and local investors were making investments in Kalpitiya. “I am very proud of my decision to introduce Kalpitiya to the world and invest without fear. I have even won awards for it.’’

De Silva  won  the Sri Lankan tourism award  for  the ‘Best Water Sports Centre’ in 2018.

During this time several people worked in  his resort in Kalpitiya. “I was less than fifty years old when I achieved success in the world of tourism. Everyone  who heard my  success story said that it was  an unbelievable story. I too think so. Anyone who has a target to achieve can take my story  as  an example of  what  hard work can accomplish.

“I strongly believe in the famous proverb ‘You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.’ I too learnt to win in life by learning how to float on the waves. I believe that every person can find success at any time without any hesitation.

“Finally, I have to say something about our motherland. It can be named as a heaven in this world.

“It  has beautiful places such as lagoons and  highlands. We must protect  it and show  our heritage to the world. I did it and succeed,” he said.

He says in his web site: “When I was a poor young boy of 11, my dream  of   running  my own surf school one day was born. Today, I offer Sri Lankans  a good kite and windsurfing  school  and hope to awaken the love for water sports in my  guests.”

 In addition to being a  windsurfer, Upul de Silva is now a tourist entrepreneur too and has an advanced wind  surfing school. It sounds like a miracle, but it is the truth.