The wind is my winning power - Surfer Upul de Silva | Sunday Observer

The wind is my winning power - Surfer Upul de Silva

16 January, 2022

Developing approach road to Kalpitiya lagoon an urgent need Winding surfing cannot be developed without the support of Government officials and provincial politicians Upul de Silva is well-known in surfing circles in the country. He is a former national champion and has represented the country at several international tournaments.

He later went to Austria and partnered with another to set up a windsurfing business. After terrorism ended in Sri Lanka he came back and launched a kite surfing training school and resort.

The ‘Youth Observer’ met him at Kalpitiya de Silva resort and discussed the challenges as an entrepreneur of a sports based business.

Q: Hi, tamer of the wind, what are you doing these days?

A: Ha, ha. That is a good introduction. These days I am at the Kalpitiya, De Silva resort and involved with foreigners in my kitesurfing resort school.

Q: Has not Covid affected your resort and the surfing school?

A: I too faced that devastation. But, we survived it. In the early days of the Covid pandemic I was in Austria. I had pumped money for my business and faced this crisis. After the crisis settled, I came back to the surfing school and holiday resort. During the hard times, I was always with my hotel staff. I paid them their wages. During the Covid pandemic some of our foreign customers came to the resort. I think it was due to our good reputation and our hospitality.

Q: How did you build up that reputation? What is the secret behind the success of your school and resort?

A: I am a former wind surfing champion. Although, as an instructor I am well-known in Austria. Most Europeans, especially Austrians and Germans, commend me. That is the main secret behind me and we are always changing the environment of the resort and introducing new equipment to the school. In Austria, the people know me as a good instructor. That also helped to develop our resort.

Q: Are only foreigners eligible to enter your resort and surfing school?

A: I wish to explain that. The local people who have enough money and love to learn surfing can come and follow our course. But normally we do not allow local travellers to our resorts. This is one of the policies of our business. Local travellers have enough hotels to go to which are cheaper than us. On the other hand, most of them are trouble makers. That is the main reason we do not allow locals into our resort.

Q: Some of the foreigners also tell us that your hotel charges are very high. What is the reason for it?

A: Maybe it is high. But, you know, our facilities and hospitality is at a higher level than most of the other resorts. Anyone who comes to our resort will change their minds with regard to cost when they experience our hospitality. Generally most of our guests return annually as a habit.

Q: You say that very proudly. But it is difficult to believe it. The road to your resort is in a bad state. So how can you say that your resort is in a very attractive place in Kalpitiya?

A: Well, yes, the approach road is in a bad state. Heavy vehicles transporting goods to a construction site close to the lagoon have damaged the road. We have complained to the authorities. However, they have not taken any action. They are not concerned about it. Although we are helping to bring in foreign exchange to the country, officialdom cares two hoots about it.

Q: That means people like you who help to bring in foreign exchange have to face many problems in Kalpitiya?

A: Yes. We need to solve many problems. As a registered entrepreneur the Government monitors our activities very closely. That is not a problem. We always follow the legal path. But there are many people running unregistered kite surfing schools in Kalpitiya. We are against them. They ask us why we oppose them.

They do not pay taxes to the government. Foreigners who come here on tourist visas are running these organisations. But Sri Lanka Tourism and the Provincial Council authorities are the least bothered about it.

Q: What do you suggest to solve this problem?

A: These illegal activities are destroying our tourist tradition. Without a properly registered institute kitesurfing may be a risky sport. If a tourist were to die or get injured during kitesurfing training it will reflect badly on the country’s tourist sector.

The Government is also losing revenue through these unregistered institutes and I am sick and tired of complaining to the Government authorities.

Q: You could try complaining to the Sports Minister. He may take up the matter.

A: I will try to do so.

Q: Do you believe that we can succeed in building a sports economy in our country?

A: Of course. We can definitely achieve it. But we need to have more facilities. We are not asking for money. We only ask for the infrastructure for the sports economy to be set up and we can build it up gradually.