Priyal Madushanka Kirimage was already an expert surfer and a certified lifeguard when he met Akhila Goonetilleke in 2009. They met while taking CIMA lessons together and became the best of friends.
Priyal was originally from Madiha, a coastal village situated fifteen minutes away from Weligama - a well known surf spot among the locals and the tourists.
“I use to take Akhila to Madiha and teach him to surf. We use to go there and really have a good time,” recalls the now 21-year-old CIMA qualified Priyal. The duo with their understanding of economics and corporate enterprising decided to make the best of their surfing experience and became partners in a exciting venture and the Shaka Sign Surf was born.
|Surfers Priyal and Akhila are among the first to establish a professional surfing camp in Sri Lanka and talk to the Mirror about plans on developing it into a global training centre.
The Shaka Sign Surf established on January 3, 2011 is a surfer training camp, based in Madiha founded with the idea of teaching those who love aquatic sports how to surf. “Our surf camp concept is designed to give you the total experience of learning how to surf, from waking up in a beach cabana, packing the surf boards on purpose made tuktuks and then going to the beach break in Weligama to just surf, surf and surf,” says the partners of Shaka Sign Surf.
The name of the company is derived from Hawaiian lingo of a hand gesture that originally meant “Surf’s Up”. Today the Shaka Sign is used by all surfers as a symbol of identity and has inspired Priyal and Akhila in their work. The gesture is made by folding the hand and extending only the thumb and the little finger, represents the surfing community.
Akhila Goonetilleke (20) who is in the final stages of completing his CIMA education discusses the growth and establishment of the sand and sea culture in Sri Lanka and its effects on the surfing industry. He believes that a surfing hype is splashing across Sri Lanka. “Surfing is becoming a trend of the sand and sea culture here because Sri Lanka is a major tourist destination it’s popular among tourists and beach activities associated with it. So surfing is easily incorporated into this culture and has now become a part of it. The ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) world tour was held recently held at Arugambay.
That means we are becoming an accepted location for professional surfing and so there is a boost in the industry. Our role in this is to create surfers that can compete in the International Level and take Sri Lankan surfing to the world.”
Priyal is the chief trainer at the camp and works with four other trainers who are all registered members of the Madiha Surf Club. When asked if there were any requirements for enrolment at the camps he said that the campers should have experience swimming in the sea and the recommended age is 16 years and above.
“But we take in kids of about 12 or 14 depending on how well they handle the waves,” adds Priyal. “It all depends on how well you can swim in the sea. The sea at Weligama is safe. You can walk miles into the ocean and the water doesn’t rise above your head. So the line up is easy to get to. Another great thing about the Weligama sea is that it falls within both seasons of the South and East and [so] is available for aquatic sports throughout the year”.
To join the Shaka Sign Surf’s surfing camps one must first call or email and schedule a surf training program that is suitable. Each session is four hours and comprises of a dry and wet session. The dry session includes training in safety, early balancing and paddling techniques. The wet session utilizes the skills learnt during the dry session and works to perfect them. There are three levels of surfing that could be reached as a long term training goal. “The Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced levels,” explains Akhila. “The beginner level is pure basics. At the intermediate level we teach wave theory and the rise and fall of it and go into a lot more detailed techniques. Advanced surfers have to master at least three years of training experiences. Customize sessions could be scheduled for surfers depending on their level of surfing. It could be one day or a couple of months, more or less depending on the surfer’s ability”.
Priyal and Akhila are among the first to establish a professional surfing camp in Sri Lanka. They have plans of developing their venture and taking it further to make it a global training centre. “This is our initial step” the founders told the Mirror Magazine. “From where we started nine months back we have come a long way and the response has been huge. It’s really catching up and that is great. We are planning on getting more trainers and developing our camp. The next step for us is a surfing retreat. Our customer base for now, are mostly Europeans and foreigners. But we want to expand the market and reach the local community. Surfing should definitely be a passion. You need to really want to do it. It is that ‘want’ that Sri Lanka lacked earlier. But we are getting there.”
For more information on the ‘Shaka Sign Surf’ surfing camps please visit www.shakasignsurf.com