The images of the Asian Tsunami which appeared on TV screens around the world on boxing day 2004 shocked all that saw them. Stories of heroism and tragedy followed and many still recall the images and have experiences of friends and family that were caught up in the disaster. Greater still was the impact on those who lived in the effected areas whose largely poorly built houses and ramshackle huts where swept aside by the wall of water. Pretty much all lost family and friends in these tightly close knit coastal communities.
The UK surfing community reacted quickly and decisively banding together to raise money to try and help those in areas that many had visited on surfing trips. Surf Relief was quickly formed to help co-ordinate the efforts. The Surfing destination of Arugam Bay on the East Coast of Sri Lanka was chosen as the beneficiary of the
money raised. This area was badly effected,
is isolated and had been visited by many UK surfers including those competing in the UK
Pro Surfing Tour – who had run an event just
six months before the disaster.
As a result of these efforts Surf Relief built 8 houses, employed 10 teachers and supported
a range of small projects including well reconstruction and the rebuilding of an orphanage. Dave Manley chair of the charity has just returned from Sri Lanka, the first time since his initial visit 6 weeks after the wave hit, to follow up on projects and to investigate opportunities to support the surfing community in the Bay.
Working together we hope to get more Sri Lankans surfing and raise their skill levels.
At the same time we would like to support the sustainable growth of tourism in the area of which surfing is an integral element. In Sri Lanka I talked to local surfers, community leaders and officials and we are hopeful that a surfing facility can be built with our help that will achieve these objectives.