Participants at the India Surf Festival on Ramachandi beach near Konark. Telegraph picture
Bhubaneswar, Feb. 15: The Naveen Patnaik government is all set to take a plunge to promote water sports on beaches in the state.
The huge footfall at the annual India Surf Festival, which began at the Ramachandi beach in Konark on Friday, has prompted the tourism department to explore possibilities in water sports.
Though the Ramachandi beach has become a major centre for water sports, the government is planning to have in place facilities for adventure sports enthusiasts at the Goplapur beach round the year.
The Ramachandi beach became a major water sports hub with Sanjay Samantray taking the initiative to organise the India Surf Festival since 2011.
“We knew that the waves here are just perfect for stand-up paddling and wind surfing. We wish to make Odisha the top surfing destination of the country,” said Samantray. The event includes long board skating and kayaking, too.
Also, three years ago, Sabir Baksh, well-known Odia diver, set up his Kalinga Divers Foundation on the same beach. It provides training to cadets of the National Disaster Response Force as well as sportspersons, who pursue wind surfing.
“This region has so much potential, but it has hardly been explored. Water sports need high waves and good winds, too. But, some activities need a calmer sea. Our beaches are really made for this since they are not rocky like those on the Arabian Sea-side,” said Baksh.
“However, after we started this training centre here, there has been great response from tourists and adventure lovers as well as central government and state government units to train in diving and other sea related activities. We hope that the tourism department develops this area, and if highlighted the right way, it can become a top destination in the country,” he said.
Efforts of Samantray and Baksh have started paying off as the administration is now ready to plan water sport facilities on these beaches.
Tourism and culture department secretary Arabinda Padhee, who was present at the inauguration of the India Surf Festival, has promised support to the hosts in organising the festival.
“Surfing can really pull tourists to our beaches. We will definitely provide the team of the surf festival with every possible support for the event. Also, we are planning to come up with some interesting projects for water sports along this part of the state’s coastline. Some more beaches have been identified for promoting water sports, and various initiatives, along with inputs from Sabir Baksh, are also in the pipeline,” said Padhee.
In another positive development, Baksh, with the support of the Ganjam district administration, hosted a daylong event last week that offered a wide range of water sport activities on the Gopalpur beach. The activities included speed boating, kayaking, yacht riding, paddle boating and wind surfing.
“The event received great boost from the district administration and officials of the Gopalpur notified area council. They have encouraged the event and suggested me to come up with some ideas to organise these events more often at this beach,” said Baksh.
Krishan Kumar, who was the district collector of Ganjam till yesterday, said there were indeed plans to introduce these activities as regular sporting options for tourists as well as local people of the district.
“We have already identified a space for the same. The only issue is finding a developer for the facilities. We do not have many developers for water sport infrastructure in the state,” he said.
Executive officer of the Gopalpur notified area council Ramachandra Mishra said that at least paddle boats might be introduced immediately, but the rest of the development would probably be taken up only once the pending children’s park project along the beach was complete.