Red tape delays surf boards for Sri Lanka

A SHIPMENT of surfboards, taken to Sri Lanka by a Braunton charity, has been held up by the country’s government.

The surfboards, the result of a fundraising campaign in North Devon, were sent in February but they have still not got through Sri Lankan customs.

Paddle for Relief (P4R) was set up following the Indonesian tsunami in 2004, in the hope that boosting Sri Lanka’s surfing industry would provide a natural source of self-sufficiency, in turn helping the country to recover quicker.

During the last six years founder, Tim Tanton, has endeavoured to work with the island’s surfing community to create surf clubs around the coast encouraging tourism and local surfers onto the international stage.

Tim, from Braunton, has been on the island for the past six weeks.

He explained he was misinformed by the country’s government as to the best route for getting the surfboards into the country.

He said: “I was advised before I sent the shipment that the quickest way was to put the address of the surf club rather than individuals.

“It now transpires that because the club is not VAT registered it would have been better to send them to individuals.”

Mr Tanton went on to explain the costs that had been incurred: “So far £3,000 has been spent and now I am putting an extra £400 in, with the hope this will get the shipment out of the port.

“If I hadn’t done that, the club members of Arugam Bay Surf Club could not afford to get them out of detention.”

The shipment of 36 boxes weighing 310 kg, has also been supported by Surf Relief UK and Christian Surfers UK.

Mr Tanton said the most frustrating thing for those involved was that the boards could be in use already if the authorities had given the correct information.

He said: “This has caused us to lose a lot in our battle to boost the country’s surfing industry.

“The red tape has become more prevalent in recent years and there is no recognition by the authorities over here of the benefits this shipment will have to young people in Sri Lanka and to Sri Lanka as a whole.”

Dilsiri Welikala, a Sri Lankan who is forming the West Coast Surf Club, has also been attempting to release the surfboards.

He said: “It was certainly the saddest day of my life to see a dream being shattered, but rules are rules I am sure.

“I don’t know the outcome. I hope someone would see that our intention is genuine, it will cost an average local one month’s salary to release the boards.”

Tim and his team are currently trying to establish how to register the club but in the meantime the boards, which so many people in North Devon helped to fund, are still waiting to be released.

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