KSL sprang to life in a sleepy little fishing village in 2012.
Actually, there had been a blog for a year or so prior to this, but the business we know and love today was started 10 years ago this month.
It seems crazy to write this: KSL is celebrating its 10-year anniversary.
Conceived in Kalpitiya
Right at the beginning of our story, Dil discovered kitesurfing in his student years having been introduced by Previne & Sylvia. Soon after, Dil started a blog to document his passion for the sport. Leo was researching kitesurfing in Sri Lanka at the time and stumbled upon Dil’s blog on kitesurfing in Sri Lanka. So, Leo decided to email Dil. Not long after that, they did a kite trip together in Kalpitiya, back when Kalpitiya was just starting to develop.
Let’s do it!
The start of the most EPIC Kiting Company in the World.
Dil and Leo both loved Kitesurfing and it was as if all forces of the universe teamed up to bring them together – through a blog, an email, a kite trip and then a friendship which ultimately got them started on this incredible journey and led to the establishment of an epic kiting company in Sri Lanka.
It’s been 10 years since KSL first rented a hotel for the kitesurfing season back in 2012. The initial plan was to rent hotel spaces only during the kitesurfing season, hoping to fill at least 10-12 occupants in our first year. After visiting a few hotels, Dil and Leo settled on one hotel that fulfilled our requirements. The first few guests to visit had a great time, they took pictures, shared their experience with others, and that truly was the point of origin for KSL.
Our own little slice of paradise.
Little did we know about our future success in the first year of operation, but our landlord saw the growth potential of our business and hiked up the hotel rental payments in the second year. We had to agree to the new terms because we had no other options.
Purely by chance, we came upon a property that was up for sale, a coconut oasis with a spectacular view of the lagoon. Suddenly it dawned on us – this land is the perfect home for KSL. A blank canvas on which we will paint our passion for kitesurfing, nature and our community; a place that will one day reflect our hard work and dedication; a place that will be our very own little slice of paradise in Kalpitiya.
Soon we put aside our comfort and got to work. We used what little money we had after purchasing the land and also used our personal items, equipment and tools to build KSL. The initial structures that were built on the property included the restaurant area, part of the kitchen, 4 rooms, and the rest were camping tents.
Rise and fall of Vayu
After the civil war ended in 2009, every kite surfer was on a mission to be the first kiter in different locations in Sri Lanka. Mannar is home to several attractions and incredible kitesurfing spots. As a kiter, Dil explored several kiting spots including the famous Adam’s Bridge and soon came to love Mannar. He knew that there was so much potential in this area but not until 2016 when KSL decided to expand their operations, Dil started looking into the possibility of opening Vayu in Manner. As luck would have it, KSL came across a property owned by a company that was interested in partnering up with KSL. Dil could still recall the words uttered by them when signing the contract “this is the first time we are doing business with a young boy like you (Dil) and a rastha boy like Leo ”.
The hopes and dreams we had for Vayu were curtailed by the ever present and intrusive bureaucracy, red tape and local government regulations. This stress on Vayu made it extremely challenging to remain profitable. Not long after, COVID-19 came along and pushed us into deeper waters. While we struggled to keep Vayu afloat, Dil and Leo ultimately realized that they had to let go of Vayu to keep Kalpitiya alive or risk losing both camps. Thus, ended the short-lived chapter of Vayu in Mannar. It was one of the toughest and most painful decisions KSL ever had to make.
Resilient we stay
Looking back at our journey, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. When Dil and Leo started KSL, they had no experience in tourism, they had to start from scratch. In fact, this fraction of the tourism industry did not even exist at that point in time. Although they had a working knowledge of running a business, they were not prepared for the struggles of a start-up company.
In the beginning, Kitesurfing in rural Kalpitiya was unheard of, the local fishermen community was against us operating in their coastal region. After numerous exchanges with them, KSL was able to work out a win-win situation with them. To this day, we work with the local fishing community who offer their boats for kite trips and rescue. We make monthly contributions to the society trust fund and also support the local fishermen on our kite beach. All our seafood is purchased locally, seasonal fruits and vegetables are incorporated in our buffet/meals/bar (Juice/cocktails).
Climate change has always been and still is one of our biggest fears. Dil recalled “we have seen a few cyclones come our way. Once we experienced a storm that flooded our entire camp. We were clinging to the hope that we would live to kite another day. Hope prevailed and we did survive! Although the clean-up efforts were exhausting”.
We have indeed gone through many entrepreneurial challenges over the years; corruption, policy challenges, theft, and dealing in bad faith, to mention a few. And not too long ago, the devastating COVID-19. Such challenges not only drained us financially; it tested our limits mentally and emotionally as well. There were times we did not see the light at the end of the tunnel, yet we were still able to stay positive and keep a smile on our face. We strongly believe it is the resilience of the people of KSL that has brought us this far!
Major Milestones achieved and people to thank
We take great pride in all the milestones we have achieved along the way. KSL turned a sleepy little fishing village into a world renowned kitesurfing destination. We have been instrumental in forming the Kalpitiya Peninsula Tourism Association, rebuilding the local community, providing employment, helping set up many local service providers and startup businesses, hosting numerous national and international tournaments and events. We are proud to say that we have made a real impact in transforming Kalpitiya into a hub for specialty tourism in Sri Lanka.
Our gratitude goes to Dil and Leo for being the cornerstones of this entire community. Dil and Leo also acknowledge each other for believing in one another, the friendship and trust they share, and also never giving up on each other or their dreams. This journey would not have been possible without the dedicated support of Dil and Leo’s immediate family and friends. We also thank as best as we are able: our guests (later turned family) of many years who come to KSL every year as pilgrimage, the entire KSL staff and the people of Kalpitiya for being part of this 10-year long journey.
Future of KSL
Dil and Leo are in that period of life where they want to take a step back and enjoy what they have created. They are looking forward to empowering and molding the next generation to take over KSL.
We are also excited to announce our upcoming addition to KSL such as the café, swimming pool, and a community skateboard ramp. KSL is and always will be dedicated towards building a community to teach life skills, knowledge, and serving the underprivileged community.
While Leo is thrilled about taking over the role of fatherhood, Dil is excited about spending his time learning new sports and exploring his artistic expression. The KSL family is proud of what we have achieved and we attribute this success to the heart, soul, labor and relentless passion every single one of us have put into this project.
Cheers to the last 10 years, on to the next 10!