In Kota Kinabalu, what began as a challenge resulted in five friends standup paddling for 2 days to promote sustainable watersports activities and marine wildlife conservation. Standup paddleboarding uses paddles to propel the rider through the water.
Supported by Sabah Tourism Board, the Paddle For Turtle event started from the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort and ended at the Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort, covering 35 kilometers of coastline. The paddleboarders made their way to Pulau Sepanggar and Pulau Gaya, where they spent some time teaching the islanders how to paddleboard. They also talked about the importance of marine protection.
One of the paddlers, Mitch Cini, says they started the awareness campaign to get people interested in sustainable watersports and to raise funds for the nonprofit Marine Research Foundation’s turtle conservation project.
“The watersports activity in Sabah is transitioning at the moment,” says Mitch, an Australian residing in Sabah and founder of Waterfly Borneo, a watersports activity center in Kota Kinabalu. “Now we are moving towards a more sustainable activity that does not have a significant impact on the environment.”
Sustainable watersports, such as paddleboarding and e-foiling, are expected to replace jet skiing, kitesurfing, and windsurfing, among others. E-foiling uses an electric surfboard that lets the rider “fly” over water.
Mitch says these alternative activities have seen a surge in popularity in the last 3 years, not only among tourists. People have taken them up for recreation and as part of their fitness regimen.
Meanwhile, Sabah Tourism chief executive officer Noredah Othman says Sabah has a strong marine protection program, which benefits tourism and allows tourists to participate in conservation efforts.
“It is essential for us to promote products or activities that enhance the experience of tourists visiting Sabah,” she says. “Sabah has the most beautiful ocean, beaches, and islands. It is our goal to further promote the state watersports activities to visitors while encouraging them to conserve the marine environment.”