Saturday, 4 June 2011

Interview: Val and Didi Camara

PKA president Val Camara (in green)

Didi Camara
Years ago, couple Valentino (“Val”) and Andrea (“Didi”) Camara tried their hand at white water kayaking along the Chico River in Kalinga province.  This gave them, not only a dose of adrenaline rush, but also a deeper appreciation of the sport of kayaking as a business venture.  
Together, they set up Sun & Sea Sports Systems, Inc. (SSSI), now the foremost kayak manufacturer in the Philippines, producing tandem and single sit-on recreational kayaks using imported materials. The company is also one of the country’s pioneers in the kayaking sport and, the country being an archipelago with 7,107 islands (the largest archipelago in the world next to Indonesia), the possibilities for kayaking adventures are endless.  
Kayaking as a healthy lifestyle sport
In 1997, with their passion for this new-found sport, Val founded the Philippine Kayaking Association (PKA) to popularize kayaking in the country and, that same year, Val and Didi started off the Philippine Kayaking Series, paddling to touristic destinations such as Taal Lake, Balayan Bay, Ternate, Corregidor and Verde Island, among others. The series had a long hiatus in 2002 but, in 2007, they were able to encourage several enthusiasts, local government units and national government offices (Department of Tourism) to participate and promote the event.  Corporate groups (North Luzon Expressway, Cebu Pacific, etc.), the North Philippines Visitors Bureau, Philippine Convention and Visitors Corporation (PCVC),and media organizations have also helped.  

Kayaking also promotes environmental awareness
Now the longest running kayaking series in the country, these series of kayaking marathons takes designated routes such as the Hundred Islands in Pangasinan, the Cavite-Corregidor-Bataan tri-point course across the Manila Bay and the Cebu (Mactan)-Bohol (Panglao) channel cruise. Kayaking now supports the country's extensive tourism campaign that, the whole year through, showcases colorful and unique Filipino arts, culture and history to foreign as well as local visitors. Kayaking also promotes a healthy lifestyle, with Filipinos looking to the country’s 7,107 islands as well as its numerous beaches for physical fitness as well as fun, action and camaraderie.  The series also offers an activity mix (photography workshop and/or kayak photo safari, free kayaking clinics, opportunities for eco-tours, etc.) designed to cater to a wide range of audiences and exciting prizes such as kayaks, airline tickets, gift certificates, gift packs and trophies are awarded to two-man team winners in the long (25-32 kms.) and short (3-5 kms.) distance races.  
Aside from promoting the sport, sportsmanship, adventure travel and the country as a potential market for water sports, Val and Didi have also placed equal importance to environmental conservation awareness and local community participation. They always see to it that that an eco kayak tour is conducted whenever and wherever an event or two is held.  The couple also organizes side trips to places where participants can plant mangroves that save corals, fishes and other water creatures that depend on sea grass for food. Offering economic opportunities to local communities where the events are held, they also work with residents and leaders of the local government units to ensure that conservation concerns are considered.   
Sun & Sea Sports Systems, Inc. (SSSI): Tel: (632) 872-5478.  Mobile number: (0915) 435-9321.  E-mail:  Website:

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