This September, the Boardsox crew headed to Sri Lanka with a mixed bag of expectations. We had heard stories of weeks-on-end flat spells and being skunked, but also of barreling right had point breaks longer than your mums dirty laundry pile. Of course we’d also heard of more Israeli surfers dropping in on you than you’ve had hot meals.
Well we can say we pretty much got all of that and more. We did have flat spells, and in A-bay when there's no surf there isn’t much to do, besides drink or go on a safari. We did both of these and they didn’t disappoint. The flat spells were worth it though, as when the swell did come the right hand point breaks lit up. There are so many of them around, and they are all worth exploring in there own unique ways. Some are mechanical barrels, others allow 600 meter long rides, and some are perfect for refining your round-house cutback that your local beachie just doesn't facilitate. All these waves are accessible with an open mind and a motorbike with racks, or a cheapish Tuk Tuk ride.
Some other major perks compared to surf destinations such as Indonesia? It seemed to be a lot more safe in terms of leaving things on the beach, and less petty crime. We did hear a couple of other stories... but they usually happened late at night while people were partying and leaving possessions unattended. Safeness and comfort can be a different story for girls though, and especially girls travelling alone. It is primarily a muslim culture and walking around in a bikini on the street can (unfortunately) attract stares and worse. So ladies, keep that in mind, try to stick to spots you know are safe, and don’t walk home alone at night through dark streets.
Besides that one negative aspect, Sri Lankan people on the whole are amazing and super friendly. The laid-back vibe is infectious and you won’t be haggled or bartered anything like you get in Bali. If you’re a foodie or vegetarian this place is very for you. Street food can include delights such as Roti, Kottu (roti chopped into a stir fry), and of course rice and curry (you have to try Mamas curry buffet if you’re in A-bay for about $4 Australian). It is highly likely you will come back with a pretty strong Roti addiction, whether that be sweet, savoury or both.
As for the secrecy of the place, the word is definitely out. If you stay out or watch long enough you will see a bunch of prime kook slams, collisions and surf rage. There were several surf rage incidences while we were there, mainly between locals and Israelis due to poor knowledge of surf etiquette. We did see a punch or two unfortunately, which was kind of heavy. The locals definitely take priority here, so drop in on them at your own peril.
A couple of waves in the area have been compared to The Pass in Byron, and the crowds can even be worse, which is saying something. To avoid these problems get out and explore, or get up early as humanly possible. There are still be a bunch of secret spots that haven’t even been surfed around there, and through the national park.
There are a few things to do when its Flat, and going on safari is probably the first point of call. It’s pretty touristy, but the wildlife around Sri Lanka is wild and definitely makes for some flat day fun. You book through a company or hire a Tuk Tuk for a cheaper experience. Alternatively just get a bike and see what you find, Elephants tend to hang out on roads as people often feed them and they love that easy food. You are pretty certain to see elephants, water buffalo, monkeys, wild boars and a whole bunch more. Just be careful, if you tease the monkeys with food they will jump into your car.
The night time in Aurguam bay is pretty fun, but gets old quickly. You are better off hitting the bars and socialising than searching for big nights out on the town. We usually skipped big nights to wake up early to try and beat the impending crowds. The 2 for 1 cocktail special at hideaway from 6-8 is a must though, great layout, music and vibes.
If it goes flat, or you pick up a nasty reef cut that won’t heal (infections are hard to avoid in Sri Lanka), then heading south is your best option. The south coast is far different to the East Coast, the landscape is much more lush and if offers a vast array of more things to do. There is also more options for nightlife and better options for drinking and sunset beers, like the Doctors House and Hangtime Hostel.
We stayed at Hangtime hostel, ran by two Aussie legends Nick and Nile who have really nailed the atmosphere and layout. They do great food, have yoga, beer pong tournaments and will point you in in the direction for the best surf and when it will be on. From there you can day trip to a number of cool surrounding places. We hit up a few secret beaches and also Galle, a european-esque town in the middle of Sri Lanka. The beaches down south are more beach break suited which thins the crowds, but we’ve also been told about some novelty wedges and barreling mini slabs, you just gotta pick your time and place.
Overall Sri Lanka is a mixed bag in terms of a surfing destination. Its certainly not Indonesia but it definitely is a paradise. The culture is epic and so are the food and people. Definitely worth a try, just pray for swell and not copping a soft top to the head from your new Israeli or European mates.