Talalla Surf Camp, Sri Lanka
An affordable 6-night surf and yoga retreat in South Sri Lanka
Best for surfers that want a chilled vibe, to learn or progress quickly, in soft, manageable waves & a lush tropical paradise. Use code SHARESTOKE10 for 10% off a Talalla Surf Camp.
Over the delights of my morning coffee in one of Arugam Bay’s trendy cafés, I sat with the barista soaking up my last day on the east coast. I was saying my goodbyes as I was off to Talalla Surf Camp on the south coast that afternoon. “You are so lucky” said the voice behind me. “Talalla retreat is paradise. They have all the best yoga teachers. You’re going to have the best time”. I turned to face the young man to thank him. Indeed, I was incredibly excited about my approaching stay at Talala Surf Camp, especially as good friend Sarah O’Brien had glowed about it in her Still Stoked article a few years prior, Why go surfing in Sri Lanka
Talalla Surf Camp is a special place. Everyone had been before & this time they brought their friends. I found myself dreaming up my own group to bring back!
Why go to a surf camp if you can already surf?
As an advanced surfer I repeatedly got asked why I was going to a surf camp. Surely I could just put one together by myself for half the price. Yes, I probably could have. But it would take time, contacts, being well versed in the local language, plus a lot of effort. Plus, the end product would be nowhere near the quality of a well-oiled surf camp like Talalla, so why bother? For me, having a dedicated surf coach for the week, being able to open up about my surfing insecurities, and having someone to answer my questions and iron out my bad habits, was invaluable. Doing all that with a group of motivated surfers, all there for the same reasons provided that extra energy and drive to succeed. I wish I had gone on a surf camp sooner. Now I know how Sarah who came to Talalla 3 years ago, got so good so quickly!
Talalla is pretty much paradise
Nestled in a tropical paradise adjacent to the beach of Talalla Bay, The Talalla Retreat grounds are a tropical oasis seeking solitude from the manic buses, tuk-tuks, and motos of Sri Lanka’s bustling south coast. With three yoga shalas, a pool, abundant buffet and restaurant, scattered hammocks connected by dots of stone walkways, and a spa with treatments at 1/3 of the price in Australia or the US, I was in paradise. My deluxe room, high up in the jungle canopy and open to the elements, afforded my some of the best nights sleep I’ve had in ages. My only regret was that I didn’t have enough time to enjoy it as I was always surfing or losing time in another area of their lush grounds. Every night I closed my eyes to the melody of frogs and geckos interspersed with short downfalls of rain, pattering my rooftop. Heaven.
Breaking down your surfing
Believe it or not, I have never seen myself surfing. There has been the occasional photo from beach folk on surf trips to El Salvador or The Maldives, but only at Talalla was I to have my first video analysis session. Every surf session a cameraman accompanied us to the beach and set up, long lens in hand, to capture our efforts. After a lunch (I ate fish tacos everyday #standard), we sat down in the yoga shala to go through each wave frame by frame. This is where the real value lied for each and every one of us. No matter what stage we were at with our surfing, our coach Tim (one of the founders of the Talalla surf camp), broke it down for us. The waves we were choosing, where we were looking, our foot positioning, shoulder alignment and rotation, weight distribution, the dynamics of the wave. You name it, Tim covered it. Relating it specifically to your own surf journey, and offering one or 2 things to work on in the next session. My understanding of the dynamics of surfing and the love for the pure stoke it gave all of us, increased with every wave I watched. Everyone in my group of 4 was ripping!
For me, seeing the yoga arranged around the surfing and not the otherway round, was a relief. That was one of my pre-conscieved judgements about a surf AND yoga camp.
Restorative yoga alongside surfing
Surfing 3-6 hours a day is my idea of a holiday. Balancing that with yoga and delicious food is all I ask for! Marley was our dedicated yoga teacher for the week, sandwiching an optional two classes a day either side of our surf sessions, and tailoring them to whatever we wanted. Her ability to read our bodies spoke to her incredible anatomical knowledge of our sore traps, delts and sternocleidomastoid muscles! Straps, bolters, blocks, blankets and even Sri Lankan local ayurvedic balms were laid out in preparation of our restorative yoga sessions. They were bliss!
Our bodies were crying out for long holds that allowed our fascia and tension to release. Made all the sweeter by lying in Shavasana just as the rain started to downpour and dance on the roof. For me, seeing the yoga arranged around the surfing and not the other way round was a relief as this was one of my pre-conceived judgments about a surf AND yoga camp. So beneficial to our bodies, mind, and wellbeing, there was no way you wanted to miss a yoga session unless that is, unless you went for an extra surf!
The fastest progression my surfing has ever seen
I hate my backhand. My friends call me ‘the left avoider’. I even went to Peru once to work on my backhand and I found the only right and stayed there! So it was uncanny to find out that most of the waves we would be surfing at that time of year were lefts! The universe has a good sense of humour.
Although I have a long way to go until I “snap like Tati” – It is so encouraging that this is even something that I’m working towards.
During our first surf I went for a couple of backhand snaps, totally expecting to kook it and bellyflop on my face. To my surprise, I managed to spray the back of the wave and link two turns (que?). I had NEVER done this before. EVER! So feeling a little chuffed and with a new found motivation, I kept going for it but something wasn’t quite working out. I kept getting hung up on the lip of the wave and losing my speed.
During our video analysis sessions, Tim showed me exactly what my leading shoulder should be doing and how to transfer my weight to my front foot (why I was getting hung up on the lip). “Go for it, try and get the board vertical“, he said. Vertical? Like Tatiana Weston-Webb? Yeah, nahhhh I can’t do that. But he reinforced my fear with positive reinforcement, “now is the time to try“. So try I did, taking onboard all of Tim’s tips, asking him for specifics in the water and psyching myself up myself as I raced along the wave.
Talalla was the catalyst I needed in my surfing. Never in my life would I have looked forward to surfing a left-breaking wave let alone enjoy it more than going right. But here I was fired-up on my new love, backed by a solid skill to rotate my shoulders and attack the lip… just like the commentators on the WSL talk about! Although I have a long way to go until I “snap like Tati” – It is so encouraging that this is even something that I’m working towards. Thanks Tim!
What you may sacrifice in wave quality going in the offseason (due to the mix of swells in the water), you gain in wave count.
Off-season vs. on-season Sri Lanka?
As Sarah noted in her previous article on surfing in Sri Lanka, everyone had harped on about Sri Lanka’s on and an offseason for surfing. Going by their words, in June on the south coast I would visiting during the off-season. ‘There would be no waves’, ‘it will be blown out and on-shore‘ was what everyone in Arugam Bay said to me. Well, the joke is on them as I left 60 grown men all fighting for a 2ft wave (literally dropping in on each other with super bad vibes), to surfing breaks all to ourselves. In the South, the wind was never an issue (compared to Arugam Bay where it blew me off rocks on surf checks!).
I asked Tim when he would recommend going to Talalla surf camp, he said they have consistent waves all year round but the main difference is that the so-called ‘off-season‘ (May-Oct) sees a mix of swells, that can be bigger and rawer, plus no crowds. It is also cheaper to do the camp and stay at Talalla retreat in the off-season.
In the on-season (Nov – Apr), the waves are cleaner but can be too small. There is better wind (direction) but it is also more expensive and the waves are crowded. By crowded he said maybe another 5 or so people in the water as there are more camps in the area. Tim has never called a surf lesson off in 4 years! My take is, what you may sacrifice in wave quality going in the offseason (the mix of swells can give the wave a bump surface), you gain in wave count.
It is interesting looking back to last week at the Talalla Surf Camp. By the time I had arrived at Talalla, I was a little jaded by my surfing experience in Sri Lanka. Purely because of the bad vibes and crowds I had experienced in Arugam Bay. I had pretty much written it off as a surf location that I would return to. My time at the Talalla Surf Camp and the south coast, totally changed my mind. Surfing waves all to ourselves, surrounded by lush palms and in the great company of the girls, our yoga teacher Marley and the surf instructors and coaches. It was just perfect. I was incredibly sad to leave.
Talalla Surf Camp offers four stages of surf progression with 1 being beginner and 4 being advanced – you take that level for the week. Their systematic approach to teaching surfing and graduating to the next stage is both motivating and an ideal way to learn and build your skills. The girls in my group began their surfing journey at stage one and had been back to complete the later stages. Most of their clients come back year-after-year, and that is a testament to how brilliant the camp is and quickly your surfing can progress. It is a special place, Talalla Surf Camp and the retreat. I found myself formulating groups of friends I wanted to bring back with me. When you find special places like that, you know you will be coming back.
Talalla Surf Camp runs 6-night packages from Sunday to Saturday.
Prices range from $1,400 – $2,658USD in high season (Nov – Apr) and $1,250 – $2,100USD in low season (May-Oct), depending if you take a dorm room or a sea view villa. There are 6 different room types to choose from – check them out here (I was in the first-floor deluxe room). The guys at Talalla have kindly offered Still Stoked readers 10% off your next surf camp with code SHARESTOKE10 – Thank you!
All prices include:
- 3 Delicious and Nutritious Meals Per Day
- Morning Vinyasa Yoga Classes
- Evening Restorative & Yin Classes
- Complimentary Access to 3 Yoga Shala Practice Areas
- Allocated Yoga Mat & Equipment for Personal Use
- ‘Yoga & Pranayama for Surfers’ Workshops
- ‘Yoga Nidra – Yoga for Relaxation’
- Daily In-Water Surf Coaching Sessions
- Daily Video Analysis & Surf Workshop Sessions
- Complimentary Access to all Surf Boards & SUP
- Complimentary Surfing Vest
- Access to Your Weekly Photo & Video Album Online
- 1 Complimentary 60 Minute Full Body Massage.
There is also an option to not do the yoga for a slightly cheaper rate. Remember to use code SHARESTOKE10 for 10% off!
Check out more information on the surf camp on their website, or contact them directly on +33659502574 to chat in person. You can watch all of the videos they make for the guest at the end of your week on their YouTube channel. There Instagram and Facebook is also worth a follow for a feed of photos from paradise.
Thank you so so much for hosting me on the Talalla Surf and Yoga Camp. It was an amazing experience that I fully immersed myself in, surrounded by wonderful people. I can’t wait to get back in that waves in Sydney and keep working on what you taught me!
Head image courtesy of Talalla Surf Camp.