Surfing in Sri Lanka
What to expect when you go surfing in Sri Lanka
Last year I went to Sri Lanka to surf with my best mate. Before we left, everybody teased us that due to it being off-season, we weren’t going to get waves. Well, you know what? They were wrong!
Sri Lanka does not have an offseason. Like most places, you just need to know where to go. If you have researched surfing in Sri Lanka you would have come across Arugam Bay on the East Coast which pumps May – September. Maybe even Hikkaduwa (South Coast), that comes alive November – April.
You will need to fly into the International airport of Colombo on the east coast of the island and make your way from there. Have a read of our Arugam Bay Surf Guide as it has some links to useful car share Facebook pages and advice on how to get to the different surf spots e.g. the train and which ticket to buy if you are traveling with surfboards.
Outside of these two well-known spots, you can still find waves in the ‘off-season’ as long as your travel plans are flexible and you’re willing to listen to local advice. In the time we were there (the apparent ‘off season‘), we found Sri Lanka to be one of the most reliable surf destinations in the Indian Ocean.
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Surf Camps in Sri Lanka
For our first week we went to the Talalla Retreat & Surf Camp on the south of the island, lined with palm-treed beaches, turquoise waters and warm local smiles. Our coaches were also our guides. They knew all the good spots and we scored absolutely amazing waves. If you’re after 6ft barreling, fast and shallow reef breaks then the south of Sri Lanka probably isn’t for you (stick to Arugam Bay).
The surf spots we visited ranged from mellow waves to empty reef breaks. Not once did we surf with more than three people. The waves were soft and provided heaps of face to play with, allowing us to focus on our maneuvers and progress our skills quickly.
Our coach Andy took us to a secret reef that he had found a few weeks before our arrival. We surfed it all to ourselves for hours! It was a perfect right-hander with a little barreling end section… unreal! Can you imagine seeing a set rolling in and not having to hustle or fight for it? So good.
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Check out our footage from Talalla Retreat & Surf Camp
Waves to speed your progression
Coming from Australia’s Gold Coast, where every day is a battle for waves, I have surfs where I sit out at Burleigh Point for an hour before I even catch one wave. I know that “one wave is all it takes” hence why I continue to surf there every morning, but Sri Lanka offers you a wave count to really progress your surfing.
In one week I learned to do a large backhand swooping turn that took me right back into the power source (the curl of the wave). I then learned to cut back again, ready to continue down the line. I even pulled into a few closeouts (I’m dreaming of getting barrelled… 2015 is the year it’s happening). I managed to also improve my pop up, occasionally still dragging my back knee, but that’s a work in progress. Can’t win em’ all!
Surfing in Sri Lanka & traveling the South
Now is the time to discover Sri Lanka before everyone else does…
I am actually worried about writing this article as Sri Lanka felt like our own private surf haven so I don’t wait to spoil that. With a 10 hour flight from Australia at around $1000 return (or cheaper), it is unbelievably affordable. We found the locals to be friendly and were not trying to barter or have you buy things from them all the time.
Our second week was spent in Hikkaduwa, getting a more cultural experience as well as hunting waves. We visited the Tsunami museum (Sri Lanka was devastated by the 2004 Tsunami), and spoke to a local lady who told us her experience of the tragedy. It really was heartbreaking to hear what they saw and the aftermath that followed. Not only did the waves destroy the coastline and kill over 30,000 people, it took over 2 years to recover and the communities are still rebuilding to this day. This experience was something I cannot quite explain. Something you would have to see for yourself.
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I was worried about finding surf spots in Hikkaduwa without our coaches from the camp to show us the way. Nothing to worry about though, we found banks all up and down the coast! Tourists will tell you to go to the Main Point in Hikkaduwa. We had a look and saw about 10 people in the lineup. I’ll take 100 on the Goldie but more than 3 in Sri Lanka no chance! Especially when just a little further up the coast, about a 10-minute walk to the front of Hikkaduwa Beach House, was an empty lefthand reef break.
In my opinion, this little left took trumps over Main Point. Every morning I would surf this reef on my own. Having never surfed a break with no one else out before, it was really amazing. Just you and the sea. Literally. A few locals joined us from time to time, but when they did they were super friendly and shared the waves all day.
Sri Lanka was definitely not a once in a lifetime trip for us… we will definitely be back.
Part 2 of our epic surf adventure…
More info on surfing Sri Lanka:
Check out the surf camp we visited Talalla Retreat & Surf Camp.
Read another full review of the Talalla Surf Camp by Alexa in 2018 – 10/10!
Another awesome read for more information about Surfing the South of Sri Lanka here
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