Where to go Instead of Indo
Words by Ali Klinkenberg | Photos by Tom Hawkins If your annual, month-long jaunts to Indo are increasingly monotone, then it’s time for you to venture to the most in vogue of surf destinations, Sri Lanka. Slightly further than that six-hour dash in the steel cigar, but so much richer in colour. Ten […]
Words by Ali Klinkenberg | Photos by Tom Hawkins
If your annual, month-long jaunts to Indo are increasingly monotone, then it’s time for you to venture to the most in vogue of surf destinations, Sri Lanka. Slightly further than that six-hour dash in the steel cigar, but so much richer in colour. Ten hours on a plane and six hours in a car from Columbo will land you in Arugam Bay on the east coast. A village of righthand pointbreaks that’s almost void of trashy consumerism. Refreshing. You certainly won’t find yourself drenched in strobed lights, swinging from a suspended cage with a bucket of jungle juice here. The only real tourist influence on this little strip has come from Europeans straying from their regular routes. This means understated, well-designed accommodation, a blend of French and Indian cuisine, and minimal European electronic music. Wringing those last hours of sunlight with a surprisingly well-made cocktail, whilst Trentemoller wafts seaward. Hello, Vacation!
Stay at the Surf and Sun Cabanas in the main village at Arugam. It’s a short stroll to the point and all the restaurants, but it’s also a sanctuary of its own and at about US$30 to US$40 a night. Featuring an open-plan chill area complete with sun sheltering foliage and sand floors, mango-coconut curry on tap, and operated in style by owner Saman Kumara: The Fresh Prince of Sri Lanka. Both Saman and his hotel appear to have simply sprung out of the ground. The term ‘organic’ gets thrown around a lot, so let’s try: Homegrown. (Ask Saman for a different connotation of “homegrown” too, if that’s your thing.)
If the surf goes flat then there’s still lots to keep you occupied in Sri Lanka. No matter how dorky it sounds, seeing animals in the wild is still pretty cool.
Sri Lanka’s not the kind of place you go to really test your surfing prowess. However, if you enjoy the lighter, more fun-filled side of surfing, then it’s a treat. Bring something shorter than average with volume, and get busy! Miles of uncrowded waist-to-chest high righthand points on sand really are a reality here.
The name says it all. Click through to do A-Bay in style.
The main point in Arguam Bay zips along a limestone bottom and picks up the most swell. It’ll be three-to-four feet, soft and playful most days if you’re there peak season (June-August), but it’s the myriad of other options in the vicinity that should really wet your palate. If a swell over four feet hits then you’re in for a treat. Get in your tuk tuk and start driving cowboy! There’s points, bays, peaks and beachbreaks galore. If the river-dependent sand plays ball, then you could really stroke into something special.
Did we mention the food? It might do terrible things to your waistband, but freshly cooked roti’s the post surf food of the gods!
One thing to bear in mind on your cosmopolitan surfing vacay is the tentative political situation in Sri Lanka. The Tamil Tigers are constantly at odds with the Sri Lankan government, and civil war has been breaking out intermittently since the 80’s. The Brits introduced Muslim Tamil workers to Sri Lanka (Ceylon), from Southern India, in their tea-soaked courtship (occupation!) of Sri Lanka in the 1700’s. The Tamil Tigers came to prominence in the start of the Civil War in ’83. The civil war lasted for 18 years, but tension between native Sri Lankans and the Tamils is still visible. Although the situation, as tends to be the case in third-world countries, is not as simple as a North/South, Tamil/Sri Lankan, Buddhist/Muslim type scenario. Ask the locals about their experiences with war for some context. It sure is an ugly game.
Sri Lanka’s peaceful at present though, so indulge before the bullets start flying!
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