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  • Sri Lanka

    Hey All
    Would appreciate comments on surfing and travel in Sri Lanks. Have 10 days early June, planning to drive from Colombo around the south to Arugam Bay stopping in between. I gather May to October is the East Coast/ Arugam surf season. I would appreciate any experiences of the south area out of season plus anything on the east crowds quality, best boards, any problems encountered. My friend has driven there often so am OK with the road traffic etc. Really fishing for your thoughts and experiences. JV

  • #2
    I spent 2 weeks in A Bay in June 2010. Waves were fun every day but nothing pumping. I'd take a small wave shortboard and your standard board. I rode a dominator pretty much the whole time.
    The wind comes up cross/onshore through the day so mornings and evenings offer the best waves but also the worst crowds. Be prepared to be hassled and back paddled by lots of Israeli surfers.

    Early season the sand hasn't washed off the other points so it concentrates the crowds at Arugams main point. I understand later in the season it opens up more options.
    There's very little tidal movement and the reef at Arugam is pretty tame. Nice keyhole for entry but getting back out there's a strong current pulling down the point so you might get a couple of slices on your feet getting back out. Some lime and TCP is a good idea, me and my mate both ended up with infected cuts.
    The sun is brutally hot too so watch the backs of your legs!

    We stayed at the Hangloose places towards the south end of the village. Cheap and nice people and some good food. I think the aircon rooms are quite pricey though.

    Anything else you'd like to know, let me know and I'll do my best to help.


    • #3
      The sun is not the only thing brutal in Sri Lanka

      my comment is go somewhere else until those responsible for the atrocities are brought to justice.


      • #4
        sketchy stuff there...


        • #5
          I spent 4 months in Sri Lanka in August - November 2010 (mostly for work), so here are a few insights.

          Moralising aside, it's now as safe as any other place you'd go to surf. I did most of my surfing in November so I headed to the south as the A-bay season had already finished, however I travelled all over the country. Surfed Midigama/Weligama/Mirissa. Standard shortboard waves, nothing huge or spectacular. Crowds weren't too bad. Mirissa can be a gem if you get it right.

          Regarding A-bay, just a note. You said you wanted to drive around the south of the island. As far as I know (99% certain), you can't make the drive all the way round, it doesn't link up the last 1/4 of the way. Best way to get there is straight across from Colombo. Note, the roads are pretty crap, the drive across is only like 300-350km but it can take around 8h depending on the conditions. If you plan to go south, then up through the middle and across, expect slow going.

          While I was there they were in the process of finishing a highway running straight from Colombo to the mid south coast, which would reduce the drive from 3-5h to about 2h, this should be ready by now.


          • #6
            Great - thanks for your replies PRJ, Phase and Slowman. I recall mainstream media reports of violence and could just get a sense it was bad - real bad. I try to give something to people when I visit, materially or just taking time to speak about life family etc - which is hopefully a benefit of visiting compared to not going. Crowds at A Bay will be interesting- am used to minimal crowds. Hopefully other points are working - regardless will make sure to get a share of waves. Plan to take 2-3 days south then up the middle; thanks for tips about slow going. How did you find the traffic and navigating your way around? And lastly did you have any health problems apart from cuts etc?


            • #7
              JV, yeah the villagers could probably benefit in the south they were hit pretty hard by the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami and probably still have not recovered. Most of the nasty stuff happened way up north on the Jaffna Peninsular where the Tamils were concentrated leaving most of the Sinhalese population unaware of the scale of battle and bloodshed and pretty much in a state of denial, while of course the images they saw of the war were heavily censored. It will be interesting to hear how the local TV stations cover the news and world events.

              The Tamil Tigers were not saints either mind you, but as far as I'm aware, though they hit civilian targets it was collateral damage (even though I'm sure they knew the risk was high), rather than systematic and intentional genocide. Meanwhile the mostly Sinhalese based Sri Lankan government continues to deny and dismiss the Channel 4 report as lies and has said the recent UN panel to investigate human rights abuse is unwarranted.

              Though, to be honest I reckon there are better waves nearby as well, like the Maldives, Indo and the Philippines, but if you have a friend there that's another reason to go as well. Until this all happened I thought Sri Lanka was a pretty neat place - a lot nicer and more affluent than India and wanted to spend more time there. I'll be interested to hear what you find. I did see a few waves in the south and east as I flew in and out of Colombo, also a few waves on the Indian coast too on a business trip to India.


              • #8
                The secretary of the Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations, Dr Victor Rajakulendran, says the Sri Lankan opposition recently said 56 people had disappeared in the past six months.

                But other estimates run into the hundreds.

                "Most of the disappearances end up in torture and death," Dr Rajakulendran said.

                He says they are abducted by government-controlled paramilitary groups.

                "It is very common and the white van is very famous in Sri Lanka," he said.

                "The white van comes and takes people and the people haven't turned up later, you know? So it was not news to Sri Lankans but for the Australians, because it happened to an Australian, it has become big news."
                Political dissent is still a risky business in Sri Lanka. The Australian that disappeared was also a Sri Lankan citizen of Tamil persuasion, so while it is unlikely an obvious foreigner with no local political affiliations would "disappear", it's a place where you'd best keep any criticism of the regime to yourself.

                When I was in India I was asked, by some short arse twit who was giving me some real stink eye, what I was doing in India and what business I was involved in. He had no uniform and didn't offer any identification or reason why he started to question me, at first I was inclined to tell him to have sex with his mother but I noticed him shout some orders to a uniformed and armed soldier, though it was a veiled threat, it was a bit comical this soldier actually had a 303!! - I kid you not, my grandfather used one in WWI! God only knows what would have happened if he actually tried to fire it. My natural inclination is not to suffer fools gladly, I'm just glad I didn't do anything foolish like tell him what I was thinking but shit these guys try your patience at 2am in the morning when you are tired and irritated. I was busting and when I walked into the cubicle there was some guy in there with tissues in his hand begging for something - I don't know whether he was selling the paper or a personalised bum wiping service! I quickly lost the urge and left this lavatory that was in a pretty disgusting state. It was right about then the little Indian Gestapo man showed up and began his interrogation. All on within the first hour of having ever set foot in India!

                I really just wanted to tell my yarn about my visit to India but I suppose they might have similar twits in Sri Lanka nosing about at airports these days and the arrogance would culturally about the same, so remember, be nice!


                • #9
                  I had no problems while I was there, everyone I met was super friendly but there's always the possibility of ending up in the wrong place and the wrong time so you've always got to have your wits about you I guess.
                  I wouldn't hesitate to go back though.


                  • #10
                    I appreciated everyone's advice about Sri Lanka and thought I would report back. Had 10 days away but with flights etc 7days on the ground. My friend and I hired a car and shared the driving south from Colombo around the South coast until roads ran out, then up and east to Arugam then across the hill country to Colombo again. I didn't have big surf but there were definitely good waves. Arugam at the time was 3ft max and dropped from there. I would try to time the swell better - perhaps start with full moon as a reference date. Arugam to me was the instant hit wave - fast easy, close to shore, predictable, easy paddle longish ride not power packed. Crowded! I had my 7'2 Addvance, I found if I sat right in the pack and put it out there that I would take waves but not hog, locals and visitors did the same and most got a fair share. I saw some not getting waves, perhaps not confident or not liking to push for waves. I loved the South. It was off season; there was enough swell but we had to find protected points due to onshore; mostly just the two of us out; conditions were a bit more complex; rocky points, reefs and bays. Enjoyed driving and independence of the car; had to tune in to the driving style; found people friendly and helpful. Strong police presence and occasional military post especially around Arugam, the numbers I think more about giving work to those people, but still undercurrents from the civil war. The police were courteous when they fined us for incorrect overtaking. That was the cost of two bottles of beer. Recommend what we did as a surf come travel experience; need to be savvy - enjoyed it


                    • #11
                      Sounds like a good trip!

                      I agree at Arugam you've got to assert yourself a bit else you don't get waves. People than push it too far soon get put in their place by the older Aussies though.


                      • #12
                        hey guys,

                        was wondering if it was the sort of place you could take a non surfing wife?
                        We have been looking at A'bay as a holiday spot for a while and was just wondering if there was enough to do for a non surfing partner?
                        we just got back from our honeymoon in the maldive's. We stayed down in the south male atoll at holiday inn kandooma. It was a great spot had enough for her to do while i was out surfing. Had a great break on the island and the boat transfer's to nearby reefs were reasonbly priced.The surf never got masive(shoulder high max) only used my spit but was super clean, uncrowded, warm and clear water with heaps of sea life. Shared one peak(riptides) with at least 4 manta rays that didn't seem bothered by us.

                        any info on trips where you and you wife, maybe even kids would be greatly appreciated.


                        • #13
                          Not much to do besides snorkelling/sun bathing in A Bay. You could go wildlife hunting too, plenty of elephants and monkeys etc around. I'm sure there's companies that do safari tours.
                          There's some pretty fun waves about too if the wife fancied a go on a surfboard. It's not a very developed area though, not sure that there's even any proper hotels. Lots of small apartments and shacks, I think there's some nicer places too but there's nothing luxury so it depends what you're after. It's certainly not the Maldives though. Expect plenty of other surfers in peak season!


                          • #14
                            In Sri Lankau there is Galle in the South West - a well preserved historic town with hotels in Colonial buildings. You could do a day surfing trip from there. Unnawatuna and and Mirissa are pretty bays with hotels nice to laze on the beach and sightseeing attractions around the area. They are in the southern surfing zones. Sweet relief from the tropical heat in the hill country - Nuwara Eliya is up high and cool, known as little England for its colonial buildings/hotels. Very scenic road journey there or look at train trips - no surf in the mountains. Other mountain towns around - Kandy is much larger with more built sights, to do but not as high/cool. I would take my partner there but plan carefully to mix up the places stayining in to accommodate non surfing interests. It is not highly touristed but offers great cultural and scenic interest, more "authentic" than some resort style destinations.


                            • #15
                              I'm afraid that since the end of the civil war in 2009 things continue to deteriorate. The rule of law in Sri Lanka has now become a joke. Having a legal background myself I'm sensitive to the issue when governments intervene or even comment adversely on legal processes and impose undue influence. In Sri Lanka it has become about as bad as it can become. The Chief Justice was recently hauled before a parliamentary committee (without the opposition party attendance) and abused after handing down decisions which the government did not like. One of the cornerstones of a democracy is the separation of church and state and judiciary. Another justice that criticised the involvement of Rajapaksa's government's interference with the judiciary, over the impeachment of the chief justice, was bashed outside the school where he was waiting to pick up his children, by "unidentified" assailants, he was later demoted and sent to the provinces. Other judges have been intimidated in various ways while outspoken lawyers on these matters have had their pictures published on TV and criticised for aspiring to pro western values and not thinking about what is best for Sri Lanka.

                              I'd love to go there and I'm sure Tony Abbott will don his lifesaver's cap and borrow a mal and catch a few waves and organise a deal with Rajapaksa to return any Tamils which he has happily agreed to take back. I guess he has enough "white vans" to pick them up as their boats return and give them the a secure welcome back ensuing their human rights are not violated. Sorry to be passionate about this issue but that fact that we are delivering people back to oppression and the likelihood of punishment and torture makes me feel ill. Furthermore, while some heads are boycotting the CHOGM meet in Sri Lanka those remaining are planning to raise the issue of human rights but not our PM. I'm not much of a Catholic but I cannot believe our PM can even dare call himself one. He trades on his religious background as a seminary drop out to gain traction with the religious vote. ASIS would have briefed him on the situation in Sri Lanka so he hands back Tamils with full knowledge of what their likely fate is. The Tamil areas in the north and east remain under military control, land seizures are common and rape all to common too. What is interesting is the Sinhalese majority are now getting an inkling of what the Tamils suffered as they watch their own rights threatened.