What should I know about surfing in Sri Lanka?

What should I know about surfing in Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka is a gorgeous place, aptly nicknamed “The Pearl of the Orient,” the island country has white sand beaches, vibrant coral reefs, palm trees galore, and waves. In fact, it has a lot of waves. Everywhere you look, there are waves. Lefts, rights, A-frames – it truly is a paradise for surfers.

Waves on Sri Lankan coasts are generally more mellow than some other Indian Ocean destinations, so  if ypu're going surfing, bring something with a little more volume – a fish or longboard could be perfect for the cruisy peeling waves. However if you’re aiming to surf just the bigger and hollower spots then your standard short board will be fine.

Surf Zinc can be really useful to stop your face burning when out in the water (it can get really hot)! Bring a few t-shirts to cover up in when surfing too, and plenty of normal sun screen. Local kids/tuk tuk drivers will really appreciate some stickers or any old surf kit you don’t need anymore too! Other than that, a pair of board shorts, flip flops, shades, and maybe a Kindle, and you’re all set!

Sri Lanka has a variety of surf breaks to choose from and something for everyone. You will find sand bottom points, beach breaks, reef breaks and other interesting little set ups along the way. For the most part, many of the breaks are fairly user-friendly, making Sri Lanka an excellent option for the beginner to intermediate surfer. If you’re an advanced surfer seeking a bit more juice or some hollow barrels, you can find that too. However, don’t go expecting Indonesia type consistency, quality, and power.

Sri Lanka is a great place to learn to surf or to hone your skills and advance into some more serious waves. With a variety of user-friendly waves and some really great surf instructors to help you progress, surfing in Sri Lanka caters to all levels of experience.

There are two main surf hubs in Sri Lanka – on the Southwest Coast around Ahangama and Weligama, and in the Eastern Province around Arugam Bay.

Southwest Coast; Ahangama, Weligama, Hikkaduwa. On the Southwest Coast, the best conditions and greatest variety of waves are typically on offer from November through April. This is where you’ll find a variety of beach and reef breaks like Rams Right, The Rock, Lazy Lefts, Weligama, Plantations, Mirissa Point and many other quality waves on offer.

The same SW swells that hit Indonesia show up in Sri Lanka. The winds are most likely to be offshore in the mornings and late afternoons. Waves often run in the head high range and can push to double overhead during this time.

In the off-season on the Southwest Coast, many of the premiere breaks like Rams, The Rock, Lazy Lefts, and other main breaks stop working due to less than ideal wind conditions and different swell directions. However, unlike the Eastern Province during the off-season, there’s still swell in the water and places with wind protection or where it blows cross-offshore where you can score some fun waves year round.

On the Southwest Coast, there is such a great variety of waves to choose from in close proximity that you can avoid the worst of it if you’re willing to drive around a bit to check the various breaks for the smallest crowds. If you’re an advanced surfer you might even find yourself scoring Rams Right barrel with only a handful of others out since there are a lot of beginner and intermediate surfers around who won’t be too keen on surfing a fast hollow shallow reef break.

On the Southwest Coast, the surf breaks are closer together and you can see many of them from the main coastal road which makes it easier to navigate.

You can rent a scooter for about 6-8 USD per day to explore the area at your own leisure or hire a tuk-tuk driver for similar costs as Arugam Bay.

Eastern province; Arugam Bay. The surf season around Arugam Bay is from May through September. This is when the scattered right-hand sand bottom points of this dry and arid region come to life with the passing southeast/southwest swells. A few of the breaks in this area are Arugam Bay, Pottuvil Point, Whiskey Point, Peanut Farm, Elephant Rock, and Okanda.

During the peak season, Arugam Bay is graced with many offshore mornings and there are several nearby breaks which have headlands that provide some wind protection and keep things fairly clean and ridable throughout the day. During the off-season in the Eastern Province (October – April), it’s likely to be flat and not worth a visit if you’re looking for waves.

In the Eastern Province, Arugam Bay is the main attraction and located directly in town. You’ll likely find dozens of surfers out at all times. Eager surfers are up and on it long before first light to beat the crowds and the heat, mostly the crowds. Don’t be surprised if you think you’re the first one to paddle out while it’s still dark only to find a healthy lineup of others with the same idea. That being said, it’s definitely worth a shot and you just might avoid the worst of it.

A hint for surfing the Eastern Province. The further away you get from Arugam Bay, the fewer surfers you’re likely to encounter. There are still places you can surf all alone at least for a period of time before a few others show up.

In both regions, there are still waves out of sight and farther than most people are willing to go searching for waves. So if you’re feeling adventurous, you’ll likely be rewarded if you go searching off-the-beaten-path.

The water temperature in Sri Lanka ranges from about 27 to 29° Celsius all year long. So be prepared to enjoy all those board shorts and bikini sessions, although you might want to wear a rash guard from time to time for some extra protection from the powerful sun.

In terms of how to the beach, you have a couple options.

In most cases any given tuk-tuk driver will start high for their going rate, so always be prepared to negotiate a rate that you feel okay with and never get into a tuk-tuk or taxi until the rate has been agreed on. To hire a tuk-tuk driver for a 4-5 hour round trip surf expedition from Arugam Bay to Okanda or the Lighthouse (two of the farthest well-known breaks from Arugam Bay; about a 45-minute drive) the going price is about 3000 LKR or about 20 USD.

The closer breaks to Arugam Bay such as Whiskey Point, Peanut Farm, Pottuvil Point, and Elephant Rock will likely cost around 1000-2500 LKR (around 7 – 17 USD) for a round trip tuk-tuk ride. Tuk-tuks hold two passengers comfortably, but you can squeeze in a third if you need to.

You can rent a scooter for about 6-8 USD per day, but you might want to take a tuk-tuk to the break your first time and pay close attention to the roads. All of the breaks outside of Arugam Bay require navigating through unmarked dirt roads.

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