The season for Sri Lanka’s east coast is fast approaching, and if right-hand points are your kind of thing you will be privy to its treasures. Here are a few handy tips for a smashing time surfing the subcontinent.
DO prepare for a crowd – Any lazy googling of Arugam Bay will soon have you pining. Promises of sand-bottom perfection down every path, pictures of pristine walls aching to be torn apart, and prices that won’t puncture your pocket. Pity. The crowds at the main breaks are dense, and the comparatively mellow surf makes for a melting pot of skill levels. Be on your toes or you may find yourself getting barreled by a rented mini-mal.
DON’T forget the reef – My second wave at Main Point in Arugam Bay and I was bouncing across a reef I didn’t know existed. It is easy to be distracted by the “sand this, sand that” internet chatter surrounding Sri Lanka’s east coast, however cuts and bruises at the main break are common. The savvy will pack their booties, as entering and exiting the lineup can be touch and go if there’s a bit of swell. Sure, you may lose a bit of street cred in the eyes of the bearded bohemians soul-arching their way down the point, but the price you pay for fashion may just be some skin.
DO explore – You’re up before the sun, zinced up, waxed up, psyched up. You jog around the corner past Baby Point, peer through the gloom and see twenty guys, apparently even keener than you are, already out. Before you drop to your knees and curse Huey, remind yourself that the day is young and there are plenty of options. Some of the best surf I enjoyed was out of town, often just fifteen minutes of terrifying tuk-tuk away. Remember Surfing World’s Sri Lanka feature last year? If it all comes together, you may just score your own little Kirra-comparison to yourself.
DON’T drop in – The locals can surf, who knows how they’d go on a left but at Main Point they have it dialed. The evening glass-off coincides with the workday knock-off, and the local crew comes out to play. Be respectful, be stoked, be nice, be an example. The evening sessions can be some of the most crowded, so resigning to the end section may be tactical genius for those with depleted froth-o-meters. In Arugam Bay it’s always a good idea to look left.
DO brave the wind – Throughout my stay in July you could just about set your watch to the wind: a light morning offshore, followed by an often-stiff cross-onshore wind towards lunch and then a glassy evening. If you are searching for solace at the main breaks your best bet is the midday session. The onshores, scorching heat and plentiful Lion beers keep many punters lazing under the palms, but if you’re not averse to a bit of lump and bump you can score some excellent pumping waves almost to yourself.
DON’T miss out – It is easy to don the surf goggles and block out the other great things Arugam Bay has to offer. The main drag has restaurants a plenty, and I recommend you try them all. The nightly parties are always packed and you’ll lose count of how many times you drunkenly stammer through Bob Marley’s “Is This Love.” Walk through town, but don’t expect to be able to buy a guitar anywhere. See the wildlife, there’s nothing like passing wild elephants at dawn on your way to an empty lineup an hour from town.