It’s February 2015 and we’re finally setting off on our Sri Lanka surfing holiday… and boy are we worried about the shock to our surf system Sri Lankan waters might provide compared to Cornish tides.
We flew with SriLankan Airlines (£550 per person), the only choice for a non-stop flight from Heathrow to Columbo. Thankfully, the check-in staff didn’t bat an eye lid at our nine foot Fanatic paddle board or six foot surf board, making for surprisingly easy check-in experience – who knew Sri Lankan Airlines are so surfer friendly?
While it is possible to freestyle your Sri Lanka surfing holiday on arrival, I recommend at least booking your first few nights plus your airport transfer. The transfer will set you back around £70 each way for a van big enough for all your kit – make sure you let them know on booking how many boards you’ll be bringing with you. Boards and bodies in the van, within three hours (on super smooth roads) you’ll arrive in Mirissa, the first stop on our Sri Lanka surfing holiday.
A three-minute walk to Mirissa beach, Poppies B&B is a prime spot when avoiding the tourist bubble of beachside accommodation. Set back from the road in a lush green secret garden, it’s run by possibly the nicest people we met throughout our Sri Lanka surfing trip. Around £30 per night for an air-conditioned room, it’s all fairly basic but you have a mozzy net, hammock and breakfast whenever you’re ready for it, so you can enjoy an early surf before the water gets busy and retire for some eggs Sri Lanka style. The group of brothers who manage Poppies Mirissa are on hand for tips on the best breaks, scooter rental or snorkels for your Polhena trip.
Mirissa is a busy beach with millions of hotels and B&Bs – including ‘Number One Mirissa’ a hillside hotel nestled in the palms of the right hand surf point for $300+ a night! – but it sure is a picture perfect paradise. Rise early for a morning beach run or a sneaky pre brekkie surf and chase it with the juiciest lime drizzled pineapple (around £1) you’ll ever experience from the fruit guy up near Mirissa’s left hand surf point. It gets hot really early so watch your water intake and your sunscreen application and stay safe. Mirissa as a surf spot is a tale of two halves, neither perfect for mildly experienced SUPers once the surfers fill the waves but a great place to start your Sri Lanka surfing holiday.
You can travel by tuk-tuk all around this area with your boards strapped to the roof. Using Mirissa as a base you can access a lot of surf breaks all within 20 – 45 minutes.
We nipped back and forth to Welligama from Mirissa, firt by tuk-tuk and even more regularly once we’d rented a scooter.
Surf board rental for your trip is available pretty much everywhere along Welligama beach and will only set you back around £1.50 per hour. So, whether you didn’t bother bringing your own surf board on your Sri Lankan surfing holiday or if you’re just learning to surf there’re no excuses not to get wet.
If you’re feeling the heat, I recommend one of the independent juice stalls along the beach. Freshly squeezed just for you, and blended by bicycle-powered generator, it’s a magic cure for any surf aches (around £2). Oh, and buy a sports-specific (or kids) waterproof sunscreen, as water-resist just doesn’t cut the mustard when you’re paddling all day. Queue blisters, lobster jokes, a day out of the sun and definitely a day off the water.
For crispy sunburnt no-surf days head to Galle, a heritage town around 40km from Mirissa (tuk-tuk around £8 each way). Super clean and beautiful, the town’s well-kept colonial buildings house a multitude of boutique shops and cafes as well as some very well-priced fancy rooms (off-season). En route ask your driver to take you to Hundongoda Tea Plantation for a Ceylon tea experience, free cake and a ride on the resident pony, if you fancy it.
We explored Midegama by scooter and spotted no paddleboarders on any visit. Luckily you can only scoot with a surfboard and it was worth the trip to enjoy the best of Sri Lanka’s west coast surf spots, all in one location. Midegama’s Lazy Left is a surf-specific location not catering to any other tourism. You can pick up a drinking coconut but you’re better off just grabbing your board and making the most of the morning or sunset surfing. Across the area a sea breeze kicks in by lunch and dies off again about an hour before sunset so plan your time on the water around this – always better for low tide rides. Midegama surf spots are plentiful – coconuts, plantations, Lazy Left and Rams Right (may barrel) – but watch out for rocks. We clocked a few badly timed rocky launches…
Visit Polhena early before the sea-breeze kicks in for the best snorkelling in the area. It’s worth visiting a few times during your Sri Lanka surf holiday to swim with turtles and tropical fish. The coast around Polhena harbours some secret surf spots too, so it’s worth exploring the breaks by scooter. There’s a lot of building work and renovations happening as it’s an up and coming area for surfing in Sri Lanka. Turtle Eco Lodge and Royal Surf Hotel are both already established and are definitely worth checking out.
Ah Tallala – everyone should experience this level of serenity at some point during their Sri Lanka surfing holiday. Stay at Tallala Retreat but book in advance as this tranquil hideaway gets full very quickly. We enjoyed three nights B&B in a deluxe, first floor room ($120 per night) complete with walls of simple bamboo blinds and an open air shower. It’s a special place and very romantic… and the buffet style breakfast will fuel you well for a day on the water.
For a surf retreat it’s unfortunate that the stunning and mostly deserted Tallala beach is in fact unsafe even for swimming, with strong currents becoming dangerous around the coves and headland. It’s a great quiet beach for keeping on top of your surf fitness though, with AM and PM runs dodging the fishermen, and a small swimming pool back in the hotel for some quick laps. You can join the Sri Lankan surf tour here at Tallala Retreat, even if you have your own gear, but we recommend renting a scooter (we rented one from Poppies in Mirissa for £6 per day) to explore the local breaks.
Around 10km from Tallala is the large sandy beach of S.K Town. Rocking a hippy vibe, there are heaps of local guesthouses and cheap eats around here and more swell (four feet on a really good day) than Welligama. You can rent long boards from guesthouses and the beach is so huge and deserted, beginners won’t get intimidated. Hit this break near sunset for a fun evening surf – more experienced surfers and paddleboarders will have a stonking good time.
Keep an eye on the forecast and plan a safari trip for some prime ‘flat water day’ elephant spotting. Departing from the Tallala Retreat at 4am you’ll reach Udewalle National Park by sunrise for a jeep tour. Prices will vary depending on your group size but for two people, transfer to and from Tallala, park entry and jeep safari will set you back around £40 per person.
Elephants galore and more birds than you can cope with, it’s a great experience in a well-maintained park. If you’re lucky you’ll score a rude-boy driver keen to show off his four-wheel-drive skills, just don’t go with a full stomach. Even in Sri Lanka, mornings are pretty fresh so wear some sensible layers to keep you warm before the sun kicks in and wear stuff you don’t mind getting mud stained.
All in all, what a trip. If you’re thinking of where to go on your next surf adventure, consider a Sri Lanka surfing holiday. You’ll seriously love it.