Car, plane, car, plane. Travelling for 36 hours in total (the last leg is less than 350 kilometres but took us nine hours.) This tale is not to deter you; it’s to let you know that while the transit is long, it is so worth it. Yep, we had finally made it to Arugam Bay.
I would travel this journey a hundred times over to reach a land such as Sri Lanka.
So what exactly makes this country so special? It boasts consistent sand bottom right hand point breaks that run so far that you should be buggered from the lengthy walk back, for a start. The magnificence and vast diversity of the landscapes encompassed in this tear dropped shaped island come in a close second. But it’s truly the beautiful and kind people that make it worth it.
Before I left for this trip people would tell me that “…the food was that good”. It wasn’t something that I thought I would enjoy. Curries are gross. I thought curry was dense, overpowering. Alas, I was proven wrong. Case in point? I ate that same $2 curry for breakfast almost every single day. Roti, dahl and coconut sambal for breakfast please.
Food aside, here’s what went down.
We wake up at 5am, before the sun. Our favourite tuk tuk driver, Abdul is waiting out the front of our room. There is an abundance of perfect point breaks within an hour drive of A Bay. We take our pick for the morning and set off.
As we arrive the sun is rising. The waves are 2ft and there are only one or two other sleepy heads in the water. Perfect! We make friends. We dance party waves. We take breaks to reapply sunscreen. All the while, marveling at this dreamlike reality.
As the morning creeps on, fishing boats launch themselves onto the beach, bringing in their daily catch – and most importantly – creating a tiny slither of shade (a saviour considering temps hit the 30s before 9am.)
The locals are welcoming and love to make friends. Each time we take cover from the sun’s rays, there was always a new friend to be made. Although not all travelers did, it’s worth noting a large percentage of locals are Muslim, so wearing culturally appropriate clothes on the beach was a sign of respect. For me, this meant an old shirt and sarong, easy enough.
Depending on the waves, the wind direction, the crowd and how loud my belly was grumbling for breakfast, we would surf until 11am (sometimes until 1pm if it was pumping!) Abdul would be waiting to put the boards on the tuk tuk and head straight to my favourite place for the best roti, dahl and coconut sambal concoction ever, called Hungtime. It was served in a 4x4 concrete box, furnished with three outdoor plastic tables and chairs. I only ever saw one other traveller eat there, but it was always full of locals.
After breakfast, we’d have an afternoon nanna nap. The wind was usually onshore during the middle of the day. Sometimes this was a blessing, especially on days when my eyes were so sunburnt I could barely see my way to the Clear Eyes!
Surf, eat, nap, repeat.
It’s a tough gig, all these six hour surfs, eating and napping. Usually we’d wake up, eat lunch, have a beer and wait for the wind to die down. Depending on how long it would take to drop off, we’d have a few more beers with some new mates. And nothing gets you more pumped for a sunset surf than a mix of sunstroke and beer! Talk about energy boost.
Out the front of our room there was a row of fishing boats. One particular boat had a flag attached to it. It would wave fiercely through the day while the wind was onshore. Each afternoon, we’d keep a close eye on it, and as soon as it stopped waving, we were on the phone to Abdul and he was out the front of our room within 10 minutes. Here we go again!
From AM to PM
The afternoon surfs were so different compared to those at sunrise (or maybe it was the beers). Usually we were surfed out by the afternoon so it was less about surfing, and more about taking in this picturesque part of the world. I would paddle wide, yewing new friends on set waves and bask blissfully in the warm waters of the Ceylon Sea, all while wondering if this was real life.
After saying “Wow! So pretty!” at least 100 times while the sun was setting, we were out of the water and into the tuk tuk headed back to town. We never really ate in the same spot (except for breakfast) to make sure we weren’t missing out on anything. Everywhere we went was not only cheap – but delicious. The streets of A Bay are lined with restaurants hosting fresh seafood, barbequed while you wait. After eating myself into a food coma, I’d be in bed by 8:30pm each night. Maybe this was due to the time difference (we were four hours behind Australia) or again maybe it was just the beers.
I’ve heard Sri Lanka has more to offer than just surfing and eating (and beers!) but man, they do those three things so well.
Written by Paris Bradfield