In between India and Indonesia, the island of Sri Lanka is alive with color, spices and spirituality like its northern neighbor of India, with the beauty of Bali beach horizons. By the way, there are also waves all along the coast. How was this not on our radar?
Sri Lanka had history of civil wars that made the country unwelcoming for tourists. That ended in 2009 and now in a time of peace, getting around Sri Lanka, and finding places to stay is less of a mystery.
If you come for the waves, there are longboard friendly peaks year-round, and in between there’s plentiful ways to experience the local culture and sights. Sri Lanka is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites including ancient and sacred cities, and biodiverse highlands to connect with your spiritual side and thirst for nature.
Our friends, Swedish bloggers Linn Lundgren and Petter Torealm started SunshineStories surf and yoga retreats after annual visits to Sri Lanka for several years. Here, they give us a few reasons to why this tear shaped island is a perfect place to check out of reality, become immersed in another culture, and also hone your surfing skills.
|Surfing in Sri Lanka. Photo by Niklas Johansson.|
|Surfing in Sri Lanka. Photo byMelchior van Nigtevecht.|
|Local life in Sri Lanka. Photo courtesy of SunshineStories.|
|Shopping at the local markets in Sri Lanka. Photo courtesy of SunshineStories.|
1. Sri Lanka's delayed development makes the culture a rare time capsule.
The village of Ahangama where SunshineStories holds their retreat is located on the south west coast where the majority of the population is Buddhist and Sri Lankan. "That’s what makes it so special, it’s the opposite to a touristy westernized town," Linn says. "It’s warm, open and friendly and still without the big hotels and other nasty development. Shopkeepers are smiling, all the time. The language is hard but some body language and smiles you come a far way! They are very friendly but don’t forget to bargain!"
She continued, "Sri Lanka is an island, you can tell by the relaxed island life. It has world-class surfing but with more options of beginner friendly waves. It’s not cramped and over developed like Bali. Every coast and area is so different, there’s so much to see and everything within reach. It’s like a smiley, surfy, less crowded, island version of India, Bali and Thailand. Only that in none of the other countries you can watch blue whales in the morning, surf at lunch and go on safari to see wild elephants and leopards in the evening."
The retreat is a few minutes away by tuktuk to beaches like Galle, Unawatuna, Mirissa, Weligama to buy Western-type provisions and meet fellow travelers if you’re in the mood to be more social.
2. Vacation should be easy. Let the experts guide you to the best waves for your skill level and attractions.
SunshineStories retreat is personalized for the guests depending on skill level, and offers a structured itinerary so you know what’s happening everyday, but you never feel like a tour group.
"It’s busy yet relaxed. You can keep really busy, yoga and surf twice a day, go whale watching or head on a safari on your free day. Or you can sit back and enjoy the slow-paced life at the retreat, maybe stroll to the temple and have a chat with the monk," Linn says.
|Walking to the beach in Sri Lanka. Photo courtesy of SunshineStories.|
|Longboard friendly waves in Sri Lanka. Photo courtesy of SunshineStories.|
3. The waves are less crowded and friendlier than Bali’s most famous spots (without sacrificing paradise scenery), letting you sharpen your surf skills.
One of the toughest parts about surfing isn’t standing up on your board, but learning how to read the waves and navigating around the traffic of other surfers around you. In Sri Lanka, the waves are more friendly than Indo, and it's easy to find a rolling point, reef break or beach peak all to yourself.
There are beginner-friendly waves year round, and those looking for overhead surf should watch the swell reports during October, November, March, and April.
"The majority of our guests are complete beginners or have tried surfing a few other times," Linn says. "We also get intermediate and advanced surfers who want to become even better, maybe perfect that that hang five or cut back.
For all the surfers we very proud to offer a high quality surf teaching and coaching program. We won’t just push our guests on their first white water waves, we will have them develop through the week and give them the tools to continue on their own when they leave us. We do theory lessons and individualized video analyzing sessions every day through the week. We’ve developed our own way of teaching surfing in a more playful and individual level."
4. Learning to surf opens up doors in your personal life.
No one ever comes home from a surf trip and says they regret it. Surfing, and becoming one with the wave is a magical feeling. For many people, learning how to surf is to step outside of your comfort zone (you are, after all, walking on water!) and becomes a catalyst for life changes.
“We stay in touch with a lot of guests after they stayed with is and some have done amazing things, got a dream job, a promotion, others quit their jobs or left a relationship to pursue new dreams. Maybe we’re not a big part of those things but maybe the experience at our retreat lit a sparkle, who knows," Linn smiles.
|Family dinner at SunshineStories retreat. Photo courtesy of SunshineStories.|
|A natural complement to surfing, daily yoga classes improve flexibility and balance. Photo courtesy of SunshineStories.|