After a couple of days in the capital city, I couldn’t wait to take off my shoes, stretch a bit and feel my toes in the sand. With excitement in my belly, I set out last Friday in the early morning hours to the main train station in Colombo to start my descent south to Surf Camp Sri Lanka. Waiting in line with my pack on, all I could think about between sweating and back pain was how much I had over packed. Barely standing for ten minutes, I felt like I might topple over as the long line seemed to go on forever and my personal space slowly diminished. More to come on packing strategies for long-term travel, since I am developing a plethora of travel tips I am more than happy to share.
A Sri Lankan man in a dark t-shirt and tailored pants walked up to inform me of something, but I immediately shrugged him away after feeling bothered by many that morning. Later, I learned he was kindly trying to let me know that trains had all been canceled for the day because of construction. I knew this because that same man, Chimanda, became my taxi driver a couple hours down to camp. We laughed about this later from the road as we sipped our Nescafe’s and blasted Sri Lanka music. He was in a band and loved sharing with me all about his experience touring in different parts of the world. “I thought you were a mean American girl at first… but now I know, you’re cool!” We both laughed. I’ll take it.
Chimanda and I were almost the exact same age, both proud 1984 babies and our chatter continued for miles along the lush green highway. As we got closer to camp we turned down a windy road, I admired the tiny fruit stands and vibrant markets, locals on bicycles and noisy tuk tuks buzzing around every corner. I could already smell the salt in the air and I felt called home.
Seeing the waves crashing as we came up over the last bend, I let out a sigh of happiness. The water was clear, turquoise and crashing against the rocks energized by the glistening sun. When we pulled into the “7th Sky” driveway, directly beachfront where I am staying, I felt the peace of my community already here. One of my surf instructors greeted me naturally with bare feet and good vibes. Hammocks hung near the no frills beach house and bright palm trees with bunches of coconuts shaded us from the sun. The place immediately exceeded my expectations as I looked around and took it all in.
Welcome to paradise. Staring out at the view of the water I considered for a moment pinching myself. After all this time, I was finally here.
The surf camp partnered with the local hotel and restaurant here on a pristine slice of beach, owned and operated by one of the coolest Sri Lankan men you’d ever meet. Some people here are staying in the hotel, others participating in camp, but we all meet under the thatched roof dining area covered in Bob Marley, Sri Lanka and surfing flags for our meals. The bar serves up fresh tropical juice all day, bottled waters and a frothy Lion Beer. The other alcoholic items on the menu, are like everything here in Sri Lanka; they might actually serve it, they might not, or it might come in a different form than you anticipated. It just leads to the wonder of this place.
The owner, Rhatna, loves Bob Marley but can also be seen rocking a Metallica shirt on occasion with his long wavy ponytail. We drink coffee together after my run in the mornings and this week he taught me about the local turtles who lay eggs in the sand on the beach at night. Think 100 pound turtles. Often due to high tide, the staff digs them up and buries them further up the beach, where we all wait patiently for the tiny ping-pong like eggs to hatch. Hundreds of turtles are then released into the ocean. I’m hoping to see this before I leave. You don’t come here for luxury, you come here for high quality surf, delicious local food, interesting people and pure relaxation. The staff feels like family already and exchanging smiles and “good mornings” have been a solid bridge for any language barriers between us.
My kind of place.
Quiet time is easy to find since the place isn’t overly crowded. Sometimes it often even feels like my own private paradise. The camp accommodates whatever space you are in and everyone is respectful of one another’s down time; which might include napping on a wooden lounger, reading, writing or tucking away in your room watching your favorite shows when the sun gets too intense. At night you can smell the burning of the coconut’s from the day outside. It’s the most ideal balance for the space I’m in and listening to the serene sound of waves crashing all day long just lulls you into a peaceful sleepy state. You are sort of always tired, in the best way. We give our best energy to the waves and the sun.
My first few days have been built around a solid community of surf instructors and guests from all over. So far, I have connected with instructors and travelers from the UK, Portugal, Scotland, Switzerland, Sweden, India, Germany, Austria and of course our beloved Sri Lanka. My daily routine is as follows:
5am: Rise and stretch
6am: Yoga and jog on the beach during sunrise
9:30am: Community breakfast This usually begins with a Hindu prayer greeting us all through huge speakers followed by, Knight Rider. Yes, you read that correctly. The Knight Rider theme song and we all nod our heads in sync. The random nature of music is what makes this place so epic.
11:00am: Writing, adventuring into town, swimming, napping and free time.
1:30pm: Lunch Within walking distance we have tiny hole in the wall eateries packed with delicious Sri Lankan cuisine, smiling locals and coconut stands. Some might be on the patio of a local home or nestled into a cliff in front of the crashing waves.
6:30pm: Crack open a Lion Beer to celebrate the days events while watching the sunset and listening to a mix of waves crashing and reggae from the speakers.
7:30pm: Family style dinner with the crew
9:00pm: Retire for bed completely exhausted from the day. Besides, surfing is the primary objective here and sleep is mandatory.
Here, we don’t really wear makeup, we drink gritty milk coffee in the mornings, let the ocean wash and style our hair and only even wear flip flops when it’s truly necessary, which is not often. The days are generally told apart by the dinner that is planned for the night. We also never complain because the cup of gratitude is overflowing.
Surfing. It’s why I’m here, right? I need to reflect for a moment on this new daily addiction of mine. Here, it’s a way of life, rather than a sport, and I’m completely sucked in. The water in Sri Lanka is tropical with just enough coolness that reminds me of riding on a hot summers day with your window down but letting out just enough air conditioning to cool your skin. I couldn’t imagine anything better. Holding my board close to my body and walking against the current waiting for the next wave, is the real definition of living in the moment. In the sea with my board every morning and afternoon, there is nothing else on my mind other than what’s in front of me. It’s like the world has frozen in time.
This is my fourth day at camp and I’m proud to say I have caught dozens of waves everyday. I learned I have a goofy stance, meaning I lead with my left foot although I am right handed. I am becoming more aware which waves which are good, how to smoothly transition onto my board, how to get down low and look ahead when you get on the wave…. and how to drink up a good amount of salt water when the ocean decides to give you a beating and remind you it’s a learning process. It’s all part of the experience and I’m in the stage of growing a bit of thick ocean skin. My knees have red rashes on them, a few new bruises have welcomed themselves onto my skin, my muscles ache, my hair is getting lighter by the day and my skin darker, and a couple of sand mosquito bites are outlining my ankles.
Well-deserved battle wounds I wear proudly.
So what’s the feeling like of getting up on your first green wave? Unforgettable, priceless and worth everything it took to get here. I now feel more connected to my roots back home in San Diego and have discovered a new appreciation for the ocean. Something tells me Friday will not be the end of my relationship with this beachfront heaven.