This past winter I got a little bit bored with the mild winter in Canada and decided to zip my way across the globe to meet up with my friend Andy for an adventure. My destination was Sri Lanka. In specific, Weligama, a small fishing community along the southern shoreline that is quickly becoming a sought after destination for backpackers and surfers alike. The fresh scene for tourism in combination with an intricate shoreline meant plenty of surf breaks and few crowds in the waves. It was glorious. I first flew into Colombo, hopped on the train, and made my way south to meet at Elsewhere Surf Camps.
Sri Lanka is an incredibly raw place to visit. The newness of tourism to the region means hardcore local culture surrounds and engages you from all angles. I heard dozens of people compare the area to what Bali, Indonesia likely resembled when it was first discovered as a surf and tourism destination. The recently finished civil war in combination with a destructive Tsunami that struck the coast shortly after had kept tourism away for years. The development of hotels, hostels, restaurants and surf camps is actually still very new and most of the local community is really poor due to the obvious economic implications of going through a war and natural disaster back to back.
The islands coast has an abundance of different surf breaks that work from all sorts of different wind directions and swell size. The only thing necessary was to rent a bike in order to access all the different beaches and reefs conveniently. The variety made it really easy to find waves on almost any given day.
After a few weeks Andy and I decided to break up the routine and hopped on a bus with our friend Mark to go hike the mountain known as Adam’s peak. Apparently it had the footprint of Buddha at the top. Of course, we planned everything last minute (we’re idiots), and took the bus to the wrong side of the mountain, forcing us to do a climb that was three times longer with all of our belongings on our backs. To put it into perspective, this was viewed by locals as a buddhist pilgrimage, and they often took 2 or more days for the ascent alone. We woke up in the middle of the night and conquered the entire hike, descending the other side before the end of the day. It was definitely among the most physically grueling things I have ever done, but at least we felt like champions.
One major highlight of my trip was a midnight surf session under a full moon. After a late dinner and some drinks at the cliff top bar down the road we all realized that the moon completely lit up the water down in the bay. We all grabbed boards and paddled 800m out to the wave that was glowing in the moonlight. It was pretty amazing.
The very last day of my trip I got pulled over for giving a girl at our camp a ride into town without a helmet and the cops fully seized my bike. They took it to the station and I had to pay a few hundred dollars in fines just to keep my renter out of prison (he was a good guy). All in all, I learned a lesson that I already knew, the hard way. Don’t mess with local laws or police in third world countries, unless you want to be extorted.
Sri Lanka is a country that is sure to provide huge amounts of local culture, an abundance of awesome people, and generous amounts of waves. I’d highly recommend a visit for anyone who is looking to check out some interesting places that are a little bit off the beaten path and different from the typical backpacker trail.
Aside from the split frame photo’s which I shot, all images and videos in this post were shot by Andrew Wyton