Watching out for a thriller amidst the whitecaps. Palms flat on the board, elbows bent ready, excitement gurgles in the gut. The winds wrap, the wave rises, the board lifts, hop upright, knees bent in balance, arms outstretched and away… There’s nothing like riding waves in the East Coast of Sri Lanka.
Words Keshini de Silva | Photographs Menaka Aravinda
We were up before sunrise. Breakfast was the last thing on our minds as we headed out to explore the famed surfing points of Sri Lanka’s East Coast.
Whisky Point and Pottuvil Point
Just five minutes away from our hotel, Whisky Point was the first stop on Day One. We strolled over the cool sands of the Whisky Point beach, the frothy waves lapping at our feet. Surfers, both professionals and amateurs were already paddling out and riding the waves. Their dark silhouettes clearly outlined amidst the stunning amber scene of the rising sun.
Just beyond the rock outcrop, the hotspot at Whisky Point, the more sure-footed surfers were hopping on rising waves. Arms extended in balance, they were grinning with glee. One lost balance and crashed into the waters, only to emerge seconds later with a determined grin to try again.
Whisky Point offers thrills for everyone, however beginners love it for its forgiving waves that will lift you smoothly sans any surprises… most of the time at least. This is the most consistent surf point on the East Coast. There were surfers here from across the globe, in couples, groups or just flying solo. A couple walked up with a packet of goodies for a canine friend they had befriended on their previous visit. They dumped their belongings on the sand and headed to the waters, while their new buddy sat nearby faithfully on guard.
We then walked to the nearby Pottuvil Point, a joint patronised by experts. It’s home to playful, arching waves that swell up before conveniently pounding surfers on to the shore with a thud…you just run around and slip back into the waters. It also has a beautiful and pristine beach that is ideal for lounging.
Arugam Bay Main and Baby Points
With mid-morning fast approaching it was time to head to Arugam Bay, the famous surfing spot. Main Point is where the giant waves crash, a favourite amongst mavens. They swirled with the wave, floated and rode with precise balance. Many were performers of sorts playing neat tricks on the waves that aimed to topple them. After a particularly good ride, the surfers in the area broke into a cheer as the rider deftly mastered the wave.
For those still new to surfing, the Bay’s Baby Point with its shorter breaks is a good option. One usually walks past it on the way to the more stimulating Main Break.
Arugam Bay lives and breathes surfing. Resorts reach out to the edge of the waters, making it convenient for surfers. Taking a break from the exhilarating rush out at sea, they would lounge on the beach watching the action or admiring the views.
The route to Peanut Farm Point is a bouncy sandy one that winds through the wilderness. Tuk tuks (three-wheelers) are the preferred mode of transportation. We saw many hopping about the thin road, with colourful surfboards strapped on the hood.
Emerging out of the untamed foliage, the first glimpse of Peanut Farm Point was mesmerising. Swings hung from trees overlooking a quaint natural pool. The setting was fairytale-like. Juxtaposed with the picturesque setting, our ears were greeted by excited shrieks and giggles. In the bubbling seawaters surfers were having a jolly time.
A sand bottom point break with shallow waters it is another great spot for beginners. Hence the excited outbursts of laughter when a first-timer manages to balance for long. The waters are loved by the trainers too who perform various acrobatics on their boards.
Soon the afternoon was upon us and the waves were receding. Our surfing hunt would have to resume the next morning. We swooped back to Paper Moon Kudils for some much needed rejuvenation and a sip of refreshing King Coconut.
Crocodile Rock or Elephant Rock Point
At dawn on Day Two we travelled further downwards to the point Crocodile Rock or Elephant Rock. The names are derived from the large rock formations that resemble an elephant and two crocodiles basking in the sun. However, a few locals we met attributed the name to the crocodiles and elephants that frequent the nearby lake at night. This surf point is a wild spot, where you can even spot eagles. Reaching the surf break is half the fun. We climbed around Elephant Rock to get there, by stepping on flat rocks and holding on to jagged ones.
The whitecaps here make it a great spot to learn to surf. In fact we were just in time for a surf lesson!
The eager newbies crowded around their trainer, who took them through the technical aspects. Lie flat on the board, hop up, balance and ride. Make sure your knees are bent and arms are outstretched, he warned. The first step is to practice the moves ashore. And practice they did, repeating the process continuously.
Bidding them good luck with their surfing endeavours, we scrambled back onto our ride, in search of another spot popular amongst the pros.
The journey to Okanda Point is an off-the beaten-track route that runs through the Kumana National Park and Kudumbigala Sanctuary. Our little adventure included sights of a lone bull elephant, a congregation of monkeys and a few happy deer, hopping about. One even crossed the road abruptly bringing us to a screeching halt. Once we spotted the ancient Okanda Skanda Kovil we knew our destination was near. Through the rough vines and branches we saw vistas of the turquoise waters. We were lost for a moment, but friendly fishermen pointed us in the right direction with toothy grins. The waves at Okanda were feisty ones that rose and twisted in quick turns. You would have to know your way around waves to tame these cunning whirls.
Our final surfing haunt was the lesser-known Lighthouse Point, along the Komari beach stretch. We were on a battle with time to reach the spot before the waves took a break. A dilapidated base of a once majestic beacon marked the spot. Boasting a point break it stirs some classic waves that would rouse the more weather beaten surfers. The true attraction here is the glassy blue waters that glide with smooth swirls. On a good day they can swell up several metres, waves only the maestros can master.
Our exploration was complete. The surfing hangouts along the East Coast have a personality of their own. Some are wild, some are tamed, some teach while others pose nasty challenges. There are even a few hidden spots; closely guarded secrets of the locals. No matter your proficiency in the wave game, there is a place for everyone on this golden shoreline.