While the waves may be smaller than Hawaii’s or Australia’s, and not as powerful as Indonesia’s, Sri Lanka boasts empty bays and water that’s 28 degrees year-round.
The island, off the south coast of India, has two distinct surfing seasons: November to April in the west and south, and April to October in the east – so you can surf all year round. Here are our top five beaches for surfing.
The party town of Hikkaduwa, a two-hour train ride south of the capital Colombo, is suitable for the November to April surfing season. The beach is lined with surf schools and shops renting scuba gear and surfboards – long ones are best for beginners, as they’re easier to balance on and you can kneel while paddling out. Beach Break is ideal for beginners, while more experienced surfers can tackle the 6ft waves at Main Point – just be mindful of surf etiquette and take turns with the waves to avoid clashes with locals. You can also hire snorkelling equipment, discover wrecks while diving or explore the coral reef in Hikkaduwa Marine National Park on a glass-bottomed boat.
If you’d like to mix surfing with sightseeing, base yourself in Galle further down the west coast. The highlight of the town is Fort, a walled Dutch quarter. You can cycle five kilometres south to Unawatuna, or stay in Unawatuna itself, which hugs a one-kilometre crescent of sand. Waves here reach four-feet high. Intermediate surfers should head to nearby Dalawella. Surfing on waves stretching up to 500 metres will make your day as long as you don’t wipe out over coral, rocks or sea urchins.
The fishing town of Weligama is on the south coast, making it a suitable surf spot from November to April. There isn’t a whole lot to see and do, but if you just want to learn to surf then you’ll be in good company, as the two-kilometre beach is peppered with surf schools and beach huts selling Sri Lankan food like hoppers and tongue-tingling sambal as well as fresh coconuts for a mid-afternoon lunch break. Beach Break is made for beginners, as you needn’t paddle far out to catch a wave and the sandy bottom means you won’t cut yourself when you fall off. While the waves can get busy, head out before 8am and you may have them to yourself. Intermediate surfers can try out Lazy Left in Midigama Beach, the next beach north of Weligama.
Mirissa, on Sri Lanka’s south coast, is known for whale watching, but it’s one of the world’s best places to see sperm and blue whales between December and April, which coincides with the surfing season. Quieter than Weligama, the bay has a friendly family vibe, with children riding waves on body boards. Waves are short, but intermediate surfers can paddle further out for waves up to 6ft and if you’re lucky, occasional barrels – so you can live the dream and surf through the curl of a wave (once you’ve had a bit more practice). After sunset, toast your success at Zephyr, the hippest bar-restaurant on the beach.
Nicknamed ‘A Bay’, on the island’s east coast, Arugam is the best place to surf between April and October. Thanks to international surfing competitions, the beach has gained a global reputation for the sport. Point Break, a spot with long waves and a mostly sandy bottom at Elephant Rock, is quiet and ideal for beginners. Intermediate surfers will want to try out Pottuvil Point and Whisky Point, which have waves reaching heights of 6ft and lengths of 800m. Pottuvil Point is the more challenging of the two, and while it can get crowded, it’s still quieter than Australia’s Gold Coast or Kuta in Bali. Here you’ll see surfers on short boards practising fast, energetic moves – and if you’re an experienced surfer, you can meet others on your wavelength.