Sri Lanka 23: Surfing at Elephant Rock

Check one off the bucket list!

As noted before, Arugam Bay is known for having the best surf in Sri Lanka.  From what I’ve heard and read, it’s not one of the best places to surf in the world, but it’s definitely a place to cut your teeth and learn what to do before moving on to bigger and better things.

So, this morning was teeth-cutting time!

We got picked up at our place at around 8 am, were loaded into another tuk tuk at the surf shops, boards up top, before being shuttled over to Elephant Rock, a beautiful cove of rocks and waves that you get through by passing some dry rice paddies where, apparently, elephants will come out at night.

The beach there is nicer than the Arugam Bay beach, missing the three-foot drop caused by the waves at Arugam, but nobody was there to lounge (at least, not at first).  Everybody and their brother was either on a surfboard, learning how to get on a surfboard, or was getting some sun after having just finished being on a surfboard.

We chose Safa Surf School the day before, and they started Daina and I off with lessons on the different parts of the board, how to lie on the board, and how to stand up on the board.  I was actually able to get up on the board fairly quickly and efficiently on the sand, which totally filled me with what I would later discover was a sense of false confidence.  Daina’s knee was still playing some tricks on him but, eventually, he managed to get the jump and, soon enough, we were in the water.

Getting to the break was interesting, as you could walk to it through a rougher patch of water near the rocks, or paddle to it from the calmer water, which would then become a big wave, which would push you almost back to the shore if you weren’t ready for it.  Once you got the rhythm of what you were supposed to do, it wasn’t too difficult to get out there.  The first time I tried to get up on the board I wiped out, but the second run was a straight stand, where I went what felt like twenty plus feet before falling into the water.  More false confidence, right there, but boy was I excited!

In the meantime, Daina’s first attempt ended with him being legit pushed into another surfer who was actually pretty good but, from watching the reactions of the surf instructors, was totally disregarding the “beginner’s area’ and just zooming through without control.  Daina apologized and explained what happened, so no harm (or just a little), no foul (on Daina). He managed to get up in a couple of tries as well!

For me, the next few attempts involved not getting up in time, falling off the board, putting my feet too far back and causing the board to just stop moving, resulting in me sinking into the water.  I did managed to get to my feet a couple more times, though once I plowed right into another beginning surfer (people are usually pretty cool with that, since it’s a beginner’s bay), and the second I was about to/maybe did hit a kid, so I fell off the surfboard to keep that from happening.  The kid fell off his board, which knocked his sister off her board, which resulted in them swearing at each other even after I took the blame and apologized for knocking them off.


Anyhow, despite the total lack of success, getting on the water and giving surfing at try was amazing!  Don’t know if we’re doing it again tomorrow – haven’t thought that far ahead – but, given the opportunity, it will be something I take a crack at again in my life.

We spent the rest of the beach time wandering a bit, drinking and eating a couple of fresh King coconuts.  One of the surf instructors was trying to do a headstand on the beach and I though “Okay, here’s where I show what I can do”, and I managed to pull off a couple of good ones, instructing the guy on where to put his knees so he’s doing the least amount of work to get a straight headstand!  According to Daina, the beach was impressed!

We were pretty exhausted when our tuk tuk driver came around again, so we hoped on in and made our way back to Arugam.  He asked if we had any stickers from Canada that he could put on the tuk tuk and, as luck would have it, Daina had a Meow Meow Industries sticker, the logo for a clothing company run by a friend of ours.  Driver couldn’t have been more excited and told us he’d detail his tuk tuk tonight and stick it on!

We went by the surf shop, paid up, grabbed some brunch at the Stay Golden restaurant (more Sri Lankan pancakes and some awesome iced coffee!) before crashing for a bit.

And by “a bit” I mean “most of the afternoon.”  I emerged around four to see if I could figure out laundry, book a trip to the Pottuvil Lagoon for tomorrow, and buy a pair of shorts, since my dark ones have a growing hole in the bottom that is only being hidden by wearing black undies, the shorts being baggy, and the fact that, in this country, pretty much everything about me is maybe more distracting than my rear.  Ended up snagging a good deal on a purple-and-green Billabong swim shirt and a tank top for 21 CAD, got the tour hooked up, shorts were a no-go, couldn’t figure out laundry, but meh, one out of three.

Getting back, Daina had figured out laundry, and I figured that I would go to an evening yoga class.  Daina decided to get his hair cut, because waiting three days before returning to Canada was hard.  Yoga was great, and for the second time in my limited experience with Belgians, I was told I look like Matthias Schoenaerts, the most famous actor in all of Belgium.  Not a bad looking guy, so I’ll take it!

In the meantime, Daina’s attempt at “Number 2 on the side and half an inch of the top” turned into a hack job, which turned into a buzz cut (he still looks good), which turned into the barber feeling so bad that Daina got a head massage.  Might wait until I get home.

We went out for dinner, had some fresh calamari and shrimp, mine in Sri Lankan curry form, Daina’s in a “special” fried noodle form, and then we headed back to crash.

Really, this place is all about not cramming too much into a day.  So I think we’re doing nicely on that front.

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