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I have to admit, I’ve taken to surfing more than I ever thought I would.
I’ve become addicted to the feeling of being on the board, the energy of a wave beneath my feet. The awe of nature that I’ve only felt when I’ve been in the most majestic of landscapes – Yosemite, the Andes, the Sahara – but that I can experience every time my board hits the water.
I knew a surf camp in Sri Lanka was a must given the country’s reputation for picture-perfect beaches and world-class surf breaks. I had previously tried my hand at surfing in Santa Cruz, California and in Puerto Rico.I was ready to push myself to get better.That urge led me to sign up for a week of surf camp at The Green Rooms in Weligama.
The experience was so great that I want to share all of my newfound knowledge with you about what it’s like to stay in and surf in Weligama, Sri Lanka.
Why Go to Surf Camp in Sri Lanka?
Sri Lanka has some of the world’s most gorgeous untouched beaches. If you drive or take a train ride along the cost, you’ll see postcard views everywhere you look.
Sri Lanka has great surf breaks all long its coast – and the country is surrounded by water on all sides. Because of the abundance of beaches and water, you’re bound to find a surf spot that’s just right for you, whether you’re a seasoned pro or have never stepped foot on a board.
As any beginner surfer will attest, simply picking up a board and catching a wave is easier said than done. Surfing requires knowledge of where surf breaks are, how to read the swells, how to propel the board into the wave, knowing when to pop up, and – if you get this far – actually balancing on the board once you’re up.
I don’t say that to suggest that surfing is inherently hard, but it can be very frustrating if you don’t know what you’re doing (I share my own surfing challenges a little later in this post).
Because of this, getting some instruction from an experienced surfer can take you from wiping out to riding waves faster than you might think.
Surf camps are a great idea for anyone who really wants to hone their skills. You don’t have to have surfed before to attend camp, either – many cater to beginners, even those who have never picked up a board before.
What’s great about surf camp is that you can quickly learn skills and develop muscle memory that isn’t possible to perfect in one lesson. You have the chance to try, fail, adjust, and eventually master the techniques.
Now, a week of surf camp in Sri Lanka didn’t turn me into a professional or even intermediate surfer once I was done. But what it did do was give me the confidence to pick up a board on my own the next time I’m at a beach, knowing that even if I have to knock some of the rust off, I will still be able to confidently catch waves on my own.
It can do the same for you.
Finding the Perfect Surf Camp at The Green Rooms in Weligama, Sri Lanka
I did extensive research about the best surf camps in Sri Lanka as well as the best beaches for surfing. I knew I needed a lot of instruction, so I focused on finding a surf camp that was both affordable and good for beginners.
There are dozens of reputable surf schools along the island’s famous beaches, but one that stood out to me was The Green Rooms.
Its location in Weligama is very convenient to Mirissa, a popular destination for travelers with good restaurants and night life. Weligama is known for its favorable surf break and perfect waves for beginner and intermediate surfers.
What really attracted me to The Green Rooms was that it is a family-owned local business. It provides much-needed jobs and makes giving back to the local community a priority.
It was more expensive than the rest of my accommodations on the trip, but I felt that the total experience would be worth it.
I signed up for a week-long stay with a 4-day surf camp. It included breakfast each day and lunch on surf days, all surf lessons, and a spacious bungalow with picture perfect views of the bay. The package totaled £450 or about $620 USD for 7 days.
Beach Life in Weligama, Sri Lanka
Life in Weligama was about as laid back as it could possibly be. The Green Rooms offered most everything I could need – food, beer, equipment, socialization with staff and other travelers – and the town was a short walk away if I needed to pick up anything else. Restaurants and night life are a short 10-minute tuk-tuk ride into Mirissa.
Traditional fishing boats set off every morning from the beachfront at The Green Rooms, bringing back a fresh catch for lunch and dinner. The fresh fish each day was out of this world.
Weligama’s sunrises and sunsets are particularly beautiful. The bay faces due south, so both sunrise and sunset are vivid over the water. And though the beach fills up during the day, you’ll have it all to yourself at sunrise if you have the strength to get out of bed.
The bay is as warm as bathwater and sandy as far out as you can walk. It’s the perfect place for surf camp because you’re guaranteed to have a soft landing when you wipe out.
An added bonus of the warm bay waters: no wetsuit required! I’d still recommend wearing board shorts and a shirt, though – the sun is intense! I managed to burn the entire back of my legs after one lesson.
For those without a surfing package included in their stay, pickup lessons are easy to find on the beach. Surf operators offer equipment rentals and instructors are at the ready all day.
Bikinis are ok to wear, but I covered up a bit to walk along the beach. Plenty of people sunbathe, but it’s usually in or around their hotels. I didn’t see any sunbathers with towels laid out on the beach itself. Sri Lankans dress modestly, so be respectful of the local dress norms.
Taking to the Water at Surf Camp in Sri Lanka
It went on like that for three lessons, and three increasingly frustrating days.
Chest up, paddle, slowly, then hard, paddle! Now up. Up! Arm thrust, quick-turn feet, splash. Wipe out. “You’re on the rails,” Shaggy would say. “I just need to get my balance and I’ll be good,” I’d reply. But I could never find balance.
Wave after wave. Chest up, paddle, lift, quick-turn, splash. Splash. Splash. In my two prior surfing experiences I had never flopped so hard. I didn’t know what was going wrong.
Finding My Footing at Surf Camp
During my fourth lesson, a strong wave broke the leash from my ankle and I had to get a new board. I decided to grab the next size smaller board to see if I’d have better luck with that.
I took it out on the water. It felt small, my chin much farther up toward the nose than before. I rejoined the group and positioned myself to catch a wave.
“Take this one,” Shaggy said. Chest up, paddle, lift, quick-turn, feet set…up!!
UP, easy, like I had experienced before.
UP, steering the board like I knew what the heck I was doing.
“It’s a fluke,” I thought, not yet allowing myself to place this small success on the size of the board.
Next wave. Chest up, paddle, harder, feel it coming up on the board, speed increasing, lift body, quick-turn, feet set! Up! Gliding on the wave, if a bit unsteady, as it guides me to shore. I fist pump at Shaggy who is equally elated for me. Two! In a row!
Then three, four, five. I couldn’t believe it. Finally the pieces came together! Maybe I wasn’t doing it wrong this whole time, maybe I was clumsy because I was playing with shoes that were two sizes too big.
And now, now I could stand on water, riding the pure energy of the waves on the beach as gracefully as the other surfers.
What to Know About The Green Rooms in Weligama, Sri Lanka
- Location: New Bypass Road, Pelena, Weligama, Sri Lanka. You can get there by bus (tuk-tuk from the bus station, or it’s a 20-30 minute walk), tuk-tuk, car, or train (at least one train trip in Sri Lanka is a must).
- Rates: Bed & breakfast starting at £400 per person per week. Yoga and surf camps start at £450 per person per week. More information on their website.
- Surf camp: Excellent. Despite my issues with the board, I found the instructors (Shaggy in my case) to be experienced, knowledgeable, and patient. There was a strong focus on technique and the skills I gained made me confident enough to pick up a board on my own the next time I’m at the beach.
- Food: Excellent. Local catches, traditional Sri Lankan breakfast, other items made fresh on site.
- Alcohol: Usually limited to beer served from the kitchen. Sometimes Sri Lankan arrack. A liquor store in town is about a 20 minute walk.
- Atmosphere: Casual, social. Expect to become friends with all of the staff, and to meet many of the other travelers staying at the hotel. I made friends that I still keep in touch with to this day.