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.
Before my trip to Sri Lanka, I had 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.
Spending a week in Sri Lanka's quintessential surf town is all about going with the flow, eating fresh local food, meeting new friends, and catching the perfect wave.

Accommodation at The Green Rooms

I did extensive research about the best beaches in Sri Lanka for surfing, and the best hotels with surf camps. I knew I needed a lot of instruction, so lessons would be the way to go for me.

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 a bit 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

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 – but 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.

Sunrises and sunsets are particularly beautiful in Weligama. The bay faces due south, so both sunrise and sunset are stunning over the water.

The bay is as warm as bathwater and sandy as far out as you can walk. It’s the perfect place to learn to surf because you’re guaranteed to have a soft landing when you wipe out. And bonus: no wetsuit required! (I’d still recommend wearing board shorts and a shirt – 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.

Surfing in Weligama, Sri Lanka

Surf operators on Weligama Beach

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.

Catching Waves

I was nervous to go out for my first lesson, but our instructor, Shaggy, was a jokester and made us all feel confident to tackle the waves.
My first few lessons were rough. I was outfitted with a large board that supposedly helps beginners learn to balance. Not me; I felt like I was riding on a banquet table. 
If the nose went even a little into the water, it would flip me over the backside like a catapult. If I put my weight too much in the back it would sink like the Titanic. I felt like I needed a smaller board, but the waves were small and I was told I should take as much area space as I could get.

So 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.

Surfing in Weligama, Sri Lanka

My friend Andreas catching a wave.

Breaking Through

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 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.

Surfing in Weligama, Sri Lanka

Look ma, I can surf!


The Green Rooms – Weligama, Sri Lanka

  • Website
  • Location: New Bypass Road, Pelena, Weligama, Sri Lanka
  • Rates: Bed & breakfast starting at £400 per person per week. Surf or yoga camps start at £450 per person per week. More information on their website.
  • 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.
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