July 2010

Surfing Arugam Bay’s Paradise Waves
July 2010

A surfer at Whiskey Point

Ruth Noden takes us on a tour of her time whiling away the hours on the diamond shores of Arugam Bay.
Photography: Mike Cairns

The building storms in the Indian Ocean forcing swell towards Sri Lanka's East coast make it a surfer's paradise between the months of May and September. This promise of perfect waves lured me to the beautiful white sands of Arugam Bay, the jewel of the East Coast. As I recall my first trip to the country my memories are dominated by surf filled mornings and lazy days framed by a bounty of picture perfect scenery. Arriving at the start of the surfing season, and after just a few days of endless peeling waves, I discover that this world renowned surf spot certainly wasn't going to disappoint.

Still off the radar for some international visitors, just ten hour taxi drive away from the international airport in Katunayake, it would have been too easy for us to jump in a comfortable air conditioned van and head straight to the coast. Instead we gently made our way across the width of the country beholding a wealth of cultural and natural wonders as we tread our path. What a travesty it would have been to miss out on the vibrant and buzzing streets of Kandy, the majestic train ride through the lush hill country and tea plantations and watching the mist gently roll in and cloak Ella Gap from sight.

After a slow but rewarding start to our adventure we arrive in the tropical destination of Arugam Bay nestled on the East Coast, near the town of Pottuvil. Awaiting our arrival is both a warm and welcoming community and an abundance of waves. We take our pick from the many unassuming, charming guest houses that sprinkle the shoreline. Each one perfectly in keeping with the picturesque village, they look every bit a part of the scenery as the traditional fishing boats that line the shore and pave the way towards the surf. Refreshingly, we are engulfed by a real sense of community and local identity. Not many areas can boast a world class wave, whilst resisting the temptation to overdevelop, ultimately masking the local culture with faceless hotels.

A wave fit for surfing royalty, Arugam Bay Point, located at the very southern tip of the beach, lives up to its name by consistently providing the more experienced surfer with head high waves

Meandering our way through the boats, Arugam Bay's main surfing point is lazily just a stone's throw away from our chosen resting place. It is impossible not to have the surf on your doorstep here, with every visiting resident checking the size of the swell from the comfort of their beds as they listen to the constant crash of the waves. A wave fit for surfing royalty, Arugam Bay Point, located at the very southern tip of the beach, lives up to its name by consistently providing the more experienced surfer with head high waves, barrelling precariously onto the ancient coral reef below.

Days relaxingly roll into weeks as we feast on the endless and, it seems, almost unstoppable perfect peaks on the point of Arugam Bay.

However our inquisitive nature takes hold and we soon learn that there is a wealth of waves, offering surfers of all abilities the chance to get their toes wet, waiting to be discovered along this small stretch of coast. Arugam Bay records waves ranging from two feet to ten feet in height. In just a few weeks the beaches all around transform as the sea surges in depositing mounds of sand and unearthing a new and unridden wall of water. A learner's delight, the mellow waves break in the Bay, starts to cascade down and offer gentle and slow tumbling lines of swell tempting cruising surfers from across the Bay. At the north and south of Arugam Bay, just a short three wheeler ride away from where we were staying, we also find a treasure trove of breathtaking beaches and waves excellent for surfing. With ease, what awaits us is deserted expanses of sparkling white sand and the only sound, that of the boom of the breaking waves. There's the dreamy Whiskey Point (Komare, its local name) tucked in behind Pottuvil town, where the waves peel off the rocks on this unpopulated beach. This more secluded point is an idyllic uncrowded alternative to the popular main point.

Peanut Farm (Sastira Villa) and Crocodile Rock (Kuda Kalli) on the road out to Panama, provides challenging waves next to the rocks for the more experienced surfer and crumbling beach breaks for those taking their first surfing steps.

Wondering where the time went, we head back to the airport with a heavy heart but with a real sense of achievement and a new level of tranquillity not achieved before. My resounding memory that will stay with me forever - reaching the dizzy heights of the Point's waves, conquering my fear and feeling the full powerful force of the ocean behind, gliding me towards the beauty of the Bay. I glimpse back and say goodbye to my endless summer in Arugam Bay.

Picture 2 - If you are not a master of the sport then take your pick of the many boards available to hire and enlist the advice of one of the local experts who'll soon have you cruising along as you feel the rush of pride and achievement when you realise you are surfing. Soon the surfing bug will inevitably bite, if it hasn't already.

Picture 4 and 5 - Evenings at Arugam Bay
What do we do as the night silently creeps in and the aches in our muscles overwhelm us? Gorge ourselves on the culinary delights on offer and silence our growling inners at the row upon row of beachfront restaurants. A truly peaceful area, Arugam Bay is characterised by early risers and thus after a full day of activity one cannot help but heed to the comfort of slumber. The tranquillity of the Bay relaxes you and forces you to shake off the stress of the everyday grind. My advice, take a well earned break and spend some time truly unwinding in this idyllic place.

The British Pro Surf Association (BPSA) - Champions of Champions surf contest will be held July 1 - 4, 2010 in Arugam Bay