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Elephants, mangoes and ceylon tea: these are a few of my favourite things The adventures (and misadventures) of an Australian in exotic and spiritual Sri Lanka

A wave goodbye

SRI LANKA | Sunday, 25 July 2010 | Views [1424] | Comments [3]

Waves are recurring motion. Ever tumbling, ever crashing, forming great peaks before hollowing out in a shower of foam. Their existence evokes a sundry of organic human responses. The human can dominate the wave, or suffer its wrath like a forgotten tissue in a washing machine. Surfers find a thrill from riding a wall of water that has enough power to dwarf them. You know, man versus wild, that sort of stuff.

Surfers get snobby about their waves. Locals protect them, taking all the rides save the odd donation to a sun-burnt tourist in a gesture of charity, or pity. Surfers form some sort of salty secret society, their mandate: to protect their territory. During Sri Lanka’s 30 year war, it was the LTTE Tamil Tigers who took the east coast and ironically, protected it from the cheap exploits of package tourism. It’s the same coast that was devastated by the most powerful wave of all, Tsunami - Japanese for ‘harbour wave.’

Now, the beaches are largely unspoiled and Arugam Bay is a favourite among board riders. Friday nights are spent sitting in the sand with barbequed prawns and a beach fire flicking light on scorched faces… Swedes, Aussies, Spaniards, Germans and Austrians debriefing the day’s biggest catches. It’s an international forum but I think they’re speaking English or maybe it’s some secret jargon you learn at the secret surfer society? Crests, tubes, breaks, impact zones… “Yeah, I had a car once,” I join in.

I decided at once that I wanted to be a part of this club, whatever it was, so I took a surf lesson. After two hours of bobbing around, exhausting paddling and getting caught in the rinse, I had got up… for a couple of seconds at least. It was enough. Enough to leave me with the same ravenous appetite as a beer drinker with a plate of pretzels sat in front of me. It tasted good. The ensuing sun stroke – not so much.

Maybe I could join this society on a part-time basis? A weekend here and there? For some of these surfers, it’s a full-time commitment, chasing waves all over the world. Seeking crests but shunning family crests. Chasing the feeling and forgetting another? It’s a fetishist tale of dominator and servant but who plays which role? Nature is always the stronger force with the power even to divide the most basic unit of humanity, family. Who knows if the surfers will wash back onto their home shores… They voluntarily cast themselves off for years at a time, one fellow for twenty years, he’s Australian but his accent is a mongrel. When the wave spits you out, there’s an ankle strap to pull you back to the board, but when you throw out your roots, is there anything left to pull you home?

Tags: arugam bay, beaches, sri lanka, surfing, waves



Hey elise_beacom,

We really liked your story and decided to feature it this week on the WorldNomads Adventures homepage so that others can enjoy it too.

Happy travels!
World Nomads

  World Nomads Jul 26, 2010 3:58 PM


Nice one Elise, just trying to interpret your last sentence.....keep up the great work, and the great stories
G x

  Gina Beacom Jul 26, 2010 10:37 PM


Sri Lanka Tailor-made is a part of the Jetwing group and is a specialist in tailor making holiday programs to Sri Lanka. Tailor made to your budget and exact specifications with honest, knowledgeable and expert advice on hotels, transport and all other travel requirements. Travel Sri Lanka the way you want with Sri Lanka Tailor-made.

  Travel Sri Lanka Jul 29, 2010 3:37 PM

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