Old fisherman philosopher
watching waves eternal
never stepping, on same beach twice…

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Surfer #1: BrooooSurfing is like the best man! It’s life, it’s love, it’s bliss, surfing’s like totally my yoga man.
Surfer #2: Yeah Bro, did you see that Ariel I landed earlier, straight up sex, Bro.
Surfer #1: Yeaaaaa BroooIt was sick! Brooo! Surfing is definitely better than sex.
Surfer #2: Someone’s obviously not having great sex…

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Girl #1: So, what do you do here in Mirrissa?
Surfer #3: I surf, I smoke weed and... listen to deep house.
Girl #1: HahaThat’s awesome!
Surfer #3: We go secret beach?

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DEWATA BEACH

Dewata, sandy bottom break,
a great beach for beginners,
located right off the highway,
somewhat polluted but remains,
one of the better breaks in Galle,
mainly rights, waves
usually hold up to 3ft,
100m rides

Pre-Tsunami, Dewata used to be choppy, with drug related tensions crackling through the neighborhood. Word on the street: female pushers and kingpins reigned supreme, keeping the beach dusted with heroin.  Some of the cats surfing Dewata have had bags of heroin stashed in their pillows as kids.  Praise Jah! Surfing has triumphed over their parents opiate nightmares.

Now, the only thing dirtying the beach are sewers running into sea – intense run offs after heavy rains are a serious problem.  The Tsunami cleaned everything else out, sobering people up to the preciousness of life. Now it’s mostly sunshine, waves, odd bits of plastic and hot local surfers teaching eager students with open hearts and smiles.

Dewata Beach has a view of the Rumassala Hill on one side and of the Closenberg peninsula on the other. The side of the beach towards Galle has seen some grass roots level gentrification in the past couple of years, with some quaint juice bars and surf schools popping up among groves of Coconut, Albesia and Indian Almond trees.

Waves are a valuable natural resource with the potential to generate income, surf-based tourism has a definite impact on the areas it flourishes in. Being a natural resource, the waves are also a part of the natural heritage of the locals living in the area. If they have taken the brunt of it with the Tsunami, then surely they deserve to skim some cream off it with surf based tourism?  Dewata is a great example of how locals have taken initiative to harness this resource in a manner that’s benefitting the local community as well as the environment. This isn’t always the case in most places or countries, where foreigners identify spots with nice waves and no surfers, to set up relatively lucrative businesses without involving local communities. Justifying their exploitation with some bullshit argument about how locals should feel lucky to take some nourishing sips off their measly trickle down, in my opinion. There have been some foreign-based surf camps set up in between Dewata and Weligama, their full impact is yet to be seen, I hope it will be positive.

    

Ahikava
Dewata’s first surf school Ahikava is also one of the best in the Galle area. It hangs out on the more comfortable side of Dewata, adjacent to the Closenberg hotel.  Ahikava is generally ‘a chill spot to chill’ and try your hand at surfing if you will. It is also a decent spot to just grab a juice and roast one, tan, read a book in the shade…fried rice anyone?

The spot is run by Dewata locals, who grew up on the beach and are now riding its first wave of gentrification, transforming what was a post-tsunami wasteland into a pleasant strip of salt and sunshine.

The allure of surfing and surfers, wanting to learn, from all over the world has motivated the locals to keep the beach clean of both trash and Dewata’s shady past. Ahikava is a beautiful example of how surfing has given local kids both a sense of purpose and a means of income.

    

UNAWATUNA

Learn to surf
Sunset Point
Come enjoy
Night with me

– [From Impressions of the South by CMB staple Davesh Ramachandani]

The surf in Unawatuna was destroyed by the government. Government-authorised construction of a breakwater by the temple at the far end, drastically changed the morphology of the beach, washing away over half of it. Political and large-scale business interests in Unawatuna summoned sand from Panadura. Strange ships pumped the beach back into existence.  Smearing Una’s pristine ‘pol-kudu’ (scraped coconut) sands with dirty ‘kohu-buth’ (coconut husk based fertilizer) from the vicinity of the capital. Keeping Unawatuna fertile for investment.

Unawatuna is a poignant case study on how uninformed political decisions can adversely affect the geography of an area, in turn affecting the surrounding culture. Una has transformed from an idyllic surf town with some of the best parties in the islands into a postcard miasma of bland tans and arrack soaked walruses, “Hello Madame”, “No, thank you”. And yet there is still something special, sexy, wonderful, (visible, palpable yet endangered).

Despite the grim turn it has taken in recent times, Una is still charming, beautiful, houses some nice establishments and echoes with good times waiting to be realised.  Plus, on a lucky day you can catch some surf (if not at least some nice Surf & Turf.)

    

Koha Surf Lounge
Rasika grew up in Unawatuna surfing its now extinct break, and these days he is also cruising as proprietor of Koha Surf Lounge.

Koha is Rasika’s lotus pond of good vibes, a garden tended to with years of love and care. It’s cute, it’s vibey, it’s a lounge, a restaurant, a bar and a surf shop. They do great burgers, wraps and cocktails. They also always have eclectic and tasteful music playing. Koha is a bastion of hope and relief from the Chinese water torture drip drip drip of the omnipresent tech-house remix.

It’s a great venue for pre-drinks, and has hosted intimate reggae sessions and live electronic acts in the past. Rasika and his crew are keeping their heads up, the surf culture alive, and perpetuating good vibes, instead of burying themselves into crippling waves of critiques rife with nostalgia.

    

KABALANA

Kabalana,
a beautiful stretch of beach,
little south of Kogalla, perhaps
the sexiest, in that part
of the south. Its desert like
powdery white sand and frothy
cerulean waters, an initiation
to writhe into undying, heated, embrace
with sand and sea and disappear into ensuing bliss forever and… ever.
Its swells always have surfers
coming back for more.

Kabalana undulates two spanking surf points: the main beach break and the rock.

The rock is claimed to be the best A-Frame reef break in Sri Lanka – this point is for intermediate and advanced surfers and is known for its power and fast rides. During high season, the waves can reach up to eight feet high.  Dawn to sunrise is the ideal time to catch clean glassy waves, so glassy you think God herself was blowing on hot silica, breathing those beloved, barreling waves into being.

The beach break is great for beginners to frolic and flit about in the frothy waters. There are some surf schools always eager to help out, close to the end of the beach, with a hotel that appears to be a contemporary Sri Lankan homage to ancient Egypt, articulated in exported Chinese vernacular – it’s garish – to say the least.

Kabalana is known for its riptides towards the south side of the beach and there are no lifeguards on duty, so if you are prone to panicking, lack stamina or your swimming skills aren’t up to scratch, be a little careful because you just might disappear into the ensuing bliss forever.

Weligama Bay

Weligama Bay is a stretch of shallow sandy beach, 2km long. Waters here boast some of the nicest peacock, powdery, sky blues in the entire south. It’s the kind of spot to ‘get wavey’ and become one with ocean, on a Rumi meets endless summer sort of scene. The best time to surf is before sunrise, the waters become pretty crowded during the day, although watching all those surfers bobbing around in the water can be a very pretty if not entertaining sight, especially at sunset.

Like Dewata Beach there is a massive sewage problem here too. The word is that the town council had been flooding treated sewage into their waterways, causing stifling living conditions for local residents. Now they have been sending it into the sea instead, letting children, sewage and tourists mingle in the murky waters. Garbage, like most other fishing beaches, is sadly an issue here as well.

There has been a flurry of establishments that have been coming up in the area, like the W15 hotel, which is a definite swanky upgrade to the strip. You can catch some cool sunset vibes there. And some not so nice hotels like the Marriott, which looms over the south side, haunting this prime, million-dollar bay (as the Marriott have duly noted), with its anonymous corporate skyline, a haven for tourists who travel from resort to resort without ever really leaving their homes. Perhaps they could pull some strings or invest some of their profits into cleaning the beach up and resolving the garbage and sewage issue, to make up for the aesthetic and cultural pollution they are responsible for.

    

Good Story
Good Story is a way chill surf school and hotel on Weligama Bay. It is run by a consortium of Russian cats, feet deep in the underground. They are into surfing, skating, have really good taste in electronic music and happen to be pretty good DJ’s as well. Good Story is a great example of how a foreign business is creating both a positive cultural and economic impact in the south.

Every Poya night they have surf sessions with lo-key, spacey house music playing at the bar.

The moon, in full bloom
sometimes veiled
passing clouds,
mercurial speckles
surfing over sky-dark
waters, riders
paddle out.

They have talented artists and DJs in residence, on rotation, collaborating with local artists and producing work inspired by the cultural and geographical context of the surroundings. They have set up a truly worthwhile and much needed cultural exchange between Russia and Sri Lanka, with famous Russian TV shows coming down to shoot in the south. Many good stories have been written in that end of Weligama Bay and there are definitely many more to be written.

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