Surfing Sri Lanka: Dos and Don’ts of Surfing in Arugam Bay

Surfer/Student/Writer

DON'T - Forget the reef. Photo: Lindsay Allan

DON’T – Forget the reef. Photo: Lindsay Allan

The season for Sri Lanka’s east coast is fast approaching, and if right-hand points are your kind of thing you will be privy to its treasures. Here are a few handy tips for a smashing time surfing the subcontinent.

DO prepare for a crowd – Any lazy googling of Arugam Bay will soon have you pining. Promises of sand-bottom perfection down every path, pictures of pristine walls aching to be torn apart, and prices that won’t puncture your pocket. Pity. The crowds at the main breaks are dense, and the comparatively mellow surf makes for a melting pot of skill levels. Be on your toes or you may find yourself getting barreled by a rented mini-mal.

DON’T forget the reef – My second wave at Main Point in Arugam Bay and I was bouncing across a reef  I didn’t know existed. It is easy to be distracted by the “sand this, sand that” internet chatter surrounding Sri Lanka’s east coast, however cuts and bruises at the main break are common. The savvy will pack their booties, as entering and exiting the lineup can be touch and go if there’s a bit of swell. Sure, you may lose a bit of street cred in the eyes of the bearded bohemians soul-arching their way down the point, but the price you pay for fashion may just be some skin.

DO explore – You’re up before the sun, zinced up, waxed up, psyched up. You jog around the corner past Baby Point, peer through the gloom and see twenty guys, apparently even keener than you are, already out. Before you drop to your knees and curse Huey, remind yourself that the day is young and there are plenty of options. Some of the best surf I enjoyed was out of town, often just fifteen minutes of terrifying tuk-tuk away. Remember Surfing World’s Sri Lanka feature last year? If it all comes together, you may just score your own little Kirra-comparison to yourself.

DON’T drop in – The locals can surf, who knows how they’d go on a left but at Main Point they have it dialed. The evening glass-off coincides with the workday knock-off, and the local crew comes out to play. Be respectful, be stoked, be nice, be an example. The evening sessions can be some of the most crowded, so resigning to the end section may be tactical genius for those with depleted froth-o-meters. In Arugam Bay it’s always a good idea to look left.

DO brave the wind – Throughout my stay in July you could just about set your watch to the wind: a light morning offshore, followed by an often-stiff cross-onshore wind towards lunch and then a glassy evening. If you are searching for solace at the main breaks your best bet is the midday session. The onshores, scorching heat and plentiful Lion beers keep many punters lazing under the palms, but if you’re not averse to a bit of lump and bump you can score some excellent pumping waves almost to yourself.

DON’T miss out – It is easy to don the surf goggles and block out the other great things Arugam Bay has to offer. The main drag has restaurants a plenty, and I recommend you try them all. The nightly parties are always packed and you’ll lose count of how many times you drunkenly stammer through Bob Marley’s “Is This Love.” Walk through town, but don’t expect to be able to buy a guitar anywhere. See the wildlife, there’s nothing like passing wild elephants at dawn on your way to an empty lineup an hour from town.

Surfing Sri Lanka: Dos and Don’ts of Surfing in Arugam Bay

5 Responses to “Surfing Sri Lanka: Dos and Don’ts of Surfing in Arugam Bay”


  • Madhu Surf • 2 years ago
    Arugam bay may not be the world class surf break, but definitely the vibe, temperature, and great surf makes it the perfect surfing DESTINATION for anyone!
    We just launched our surf camp in Arugam bay! Check out at http://www.surfcamparugambay.com

  • Clint Eastwood

    Clint Westwood • a year ago
    If you are not on budget and want to sleep in front of Main Point, try this place, it’s surfer paradise : http://www.upali-beach.com

    Regarding some other comments, personally I surfed Main Point in August (very high season) and if it’s true that it’s sometimes overcrowded, it’s definitely the best wave around where you’ll meet all the best and friendly local surfers… And the good news is that it’s not always crowded : When the swell is there, most of the tourists spread on all other breaks, leaving Main Point line-up sometimes totally empty.

  • Ricky Barry • 3 years ago
    Hey Barry, which one are you talking about exactly? If you mean the one in Yalla then I’d take to Google Earth and check out the set ups. It’s hard hard work getting in there though as the whole thing is completely sealed off by the Military. If you stop in A-Bay go to Siam (Hotel I think) and ask for Fred Miller. He’s been in Abay for like 40 years and has done a bunch of surf trips into the Yala. He was the one who put us onto the little dirt track that bypassed the Military so he’ll be able to help. Hope you get waves mate!

  • Barry Ricky • 3 years ago
    Where was that break Ricky? heading over in a few weeks and would like to give it a look

  • Ricky • 3 years ago
    I spent a Month there a couple of years ago, such a good place. Even though ABay was pumping we only surfed it twice due to crowds of kooks. We were 5 Australian guys who have surfed as long as we’ve been able to swim. Lucky for us we hired a car in Colombo to give us the freedom to move around the country. This allowed us to venture all over and especially north and south of Abay. We seriously scored uncrowded and perfect waves at Whiskey point, Panama and a few other places. Since we had a 4WD, we bought some machetes, tents and supplies and ventured into the Yalla National Park. Getting into the Yalla was tough as the whole park is a no go zone guarded by heavy military checkpoints. Still we found a dirt track and started chopping for 6 hours to the coast. Worth every chop! We drove down the beach for a few hours until we found a perfect right hand point brake and set up camp for 4 days. We seriously scored one of the best right-handers I’ver ever surfed and it pumped for 3 days with the nearest other human probably a few hours drive away. All came to an end with the Military found us and escorted us out of the park

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