I recently returned home from an epic Southeast Asia trip -- I went scuba diving in Thailand, slowboating and mountain biking in Laos, hiking and surfing in Malaysia, and five-star hotel-ing in Myanmar.
But among the highlights of my trip was visiting Elsewhere Surf Camp in Weligama, Sri Lanka. When I checked in, one of the surf instructors asked how long I was staying.
"A week," I told him.
"You'll end up staying longer," he smiled.
I wasn't so sure. I had big plans for my Sri Lanka trip -- including oxcart rides and elephant safaris. But I humored him.
There was a lot to love about Elsewhere. Even though I'm all grown-up and I don't stay in dorm-style hostels anymore (that was so 2007), living in the three-bed room was actually super fun. My two female roommates were goofy and smart and awesome -- and we bonded big time.
Moreover, we each had queen-sized beds, with privacy curtains around each bed to ensure a good night's sleep. The room also had a private bathroom with a shower.
Breakfasts (with a pre-surf smoothie and a post-surf hot entree) and dinners (either cooked in the house or at a nearby tiki hut) were included. We were on our own for lunch -- but every day, they took lunch orders for those who would rather hang at the house than go out. That costs about $3, and the delivery option is pretty tasty! And believe me -- if you're surfing two or three times a day, there are going to be afternoons when you want to stay in the air conditioning and get out of the sun.
As for the surfing -- Weligama has dozens of great (mostly reef) breaks. There are rights and lefts, and you can find something good pretty much any day. For several days my first week, the waves were small, but still super fun!
And Elsewhere Surf Camp has several foam and hard longboards for mushy small days.
Elsewhere has two surf packages -- the beginner package, and the intermediate/experienced package.
If you're a beginner and you want to actually learn how to surf, a surf camp is probably the best possible way to do it. Sure, you can spend $20 on a one-hour lesson at the beach... but surfing is hard to get good at. If you want to be for serious, you're going to need more practice and in-water instruction than that.
And that's something Elsewhere does really well. As a beginner, you get a one-hour land lesson each morning -- you'll learn things that you never would otherwise, like right-of-way rules, board selection, and technique.
Then you head out to the beach. On your first day, you'll probably mostly be trying to get up in the white water. But by the end of the week, you'll be paddling into your own waves and riding the shoulder (hopefully).
Because I'm an intermediate surfer, I didn't do the beginner package. Instead, I did the guided surf -- which I was super stoked about. I was pretty sure that, with professional feedback, I could improve as much in one week of surfing Sri Lanka as I did in six weeks of surfing Costa Rica.
I mean, I'd just spent a week surfing in Cherating, Malaysia, with my amazing friend Omar -- and his feedback was a tremendous help to me.
Sadly, that's not exactly how it worked out.
The "guided surf" basically just meant that my guide (let's call him Cat) would take me and the two other intermediate surfers to a break... and go surfing. If I left him a $100 tip for every piece of feedback he gave me... I still would have left him a $0 tip.
Maybe I just didn't understand the role of a "guide" -- it was my first surf camp, after all! I thought he was there to help me, not snake me.
Of course, I wouldn't feel right complaining about him online unless I tried doing something to correct the situation, first. After all, as I wrote in Quick! Before You Publicly Shame People Who Annoy You Online, TRY THIS, and again in Men Can Learn From the "You Should Have Asked" Comic -- But So Can Women, people can't read minds, and would almost always rather hear your feedback so they can correct a situation than find out later that they'd offended, hurt, or annoyed you.
Which is why I asked for a different surf guide. I even asked for a specific one. Let's call him Ryan. Ryan was sweet and kind and modest and awesome, in and out of the water. We went out on an unofficial surf one morning, and I was like, "Oh my gosh! He's the guide I want!"
So I specifically asked for him for the second week of my trip. They said it wouldn't be a problem... but then I guess it was, because Cat remained the guide for my second week.
So that was pretty lame. That, and the fact that their dog stole one of my socks -- they were like $15 hiking socks, and the only pair I brought for my whole 3-month trip! -- and no one cared enough to even apologize or help me look for it.
Despite the "Cat" situation, though... I did end up staying a second week. Which was not the plan. At all.
Making new friends on the way to Fisherman's Beach.
The community was great, and the guests were great, and Elsewhere Surf Camp was a great value for someone who's in Weligama to learn to surf. Almost all the guests were girls, so there was a lot of girl time and girl power and stuff.
I met a new surf buddy named Daniel and he's one of the few dudes I've ever spent a significant amount of alone time with without him hitting on me and I kind of love him a little and can't wait to hear about his next venture.
Here's where we used to get lunch:
And Elsewhere organizes outings to nearby attractions, like zoos and stuff. If you're a beginner who's not sure if you really want to surf more than once per day (most beginners didn't do two-a-days till the end of the week), this is a great option for you. If I hadn't already been to Galle, I might have done the Elsewhere trip there:
I just... wouldn't necessarily recommend it for an intermediate surfer. Unless you're, like, nervous about going out on your own, afraid to rent a scooter (there's a good reason to be afraid -- about 1 in 7 white guys in Asia has been in a scooter accident), or bad at reading surf reports.
Otherwise, I would recommend it to:
Your week also comes with one free yoga session -- and after that, it's only a few dollars a day. I partook in several sunset yoga sessions, and it was a great way to get loose after countless hours paddling and way too much sun.
Finally, some logistics, from the Elsewhere FAQ page:
CLIMATE & WATER TEMPERATURE
Sri Lanka has a tropical climate and is therefore hot and humid all year long. Daytime air temperature ranges from 28º-34º dropping to around 22º-26º overnight.
Water temperatures are pretty consistent at 27º-29º so you can surf in board shorts the whole season long.
There is no winter or summer in Sri Lanka, it is either the wet or dry season. The seasons differ depending where you are in the country. At Elsewhere or in the South West of Sri Lanka, peak tourist season is from November – May, which coincides with the driest months (May – October is the SW Monsoon season). This time of year sees smaller swell patterns but very favorable winds. The waves still don’t usually get below shoulder-high however, meaning excellent conditions for beginner and intermediate surfers. If your goal is to get bigger waves and no crowds and don’t mind a bit of rain come in the low season.
Dry Season (November to May)
We picked our location because we are in walking distance to not one but 7 different surf breaks that are mostly unknown…I mean some of the spots are empty every day..The hot spots like Kabalana and Coconuts are starting to get crowds as they become more famous..but you just need to go Elsewhere to get the insider information. Also we are 15 mins from Mirissa to the east and 30 mins to Matara and to the west we have Galle 30 mins and Hikkadua 45mins. That sits us perfectly smack bang in the middle of all the surf breaks that the southwest of Sri Lanka has to offer allowing us to hit the best waves that Sri Lanka is offering on any particular day in any conditions. Waves such as the rock. 15mins. Mirissa 15 mins. Coconuts, plantations, rams, 5 mins, weligama 5 mins to name a few. There are so many waves here not all of them have names. If you want all the local knowledge you will just have to come stay Elsehwere where we have the best surf guides around.
We have over 40 brand new surfboards for rent ranging from 10 foot foamies for beginners down to 5’10 short boards and fishes for the advanced surfers. Beginner board rental is included in the lesson price and of course you can also bring your own board if you wish.
Questions? Contact Elsewhere, or leave a comment! I'll do my best to answer you quickly!
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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