The early starts have begun.

In Sri Lanka when you’re surfing, you are battling the usual factors of surfing: swell size and wind direction. But here, come 12pm, the place starts blowing a gale so you’ve to get in early. Coupled with the power of the sun, this also means you can really only go in for a decent stretch of time first thing in the morning. You can get a little surf in at lunch if you slap on the 40 spf and maybe one in the evening too.

The first session was at ‘lazy lefts’. I’d heard about the shallow reefs that the waves broke off, so I was a little hesitant to get stuck in to begin with. The water is so clear too that you can see the few metres below you. This gives the impression of the reef being really close.  When you’re surfing and the water is being sucked from underneath you, you feel inches away from the coral. Very sketchy!

We surfed for about 2 ½ hours there until it started to get quite packed out. Some of the waves were really powerful giving you long rides in to the gutter. Luckily I’ve got quite a bit of practice at lefts having been surfing with Tom and Greg on countless occasions. I now realise they always take me surfing lefts! Sneaky!

Once we’d left Lazy Lefts, I went back to Solar Bat and Restaurant to get my stuff sorted. This is when I met Apul. He is a lovely, kind, and welcoming man. He looks a lot like an Irish leprechaun with a cheeky smile and tufty hair.  He seems to have a constant bead of sweat and is usually perched on his moped with his blue helmet in his shopping basket (safety first). The cheeky smile might have something to do with the amount of dope he smoke and his large consuption of Lions and Arak.

Apul runs a local bar. The bar itself is a caged area a bit like an Australian post office with racks of the local firewater, Arak, and Lion beers.  The place seems to be frequented by all manner of folk: local triad members, form teachers, tuk tuk drivers, police and local businessmen. All clientele tend to be quite plastered on the source. Everyone is incredibly nice and you can always tell how busy it is from the plethora of cars, lorries, motorcycles and tuk tuks that are parked outside and in the drive. Apul even has a bike rack in the drive. I’m not quite sure if there are any drink driving rules in Sri Lanka. Especially if the police are in there!

Apul told be about his place. It’s on the Galle road next to the beach. He suffered badly when tsunami struck. He lost a restaurant, his father’s house, and most of the Solar. The managed to recover some parts of the hotel, but his father’s house and the restaurant were flattened. You can still see the rubble all overgrown with weeds.

His father was 80 at the time and he was swept in land about 500m. Fortunately, he used to be fisherman so he could swim. He found himself clinging to a rooftop where had to hold on for hours until the water subsisted. Most of the walls were blown out and the wood fittings were all broken and twisted out of shape.

Amazingly Apul’s brother and father managed to salvage a lot of the windows and doors and hunted around the devastation and managed to use most of the old materials to reconstruct the hotel and bar.

We took an outing to Galle in Ruby the rental car. With a full load of five people, the a/c on and the windows down, we were worried about overheating but thanks to Alex’s idea about water in the radiator she seemed ok on the return journey.

Galle is a strange place because it is a combination of old colonial buildings, local housing and Muslim mosques. Galle is contained within city walls. We even caught the last over of a game of cricket from the high walls to the south.  We walked about looking for restaurant for Sarah’s birthday. We found a really great place a bit like a riad in Morocco, but with a teak colonial twist. The aromas of incense and wood were amazing. The kitchen was through an opening in the wall and you would get aromatic waves of pungent spices drifting over encouraged by the ceiling fans. They did an amazing frozen margarita too!

For the next 8 days I lived quite a basic life: surf – eat – sleep.

There were occasions when I the surf was a little sketchy. I’m quite scared of reefs as it is but when someone is standing in waist deep water, you really start to carp it. Really fast take offs and barrelling up quick made for challenging waves. There were some Americans hooting and chatting. Seeing me on my thick single fin they were saying it’s like pipeline in the 70s ‘wow woos’! Or whatever, not sure what they meant but all I knew that if I ballsed up the take off and didn’t make it, I’d be shredded on that reef. I took off and the water almost disappeared from under me. I dropped down and managed to carve up quickly, with the fear of just getting away from the upcoming reef and the knowledge that I had to make that line I bailed over the top of the white water to save my self form being dragged across the rocks. Realising I was in a bit over my head I wanted to get out and move on to some were else for the afternoon.

Then the American said, ‘why did you fall?’

‘Have you seen how shallow it is?’ I replied

‘Dude, it’s just like skateboarding but on sharp concrete. If  your a good surfer you’ll make it…’

‘But I don’t skateboard,’ I said ‘ And I’m not a good surfer!’

I desperately wanted to go in, but my male pride wouldn’t let me I had to make a wave and shut him up.

So after a lot of misjudging and panicked paddling, I picked up another and tucked in and it was a beauty. Got a couple of turns in and then it came up and I surfed it out. I couldn’t get in barrel but it felt great nonetheless!

Later that night, Mounty told me someone had died there! Nice…

There was some good surf at The Rock, a spot a bit up the coast from my place. It was quite big in the morning and from about 6 we had it to ourselves then it started getting really busy. We started getting up earlier and earlier each day to beat the crowds.  We were paddling out in the dark and surfing as the sun rose with clean waves and no one out. It was really special and tranquil starting the day like that. Combining the power balance, the skills I’d learnt riding my new longboard in Bournemouth over the New Year, the Bikram yoga, and the swimming practice, I managed to get quite a lot of quality sessions in and was actually able to enjoy it rather than being exhausted.

You can have too much of a good thing and I returned to Colombo with really bad ear ache and a hole in my chest 2”x1” where the board has rubbed away a patch of skin. I really hope it heals by Saturday. Looks like the waves might be good in Kalutra…!