By Raisa Wickrematunge
A wave bears down on me. I ready myself, push off and find myself borne along by sheer force. It’s a feeling of pure adrenaline, rushing along on top of the sea- almost like going down a playground slide, except of course the sea is anything but a flat surface.
Weligama is a fishing town. Driving along the bay, you’ll notice the colourful catamarans. However, it is popular with holidaygoers for another reason; it’s a great place to learn to surf. Weligama is a prime example of a beach break, with waves breaking on a sandy beach.
The board I’m using is made of timber, and has a rounded ‘nose’ (the front of the surfboard). Over seven feet tall, it’s known as a longboard, and is ideal for beginners like me.
Of course, I’m not unsupervised. My trainer today is Priyal Kiramage, the co -founder of Shaka Sign Surf.
Priyal was commuting between Galle and Matara every day, undergoing audit training at Ernst and Young. He would wistfully look out of the window at the people catching waves, wishing he could do the same. Eventually, the lure of the sea was too much, and Priyal decided to band together with his friend Akhila to create Shaka Sign Surf. The shaka sign is one which surfers give each other by way of greeting. It means, ‘surf’s up!’
Shaka Sign Surf specialises in ‘surf camps’, aiming to teach people how to surf. The season begins in November, so the waves are just right.
Priyal is patient, explaining the basics of the surfboard, and checking if I’m ‘goofy’ or natural footed (ie. whether I balance on my right or left foot).
Shaka Sign Surf does “dry and wet” sessions, on both beach and sea. Today, I’m getting an accelerated training session. I start off practising balance on the board on the beach, but soon enough I’m in the sea.
Surfing (or trying to) is a serious workout. Lugging a heavy surfboard through the waves is no easy feat. Several times the board was knocked out of my hands. Luckily, the leash attached to the would-be-surfer’s ankle ensures that the board doesn’t go far. I was too uncertain to manage to stand on the board, but I did manage to bodysurf, which was lots of fun.
Shaihan, a Pakistan national who studies in Malaysia, was on his final day of the surf camp. He had been inspired to learn surfing after discovering that Pakistan had some hidden surf spots. A skateboarder, he managed to stand on the first day. Shaihan said that the surf camp was a unique way to see Sri Lanka and experience local culture. He surfed with several self-taught local boys, took trishaw rides to little-known surf spots with Priyal, and enjoyed every moment. “I’m definitely coming back again, and bringing my friends too,” he said.
A training session (with a certified life guard trainer) is Rs. 2000, for four hours. To book, call 0771806932, email firstname.lastname@example.org or simply check out their website www.shakasignsurf.com. It should take you about five sessions before you can surf unaided, but trust me, it’s worth the effort; there’s nothing quite like that exhilarating feeling of gliding over the waves at top speed.