Stormy Hells MouthI had hoped to wrap up the number of beaches I surfed during this adventure on a round number of 150 breaks, the last of which was supposed to be a triumphant return to the break where it all started for me in North Wales.

However the weather has been so foul since I have returned to the UK that all I could have expected to find there was a view like you see here. The surf in the UK, and North Wales in particular, is so fickle you can never guarantee clean waves. It has been an early reminder of why I decided to head off on my quest to find great breaks worldwide.

California 149My original aim was only eighty breaks and I have managed to surf 149 different beaches on my travels. However if you consider the number of breaks I have surfed more than once (e.g. Steamer Lane, Telescopes, The Pass, Weligama) I have probably doubled my target in terms of surf sessions.

Perhaps I should I have tried my hand at one of the breaks detailed in this article to bring up the 150? Then again giving them a miss was probably wise!

Tropical Perfection 2Sadly it looks like I will have to wait for the artificial waves being planned for North Wales to be completed in 2015 before I get to enjoy local surf that breaks with the sort of mechanical perfection that I have seen over tropical reefs.

Sadly I realise that the chances of hot ladies in thong bikinis hanging around the site of a former aluminium factory in Dolgellau will probably be quite slim.

Board Damage 2I couldn’t have gone surfing on the board I brought back with me, even if I had wanted to. I took it out of its board bag for the first time the other day and discovered that the nose looks like it has been beaten with a cricket bat.

(The less I say about cricket at this stage is probably wise, due to the appalling efforts of the Poms in the latest ashes series!)

It won’t take me too long to repair after all the practise I have had over the last year. The only issue will be getting enough sunlight to make the ultra violet resin cure. It is ironic given that I had to work so hard to find shade for such work at other times during my adventures.

mickfanningIn a final comment about surfing I should congratulate another Australian, Mick Fanning, for becoming the world champion again after doing so well in the Pipe Masters on Oahu in Hawaii, and the other rounds worldwide.

I should also congratulate Kelly Slater for winning the contest there. It is hard to believe that it is only twelve months since I was watching him score perfect tens in the awesome surf there last year. (You can see the best of the action by following this link.)

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hot-surf-girlsI saw this great article online, which is hard to argue against. Enjoy.

There is another reason why I like it so much but I’m struggling to put my finger on what that is…

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WP_20131125_021After surfing Turtle point I was keen to try and bag at least two more new breaks today, so we went on Safari in the tuk-tuk checking out Coconut Point, Plantation Point, Rams Right and a few other waves that I have already surfed.

The swell has been dropping all week and because the tide was dropping all morning too I wasn’t tempted anywhere by what was on offer. I could see rocks everywhere and having come so far without losing teeth I did not want to start doing so as close as I am to the end of my travels, particularly for naff surf.

Amarapala and I went up to see this temple off the beaten track and then later stopped in Ahangama, where I had a chat with a semi retired surfer called Graeme from New Zealand. He pointed out the break known as the Rock and the peak in front of his little surfing operation, but those too were closing out so I just stopped to talk about my travels with him and a trio of German surfers who had just got out of the water.

DCIM102GOPROOnce back in the tuk-tuk it we decided to head back to Galle where there is a beach break that works even in the windy afternoon.

You see me paddling out there in this picture where I am clearly starting to look a little too like a walrus, shaking the salt water off my whiskers having just gone through a wave.

DCIM103GOPRO“It is too small” I was told when walking down the sand with my board by one of the local surfers, but I wasn’t buying that after watching the waves for ten minutes before hand.

I spotted a peak where decent rides were available if you were patient and sure enough picked off some nice drops coupled with cruisey rides under the midday sun. (I will not be surfing in shorts for much longer so was happy to top up my tan too!)

DCIM103GOPROIt turned into quite a fun session but was tarnished a tad by a Japanese beginner in the shore break throwing his board to avoid getting clobbered by the incoming wave which I was riding. Instead of hitting him it clipped my leg, cutting it in the process but thankfully not very deeply. I don’t think either party understood a word that was shouted either way after that but the messages definitely made their way across.

Not wanting any more infections I got out soon afterwards and found Amarapala in the position you see here. Having got up early and driven around all day he was exhausted, so I loaded the tuk-tuk by myself so that he could have a bit more rest before driving us home.

Once back in Hikkaduwa I made sure he got a healthy tip for looking after me and my gear so well during my stay here in Sri Lanka. Only two waves today in the end but I can’t really complain.

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WP_20131125_001Amarapala my friendly tuk-tuk driver turned up to collect me this morning at 5am as arranged. Sadly I had completely overslept and had to be woken up and dragged out of bed.

It didn’t take me long to grab my gear and we were soon on our way south along the coast road, pausing only to have a look at a cow which had been mown down by a bus and to enjoy this sunrise at Galle. 

WP_20131125_010The aim was to go as far as possible first thing and then work our way back up to Hikkaduwa. We stopped at Mirissa but the swell has really dropped and what little waves there were there were right on top of rocks and I already have enough scars from this trip so didn’t go in.

Instead we watched a monkey vs blackbird battle at the top of the middle tree you see in this picture. The monkey was obviously trying to steal some eggs and the birds were not happy about it, dive bombing him until he fell from the top of the tree. You can see that I had no line of sight to the base of the coconut palm so do not know how well or how badly it landed, but can tell you that it fell a very long way.

WP_20131125_017We pushed on with our wave safari and Amarapala asked around until we found this reef break in Madiya.

You can see how rocky it is on the shore and the reef continued all the way out to the breaking waves, so I donned my booties to make life easy and paddled out to join the handful already in the line up.

DCIM101GOPROIt was quite shallow and this caused the waves to jack up nicely as they hit the reef, but I was on my game this morning and bagged lefts and rights off the peak including this beauty.

I had a great session seeing so many turtles in the water and slaloming along the clean waves. No complaints at all in fact apart from the outrageous drop in on my wave by a German guy, who afterwards said he had seen me but decided to go anyway, then nearly landed on me when he took off. I can’t publish my response to this moronic statement because I know a few children read this blog, but I can tell you the second word of many was “off” and as a consequence of my tirade he stayed very far away from me until getting out a short while later.

I wasn’t sorry to see him go but wasn’t too far behind him, and was delighted to find that Amarapala had bought me some curried rolls for breakfast when I returned to the tuk-tuk.

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Pitcher, Duncan (Gary) and JackFor much of my time during the evenings here in Hikkaduwa I have been hanging out with Pitcher, Duncan and Jack who you see here. Separately they have travelled from Zambia, Malaysia and Dubai to see their old surfing buddies, catch a few waves in the sun and enjoy a few of the local beers.

It is time for them to head home so I was keen to have a surf with the guys, because up until this point it hasn’t happened due to mismatched hangovers.

DCIM100GOPROAfter my two previous days spent surfing my socks off near Weligama I was shattered and knew I was only likely to get in the water for a sunset session on this day, if at all

However the heat of the day caught up with me, which resulted in an unexpected afternoon nap. Sadly this meant that I only got in at the break in front of Mambos Place just as they were getting out. 

WP_20131120_038I had to surf anyway once I was in the water and quickly caught two great rides. I got the picture of me charging along the wall that you see above, but a bit like the surfer in this shot I got greedy and tried to surf it too far in towards the shore.

Practically stepping off my board onto the dry sand, caused my board to crash into the beach immediately smashing my camera off its mount on the board. Thankfully the camera’s housing was undamaged and the float attached to it brought it to the surface and I quickly retrieved it. A small connecting part was broken but I have brought several spares with me for just such an eventuality, so it wasn’t a big deal.

WP_20131116_001The guys looked after my camera whilst I caught one more quick wave under the setting sun before getting out and freshening up. I hadn’t wanted to stay in too long anyway because Saturday night is Mambo’s Beach Party night and just like last week it was banging tunes until 6am.

I enjoyed more of the local Arrack spirit than I probably needed to before throwing in the towel at 4am, with the music still thumping immediately below my bedroom. (Arrak or Arak is fermented from the sap of unopened flowers of a coconut palm and then is distilled to produce the spirit.)

LeopardA night of excess was followed by a day of not a great deal, as demonstrated by one of the leopards that live here in Sri Lanka.

Nothing in fact apart from being invited by the Austrian girl staying in the room next door to join her for breakfast, fixing the huge hole in the deck of my board caused during the camera smashing incident, saying goodbye to the guys, and then at the end of the day failing to collect the tuk-tuk that I was supposed to have hired for myself to drive to beaches tomorrow. (It wouldn’t start so I am getting the reliable local guy to drive me instead.)

Working life may be a shock to the system after such punishing schedules for a year!

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WP_20131121_010After surfing at Temples my driver Amarapala took me further south and on to Weligama so that I could join my friends for breakfast.

I had decided to spend the day with them and stay the night here, so arranged to be collected the following day at the Weligama Bay View where they were all staying on their trip organised by Surf South West.

WP_20131121_016Weligama is a gorgeous beach break which is not too badly affected by the afternoon winds and I had enjoyed a couple of minimal risk sessions here as well as a lovely nap by the time the sun went down.

Sadly the spare battery I had brought for my camera was not charged, so I had to ration the other one’s usage and do not have any pictures of these sessions to share with you.

WP_20131121_020However by the end of the day I had enjoyed four surf sessions, three gorgeous beaches, two green turtles and a coconut in a palm tree, because Christmas is once again on the horizon.

Here is everybody enjoying dinner and victory beers shortly before all practically collapsed with exhaustion. I had surfed for nearly eight hours today and was struggling to keep my eyes open.

DCIM103GOPROCrashing out so early did have its benefits though because it meant I woke up extremely early and was able to paddle out at Weligama having the whole bay to myself for an hour before anybody else was up.

As you can see the water was like a mirror and the glassy sets were coming through regularly, so I was catching as many as I wanted, thrilled to have the whole break to myself.

DCIM104GOPROAs well as some great photographs of this session in the early morning sun, I decided to try and get some video footage with the Gopro because the rides were so smooth and predictable.

I think you can see how much fun I was having in the small waves. Enjoy!

Wave 1Wave 2Wave 3 and Wave 4

 

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DCIM102GOPROAfter one lengthy paddle from Lazy Lefts across to the other side of the little bay I arrived at this break. I discovered later it is called Temples because of the number of shrines you can see close to where the wave breaks.

There wasn’t anybody on this wave but there were so many in the water across the bay so I was a little wary that there might be a reason why that might be the case. E.g. frighteningly shallow reef, machine guns peppering the line up, etc.

DCIM103GOPROOn the way over I had repeatedly stuck my head under the water to have a look around, but couldn’t see anything more hazardous than a flat rock shelf under the breaking waves, and it was at least waist deep, so there was more than enough room for you to fall into.

Satisfied that I was not certainly going to maim myself again, I got stuck right into the action and bagged two gorgeous rights. One of them that you see here I was able to ride for well over a hundred metres. I was having a ball on my forehand turning top to bottom all the way along the rides.

WP_20131121_001All the while that this was going on Amarapala, the lovely guy who was driving me around in his tuk-tuk, had parked up and was sitting on the beach watching me surf.

Each of the waves I bagged at both Lazy Lefts and Temples resulted in much excitement, waving and clapping from him to let me know how good he thought the rides were. I am not used to having a one man balmy army, but quite enjoyed my efforts being appreciated.

Having collected two breaks in one session, and not being at all fond of the crowd now stationed at Lazy Lefts where I had paddled back to, I decided to get out. Catching a last left in I could see how much the tide had dropped because it was now possible to see every one of the rocks that I had been surfing over in blissful ignorance more than two hours earlier and how little water there now was between them and me!

It was perfect timing to call an end to proceedings, and a perfect start to the day.

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DCIM101GOPRONow that the cuts on my back had benefited from a couple of dry days to aid the healing process I needed to get out of Hikkaduwa and find some other breaks. I hired one of the local three wheeled tuk-tuk taxis to ferry me around.

In order to make the most of the waves in the morning before the wind picks up I had arranged for my driver Amarapala to collect me before dawn. We drove south to Midigama, where you see me here, getting ready to paddle out to sea as the sun came up.

WP_20131121_004My first surf of the day was at the wave you see here, which breaks off the rocks and then peels beautifully into the bay.

When I got into the water there were only two others out, one of whom was somebody I have waited a long time to meet. Long term readers of this blog may remember me writing earlier this year about Gavin Jag who had embarked on a similar trip to mine from his native Canada.

DCIM102GOPROOur paths have finally crossed in the last ten days of my adventures abroad and we had arranged to meet up here to enjoy a few waves together. Gavin is on the left of this picture.

That my London based surfing friends were also planning on surfing here was an additional bonus, and Vaughan and Shannon arrived not long after I did with their guide called John. To know so many people in the water and be cheering people into waves made me realise how much I have missed surfing with my friends of late, and perhaps also that the novelty of spending so long on my own is perhaps wearing off.

DCIM103GOPROAs you can see I had so much fun in the cruisey left hand point break. I had caught a hat full of rides before most had got in the water, and was enjoying chatting in the line up and seeing how much Vaughan and Shannon had improved since I last saw them surf.

As more and more bleary eyed surfers started arriving in the line up things got a tad busy for my tastes, and sure enough bad etiquette followed soon after in the water. However I had noticed a right hand wave across the other side of the bay and thought I should investigate it further.

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Hikkaduwa-Gal3There are some great waves available at this spot, which is the break in sight of all the guest houses and hotels here in Hikkaduwa, and it is often busy as a consequence.

The howling winds that ruined everything yesterday had dropped leaving perfect glassy lines approaching the shore, so I didn’t look out of my bedroom window for long before deciding to get out of bed.

DCIM100GOPROIt was still only a short time after dawn and I paddled out just as the sun was rising over the palm trees along the shore behind me, excited to be bagging a new break for the scrapbook.

There were only a handful of surfers out and it wasn’t long before I joined them in the line up, even enjoying a dry hair paddle out.

DCIM100GOPROThe set waves were still pumping but there were long lulls between them, which resulted in everybody being back on the peak by the time the next set would arrive.

It also allowed for a few chats with the surfers in the water from all over the world, but after two dry days and being conscious that the days left on my tour are numbered I just wanted to get stuck into the surf.

DCIM100GOPROThere is a left hand break off the reef but I spent my session having so much fun in the rights.

You can see how smooth the water was in this picture from the session. It made for easy take offs and a playful wall to charge along. I had caught loads before most of the other surfers in town were even out of bed.

WP_20131119_002However on what turned out to be my last wave I was having so much fun that I surfed right into the shallow water and then got absolutely slammed onto the reef.

You can see the results of this experience here, and because I wasn’t wearing my helmet I am just considering myself lucky that it wasn’t my head that got smashed against the reef. (Earlier comments about the reefs here not being dangerous are summarily withdrawn!)

Some of the scrapes are quite deep, but none are life threatening even if they will keep me out of the water for a day or two. If you think they look painful try to imagine what it was like having lime juice rubbed into them by the locals after I had limped my way back to the shore. Owwwwwwwwwwwwww!!!!!!

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fig_leafTo me who has been surfing for most of the last year the waves in front of Mambo’s do not look that challenging. Consequently I am amazed at how many people are being rescued here every day by the local surfers who keep having to paddle out and collect them once they have got themselves into trouble.

Thankfully there have not been any serious incidents yet, but there was an amusing one where the power of the waves actually stripped some Russian swimwear completely off the person who had been wearing it.

Chief WiggumThe poor soul had to be brought in to the beach laying butt naked on a longboard, providing much amusement to those watching on the shore.

It might sound titillating until you hear that the gentleman concerned, who was built like Chief Wiggum from the Simpsons, then proceeded to stagger up the beach. I would say with everything swaying in the breeze, but it wasn’t that impressive and to be fair the water isn’t at all cold here!

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