Talalla Surf Camp
There comes a time each winter when I think, I need to get away. I need to get away from this place and that job and those responsibilities and all these people… and this past winter, I found a perfect, and perfectly simple, solution. The name “Sri Lanka” means: “Great big beautiful island with nice people, great food and none of the bullshit of your normal life”. OK, I might have made that definition up but what “Sri Lanka” means is less important than what Sri Lanka means to me and on that point, well, I stand by the definition.
Talalla Surf Camp at Talalla Retreat is located in what is known as the “deep south” of Sri Lanka. About an hour from the town of Galle, Talalla Retreat offers a sanctuary of serene beauty for the traveller looking for something a bit special. The area was badly affected during the 2004 tsunami, but has rebounded since, the charm and warmth of the locals making it a great destination to unwind and let loose your inner hedonist.
I’ve always been partial to active holidays – or at least having the option to be active – and the happy marriage of surfing and yoga offered by a growing number of hotels and guest houses in some of the most beautiful spots in the world is a blessing for those in search of sunshine, water and sand, but who risk getting bored just sitting on the beach with a book.
Talalla caters to all levels of surfer, from the absolute beginner on up. Importantly, it also caters to the non-surfer, with a large swimming pool, daily yoga classes and workshops, a massage therapist on site and a restaurant/café with free WiFi access.
The accommodation is clean and comfortable, with a number of 4 bedroom townhouse-style units dotted across the property. I chose an upstairs unit that had the advantage of openness and light, a feat accomplished chiefly by the architectural feature of waist-high walls on two sides, with tatami matting replacing the remainder of the walls. The matting can be rolled down to offer privacy and shade or rolled up to enjoy the cool breeze and a view onto the pool on one side and, on the other, trees rustling with Sri Lanka’s beautiful native birds, monkeys and chipmunks.
My bed was large and comfortable, covered by a mosquito net and cooled by an overhead multi-speed ceiling fan which I only needed in the evenings and which I kept on a low speed. Like the bedroom, the bathroom to the rear of the unit was partially open to the elements (though still affording privacy) so you can literally shower under the stars. The price paid for the light and open space in the rooms is that you are able to hear your neighbours. Personally I found that this added to the general feeling of openness and camaraderie around the Retreat, but others could find this slightly off-putting and may want to opt for a ground-floor unit with full height walls.
Looking to minimize any soupcon of extraneous effort during my stay, I chose to take full-board at the restaurant which meant that, other than to take my morning trips to the beach with surf instructor Jack and his assistant and photographer/videographer Ale, I never needed to leave the Retreat. Which suited me just fine. The meals were tasty and the food copious, with both western and Sri Lankan dishes available, as well as fresh fruit, coffee and tea, lassis and beer.
Surf classes were small and personalized; Jack limits his classes to a maximum of 5 people. The video footage that Ale shot each morning as I came to grips with Sri Lanka’s surf was used in the afternoon as a teaching tool and then, after my stay, was edited into a video that, while extremely professional in quality, has the defect of failing utterly to disguise my inadequacies as a surfer. So I suspect I’ll need to get back again next year to see if I can improve my own performance. Talalla did all it could – the rest is up to me.
Sri Lanka is on the upswing as a tourist destination and the deep south is sure to see its share of the influx of future tourists. But for now, it’s a relatively unspoiled, relaxing and engaging place to get away from it all, do some yoga and surfing, and chase away those winter blues.