There’s something about Mary……..

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Arugam Bay Sunset


As the sun sets on Colombo and the WT20, new adventures lie on the horizons of surf city, Arugam Bay.

Its been a strange week of suffering withdrawal symptoms from cricketing action. Like a desperate dronkie searching for the next rum cocktail, we wandered the lone streets of Colombo after the match looking for lost cricketers. We found one – Darren Sammy. Gem of a man and a great captain. What a great few weeks, always having something to look forward to, living vicariously through the various players, teams and passionate fans. Soaking up their energy and enthusiasm for every ball bowled, six hit or crashing wicket. The highs, the lows, the disappointments when teams were unceremoniously hoofed out, proud warriors leaving the ground, dragging their bats, some knowing it may well be their last performance on the big stage. You tend to absorb all these emotions, happy and sad. Fortunately the W.indies’ infectious celebrations have meant that although the Sri Lankans are disappointed at the final result, life goes on in it’s island style pace and there is still the CLT20 to get die hard fans their required fix.

Our cricketing mission here is done. It’s surf time baby!

Arugam Bay

Headed east, no wrong turns or wrong buses this time and after enduring an 8 hour train trip from Colombo to Ella, passing through stunning hillside terrain, followed by a few more bus trips, we finally reached Sri Lankas surfing capital on the East coast, Arugam Bay.Bustling main road of Arugam Bay A hot village nestled in a beautiful bay with a gentle point break that works best between June – September. It’s here that I meet Mary and she is a well rounded, broad girthed, determined, stubborn bitch with a mind of her own.

Thankfully we have arrived at the end of the season and already a few places have closed shop so there are only a handful of tourists around. The surf is small, but we don’t have to fight with grumpy, aggro local surfers or overzealous Europeans, dressed the part with “all the gear, but no idea”, dropping in our our action.

Arugam Bay Surf

The regal Queen Mary

Amped to get in the water, but having to endure some interrogation by the local surfer dude renting the boards first. “Hello. Where you from, what your name? What board you want?” Smiley faced, cool, ripped muscles, curly headed, Malinga type. “You play cricket in the off season…..?”, I ask. Not impressed he gives me my board. “But I like the look of that one.” It’s a sleek shiny light weight number that looks like it will fly through the surf and it has a cool design too. Malinga’s cousin mutters something about trying the big non descript, vessel-like floater first. “She’s bigger than the Queen Mary!”, my protests fall on surf clogged ears as Malinga’s cousin has moved on.

Arugam Bay Surf Club and School

Not to be put off by the sheer volume of the craft I have been handed, which seems larger than my surf ski back home, I confidently grab the board, and during a brief water initiation process in the shallows, Queen Mary is officially named along with a brief request to the Sea Gods to have mercy on the unsuspecting souls that are about to have havoc thrown into the middle of their calm surf session. Now we can get on with the more serious business of surfing and living the endless summer dream.

Surfs Up!

Griff checking out the surf

I take to the waves with unbridled energy, zinc on my face, bikini strapped on tightly, board under my arm, running in, ready to tackle the ocean like a sea goddess that would make even Neptune envious. Ripping it up with a few aerials, then carving it out. Pammie Anderson – you don’t stand a chance. Kelly Slater – what’s all the fuss? This is a piece of cake. …..

Griff surfing

Reality is , Mary is a massive floaty thing could have kept the Titanic from sinking and weighs a ton. There are perks though. You could easily sip coconut cocktails on her deck during the lulls, waiting for the next set to come through. I’ve tried but the barman refuses. No sense of living on the wild side I’ll tell you.

Surfing and fishing.

The other good thing is that you get many more waves than the guys with smaller boards. There is a great entry point that doesn’t require too much strenuous paddling and bashing through oncoming waves as Mary is quite a floater and may require extreme exertion to get her to duck dive under the waves. For every up hill theres a downhill, for every pro, a con…… the bitch is getting back out there once you have ridden your board rather ungraciously in what you imagine is a manouevre that resembles Kelly Slater carving back into a barrel, but in reality is just you and the floaty Mary on a foamy which will eventually spit you out onto the sand when your wave finally hits the beach.

Then if you were Kelly you’d turn around (probably way before hitting the beach) and paddle out into the impact zone for the next set. Except Mary doesn’t paddle through waves as mentioned and my arms are yet to achieve oar like lengths required to force Mary to do as I command. So I walk, no, I trudge like a beached walrus, about 200m, passing chuckling fishermen while I unravel my knotted hair from my face and trying hard not to trip myself up on Mary’s leash. She needs one as she has repeatedly tried to escape the maniac riding her back like a mad cowboy. Sometimes she heads back to the beach dragging me along whilst the only thing I’m carving up is the sea bottom, drilling for oil. There is none by the way. Obstinate Mary beaches herself like a whale while I empty the sea bed from my pants. Back to the entry point to repeat same exercise.

Which brings me to the other thing about surfing. Those hot chicks in the surfer mags are definitely photoshopped. Not their terribly, enviable hot bods, but their bikinis. Have you seen the waves they ride? And have you seen how the miniscule bikinis are always perfectly in position. No way. It defies all the laws of gravity and powers of the surf gods. While leaping elegantly up onto a sometimes protesting Mary, somehow my bottoms seem to not want to come with the rest of me. Not only do I have to focus on what the board, the wave and other moving water targets are doing, but I have to grapple with the bits of cotton covering other bits that should not be exposing themselves to anyone for fear of drowning. Not to mention the fact that they have the ability to carry half of the beach when you finally get dumped at your exit point. It’s not as if they were not already struggling to contain all the bits, without having to deal with the added weight. Lets not even go to where the bikini top ends up! Covering everything but what it should. On one occassion it managed to wrap itself around my head. I’m still not sure how.

Island style surf instructors.

The other good thing about Mary is that size does indeed matter. It is easier to dominate the wave when your board is 4times the size and generally if they see some semi naked, out of control, raging lunatic swearing in Afrikaans, bearing down on them, they tend to get out the way. it works like a charm. I’ve even instilled the fear of the sea gods into the local fishermen and have seen boats pull out of committing to incoming waves with a fully laden boat of tuna after spotting me bearing down on them. I’ve heard all about terratorial surfers, well bring them on, Mary and I are fearless.

Next Kelly Slater….?

Even Bruce Lee has his own board here….

Shapes and sizes to suit everyone.

Island style office.

F…….. Really Cool Spot….?

The age you should start surfing at 4…… Not 40….. something!

It’s all about the surf.

Arugam Surfer

Arugam Bay Surf School.

Some translations:
“Dronkie” – not (yet) a complete drunkard, but rather someone who enjoys a frequent tipple of sorts….
“Afrikaans” – one of SA’s 11 official languages.

3 responses »

  1. Really great to read your blog. I must say I start to get more into my type of traveling and enjoying holidays, only because as a french bastard I don’t understand anything of your cricket stories, but may be I’ll get a private lesson when you come back. So far, enjoy Mary and don’t kill any fishermen…

  2. Pingback: Why all the Surf Rage? « Chillie and Rum

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