Surf Tourism is still developing in Sri Lanka, so think of it as more of a virtue that everything is not as readily available compared to some of the more trodden surf destinations, at least in more waves per person.
There are some good local surf shops and local clothing brands and appearing but you will have to look for them. Generally, everything is imported so a little thoughtful packing goes a long way. Other than surf gear there are some other things that you will find useful in this list.
If you are coming for a long time, consider bringing a board, you can always sell it to a local shop or on one of the Facebook forums. The island board distributor is now selling glass boards as well as epoxy and there are plenty of seasons worth of traded boards from previous visitors knocking about. Check out the airline board transport reviews, some are better than others.
You can hire boards locally for 1000 – 1500 LKR (Sri Lankan Rupees) a day or 300 – 400 LKR for an hour. Most of the main surf points offer board hire. Ask your hire place if you can swap boards out during your rental period.
There has been some talk of building a Sri Lankan surfboard factory and training local shapers, a great idea but yet to materialise so in general it is easier to rent than buy boards. Yes, you can buy boards, several surf shops selling them.
Tuk Tuk Surfboard Straps
Tuk Tuks are a great way of getting around with your boards. Strapped to the roof they are a lot safer than bike racks (now illegal). Most of the tuk-tuk drivers that cruise the surf community have good pads and straps these days although some do not so it’s always a good idea to have a spare.
Spare Surf Leash & Fins
Leashes are available in some surf shops, but cheaper from home. Always good to have a spare. There are few surf shops on the points. You might want to swap out your fins on a board rental and they don’t take up much room.
Tropical Water Wax
Local surf wax is like rubber in Sri Lanka although and good tropical surf wax is hard to find. It is consistently 27 degrees in the water so something that fits that temperature. Makes a great present when you leave if you bring to much.
Zinc Block and rash vests, maybe a surf hat. According to the World Health Organisation, the UV Index in Columbo averages between 8 and 12. Lowest at 8 Nov, Dec & Jan. 10 in Feb and 12 in April. So high.
We are not a fan of commercial sunscreens. Hawaii has banned them from 2021 (the ones containing Oxybenzone and Octinoxate) as they have found they pollute the marine environment and damage reefs. Better to cover up or use a more of an organic range. We are a fan of SETT https://settsurf.com/ check them out.
Rash Vests & Quality Board Shorts
You can buy rash vests and board shorts in some places, but not many. Best to bring a couple with long and short sleeves, go for UV +50 fabric. You can leave your wet suit at home! Locals don’t mind a quality hand me down either.
If you need a strong coffee to get started in the morning best to bring a French filter with filters and your favourite ground coffee. Sri Lankan coffee, pleasant as it is, has a very low caffeine content so after your second pint, you are just getting a tickle. There are only a few places in each town you places can get Lavazza as a brand and chain is making a move. 2020 there are plenty more independent cafes you just might not find what you want in your Sri Lankan ruin hotel or guest house.
SIM free Mobile Internet Dongle
Dialog have 4G HSPA+ mobile internet and the best coverage in the south-west, its pretty fast. Whilst many places have WiFi it can be slow so if you need to catch up online a lot then bring a SIM-free dongle.
You can pick up a prepaid data SIM at Coloumbo Airport and shoping areas (with your passport). 700 LKR (Sri Lankan Rupees) and 600 Sri Lankan Rupees per 5 GB of download, many local shops offer top-up cards.
Sri Lankan diet can provide you with more of less everything however if you are surfing a lot or doing other demanding activities there are some vitamins and trace elements that are missing in Sri Lankan diet. A good multivitamin supplement is useful, especially if you are staying a while.
Preventing Mosquito Bites
There are about 140 types mosquito in Sri Lanka. A few simple rules to prevent bites. in the wetter months of the season (Oct-Dec). You may need to smother yourself with some good repellents. Ditch your scented products, reduce exposed skin, hunt them down in your mosquito net before bed. Mixing your own product with locally available coconut oil, a few drops of cinnamon and citronella oil, very good and 100% natural. DEET is the chemical in the stronger ones, highly effective at keeping them away and dissolving plastics and your spandex yoga gear, so use sparingly.
Surf First Aid Kit
Bring iodine based disinfectants, wound closure strips, good selections of large plasters, medical grade super glue fixes a small fin cut in no time. You can buy many medicines over the counter including broad spectrum antibiotics. We found the white powder in a small blue bottle from the local pharmacy (Bacimix Powder) works best for grazes and small cuts in a tropical environment.
Mini Travel Surge Protector
If you love your portable devices and want to keep them intact for your trip, go for one of these. The electricity supply is all over the place, we have unfortunately learnt the hard way with a number of lap top casualties. Also the salty, humid sea air eats tech, so bear this in mind when you pack.
Last years cool t-shirts and board shorts for the beach boys, you will get asked for the ones you are wearing. Cookies and interesting foods from your country for the families, educational toys for the kids, fishing stuff, water proof carry bags, surf boards to sell at the end of your travels, global brand electronics, decent chef knives. All difficult to get hold of or expensive.
Passport….”valid for not less than 6 months from the date of arrival”
Covid Passport…There is an online form and paper one on the plane to fill out, plus PCR test to get on the plane. Check the official Sri Lankan Tourist Website for latest updates. Some reports in 2021 that you need your original NHS form if you are UK resident, probably the same for other countries. Sri Lankan authorities do love a bit of paperwork.
Visa….via Sri Lanka Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) Arranged for 1 month, it is possible to extend in Columbo visa office or vial a local agent when you are there. For longer stays visa are issued at Sri Lankan Embassy’s and take about a week, leaving your passport.
Travel Insurance…we have used Dogtag Sports Travel Insurance, comprehensive for adrenaline sports & World Nomad Insurance, also covers sports activities.
International Driving Licence. For car hire, bike rental and self drive tuk tuks. Best to Google it in your country. You will also need to get your driving licence validated in Sri Lanka to be legal to drive. Tuk Tuk Rental have a great guide for getting the correct paperwork.