Until Next Time, Sri Lanka.
Today’s blog comes from Katie Redmond, our incredible, world-traveling humanitarian barista at Surfers Coffee Bar! Katie just recently returned from an STN surf trip to Sri Lanka! Here she shares about the land of the Jungle Book and all she experienced there.
In 1998, Sri Lanka breached the radar of Surfing the Nations. STN found the world-class point break wave known as Main Point on the tip of Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka. Sixteen years later, I had the privilege of seeing this masterpiece with my very own eyes on the 12th annual Surfing The Nations outreach trip.
Myself and five others trekked across the width of Sri Lanka from Colombo to Arugam Bay where we spent the entirety of our 24 day trip. Our team consisted of five who came with Surfing The Nations, and we were also joined by a couple from Italy, a team from Bali, a team from Southern California, and a local family.
In an environment with a widespread mix of locals and tourists, it was refreshing to stay in a village where we could really get to know the people. I could take a walk through the village and see faces that have names I knew at every turn. We held a number of activities during our stay: women’s tea, surf school, movie night, and, my favorite, Family Night.
On Family Night, we would hop in a tuk tuk to the next city and bought multitudes of chickens, coconuts, vegetables, spices and rice. The smells were overwhelming. Surrounded by mothers, daughters, and sisters, we sat crowded on a single mat on the floor, cutting kilos of vegetables and the largest amount of garlic I have ever seen. We then started serving families the creation we made. We started with 70 paper plates and soon found ourselves scrounging for more. Ninety people ate dinner with us in one night. These evenings were filled with laughter, family, dancing, spicy food, and warmth. The families adopted us into theirs so quickly; I marvel at their acceptance and long to be back in it.
Whether the waves were pumping way overhead or barely a ripple, we surfed and swam the East coast of Sri Lanka. Joining us were children and women who once were terrified of the ocean as they watched it rip their village apart in the 2004 tsunami. I watched a woman who once would not leave her home alone catch her first wave, and I understood her reality in a new way. In a highly Muslim community, infused with Buddhism and Hinduism, it is not a culture that is comfortable with women surfers. This woman was also mother of a Sri Lankan surfer and she has seen the opportunities her son had been given through surfing. He competed in the Red Bull Ride My Wave competition, and she began to encourage the girls in her family to surf.
In a culture so founded on family, it is surprising to see the absence a father figure plays in the children’s lives. As we surfed or swam with the local boys daily, we found they were longing to be involved in everything we did. They even volunteered to help us rebuild the STN Sri Lankan property fence. A group of eight 16 year old boys, one father, and the 5 of us partially clueless team members worked side by side for days and hours. These boys with pasts I can barely put into words simply want to be wanted and to do something significant.
Finally, the day to leave the country I had come to love arrived. We walked the village, stopping house to house to say our goodbyes. One of the 16 year old boys we spent a lot of time with hugged us all and simply said, “No goodbye. See you later”.
Until next time Sri Lanka, until next time