Talalla Surf Camp: A Rookie’s Journey To Stokedness

April 24, 2018 | Resort, Sri Lanka, Surf, Yoga

By Phillip Krynski

This is a story all about how my surfing got flipped turned upside down. No, this isn’t a tale about how I became prince of an affluent Los Angeles neighbourhood. If you’ve never watched ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’, not much will be making sense so far. This is a journey of a surfer who once upon a time was terrified of sharks, but with the help of Talalla Surf Camp has become a fully-stoked surfer.

I arrived in Sri Lanka just over a month ago as an average surfer who had dabbled in the basics of surfing. I would take a board out, catch waves, but largely lacked technique and wave awareness. I’d had a handful of surfing lessons over the years, but without maintaining a regular routine whilst and after being taught, it was difficult to integrate what I’d learnt. That’s why I decided that it was time to finally jump on a board at Talalla Retreat’s Surf camp.

 Matt Baldock, surf coach at Talalla Surf Camp

Matt is revered by the other surf instructors as one of the top surfers at the camp (being ex-pro). He grew up in Margaret River in Australia and spent much of his young years getting barrelled on the surf-mecca of the western coast of Australia. Matt now spends much of his time passing on his skills and knowledge to budding surfers with much to learn from their mentor. I am about to find out how little I really know, as day one begins.

Our level 3 group of 4 enthusiastic surfers meets bright and early at 6 am before anyone else on the retreat is up (aside from the retreat security guards). We chow down on energy fueling bananas before we pack into the truck and roll down the jungle side roads. We switch on a bluetooth speaker and Billy Joel battles with the wind as the rest of us sing along blurry-eyed, but merrily “What’s the matter with the clothes I’m wearing”. Our truck pulls up to the local break and we spill off the back to apply zinc, put on rashies and do a quick beach stretch. Then it’s time to paddle out.

The waves are perfect today and even though we are at slightly differing levels of experience, everyone catches a decent number of waves. As I’m about to quickly find out, there’s catching a wave and there’s executing technique that allows you to really ‘CATCH’ a wave. Matt watches on and gives effective feedback that achieves immediate results. “Head up, arms high, bend knees”. After a couple of adrenaline-packed hours, we paddle back in and recuperate with some delicious ocean-side vegetable samosas. Once the truck is packed, we return to Talalla for breakfast and video reviews.

Talalla Surf employs local Sri Lankans who film every session on telescopic lenses and capture every moment of our rookie wave catching. The footage is ready to be picked apart by the coaches right after a breakfast omelette on the same day. Our coach Matt makes his way through all of our videos and with his help, not only do we learn from our own clips, but we find that many of the other group members’ mistakes help to inform our own surfing. After the reviews, we make our way to the lunch table for a curry bowl or one of the other tantalising a la carte menu items.

A special part of Talalla surf camp is the social aspect. Not only do you bond with other group members, but each meal is enjoyed alongside surfers at other levels so strong relationships are formed throughout the week. Talalla Retreat has seen a number of romantic attachments develop from surf camp over the years. One such couple met three years ago on the camp, came back the following year to get married and then this February, they visited again with their newborn baby. But back to the task at hand.

The afternoon is free for us to recharge by the pool, stroll along the beach or grab a soothing massage before the dinner buffet is served. Then it’s time for an early night’s sleep before another dawn wakeup. The five days of camp mostly follow this daily structure aside from a few social drinks and a double surf day on Thursday. By the end of the week, significant transformations are evident across the whole camp. My surfing style is unrecognisable from the beginning of the week. I have learned to stand on the tail pad, bottom turn, raise my arms, position my head and body correctly and ride the trim of the wave. These are all skills that I wasn’t even aware of 5 days prior. There are similar sentiments across the different groups. Level One surfers who never expected to be able to stand, are riding green waves with confidence, and some of the more advanced Level Three surfers are stoked with their growth from the week.

The closing party on Friday night is definitely a camp highlight. The groups, armed with beers and watermelon martinis, pile into the yoga shala in front of a projector screen, whilst the coaches present us with a wonderful video production featuring the surfing from the week. We all laugh and cheer along as we see the triumphs (and occasional wipeouts) of our co-surfers. The video wraps up and we say our goodbyes after an exceptional week of coaching and excitement.

So if you’ve ever fancied yourself on a board, dream of surfing that perfect wave, or even wondered if you have the capability to ride a wave, Tallala Retreat is the place for you. You won’t regret it. 

Share this post with your surf buddy and then plan your next trip with Talalla Surf!

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