Back when everything was normal, peak season surf travel was the status quo.
Sure, there were some notable exceptions, like late season Hawaii, or early season Mentawais; but generally, visiting exotic locations during the window most likely to offer up glorious weather and optimum surf seemed to be the go-to for most.
However, over the last few months, surfers everywhere have been forced to surf on their doorsteps or not at all, providing many with a reminder that sometimes it’s worth compromising wave quality, consistency and climate for a little bit of elbow room.
Perhaps this, along with the vast crowds sure to descend on the world’s tourist hotspots once lockdown is lifted, could usher in a whole new appreciation for off-season surf travel.
Wavelength correspondent Max Hepworth Povey has spent his lockdown posted up in the Ticket To Ride Surf House in Sri Lanka, located in the country’s south-west.
The peak season generally runs from November to February, where 2-3 foot of swell, accompanied by offshore winds and balmy temps are the norm.
“Then, in the off-season, it’s genuinely about 8ft every day,” says Max. “So you go on little missions to these hidden corners or make sure you’ve got a good leash and brave the stormy swell. Kinda like tropical Cornwall in winter, I guess. That left that you featured on Instagram recently only really works in the off-season.”
Before the monsoons really kick in May, the weather is also still pretty manable.
“It doesn’t rain all day everyday,” says Max. “Normally, there’s a storm which lasts about an hour in the morning, afternoon or evening, then once it passes, the wind is non-existent for a couple of hours. The worst weather I’ve experienced was three days of non stop rain, the staff at the surf house actually caught a fish in our garden…”
While there are still some people kicking around in March, by April almost all the tourists and visiting surfers have emptied out. “In fact,” says Max, “there are countless times you wish you had someone to share waves with you. Especially if it’s 6ft at The Rock.”
Recently, local photographer David Edmondson, (@soulsnapss), shared a gallery of images with us featuring some of his most memorable off-season sessions, including one crazy day at a spot he’s been waiting months to score.
“I remember my friend showing me a video of the wave in December 2019,” he told us. “I was mesmerized by its beauty. It looked like something I had seen in Indonesia last year.”
“I was blown away that a wave like this existed here. It was not even far from where I was living! How could I never have heard of it or seen it before! After finding out this information I started checking the spot religiously all season. I spent hours and hours driving up and down the coast to just have a look and see if the sandbanks had formed and the wave was starting to work. Although it never seemed to look like what I had seen in that video.”
“Covid-19 hit the world hard and quarantine came into effect on the island. This meant I was not able to check the wave and had no idea if I missed my window or if it was just a fantasy stuck in my head. Eventually, things relaxed a little and I was able to get out of the house from time to time. I started to notice the banks were finally starting to fill in and it was holding the shape much better. It was not working quite yet but I could start to see the potential…”
Then, a few weeks ago the conditions finally aligned and David, Max, and a smattering of locals and expats scored a dreamy session at the spot.
Here are some of the highlights from that day, plus some more off-season gems around the Sri Lankan coast: