Having talked about surfcamp life, let me provide a quick review of the surfcamps I have experienced over the last few weeks.
Drivethru Surfcamps (Polhena & Madiha)
Drivethru operates two surfcamps in Sri Lanka. They are both in the city of Matara, in the South of the country. One is in Madiha, near the fantastic reef break, and close to cool hangout spots such as The Doctor’s House and Coffeepoint. The Madiha camp is catering to couples and people traveling in groups, as it doesn’t offer dorms but 2-people cabanas. The Madiha camp as a great pool, outdoor yoga spot etc. It is definitely prettier than the Polhena camp.
Polhena (where I stayed) is a dorm-only camp, located closer to the city of Matara, and about 15-20mins walk from the beach (which is too far to walk all the time). Other than the bus stop, there isn’t really anything in walking distance, which means you are spending a lot of time in Tuk Tuks going to surf spots or other places.
The dorms are pretty cool, as every bed has its own „cave“, rather than a bunk bed. Common areas include a hangout spot on the first floor with a few couches and a fan, and then on the basement floor there is a line of cushions to hang out in and two tables where meals are served. There is a „pool“ but it is small, and doesn’t have the appeal of the pool in Madiha. To combat mosquitoes appearing at dusk people flock to the single standing fan in the basement. There is a ping-pong table.
Drivethru is currently very German-speaking focused, due to their online marketing spending focus. Most people are from Switzerland, Austria or Germany.
The quality of surf instruction is very high. Our surf instructor was ISA L2 certified and had the most comprehensive knowledge of surfing in particular and the oceans in general that I have every witnessed.
Drivethru Polhena is a very surf-focused camp. People go out surfing up to 3 times a day. Partying is generally reserved to 1, max 2 days a week.
Yoga is on offer and they arrange Tuk Tuks to massage places etc.
Elsewhere Surfcamp, Weligama
Elsewhere is an Australian-owned surfcamp, north of Weligama. It is in walking distance to two nice and advanced surfspots (Fisherman’s and Jungle Beach). Beginners go to Weligama Bay for their lessons.
Accommodation is either in the main building or a newer one 5-min walk away, called the White House.
Elsewhere has a completely different vibe than Drivethru. Where Drivethru has a dedicated kitchen staff preparing 3 meals a day, Elsewhere provides only breakfast at the camp and most dinners in restaurants nearby (these are comped).
The main building of Elsewhere has really nice outdoor areas to lounge in. The dorms are very hippy with bunk beds draped in elephant cloth. There is a large, dark center-room where movies are shown during the day/surfing-downtime.
The crowd at Elsewhere is a lot more international. During my 5 days there, I met people from Australia, UK, Switzerland, Germany, Scandinavia etc.
We Escape, Weligama
We Escape calls itself a „poshtel“. I am not kidding you. It’s a mix between a hotel and a hostel. There are multi-dwelling uni-sex and mixed dorms, as well as a standard hotel rooms and even a suite. A stylish restaurant and pool area potentially warrant the posh in poshtel.
We Escape partners with Pure Surfcamps and via Pure you can arrange surf packages there (which I didn’t).
They offer Yoga twice a day, and at least when I was there, these classes were super-good.
With We Escape, you need to know that if you book a surfcamp stay, it may not feel like one. Guests may have booked without the intention to surf. There were families with kids. The age range therefore is a lot wider than it other places.
That’s perfectly fine, though. We Escape is a little more anonymous than the usual surfcamp, and after a few weeks of surfcamp I found that extremely refreshing. If you prefer to selectively choose your social interactions, this is a good place to stay. Plus you are right next to the best café in Weligama: Nomad Café.
Surf School Sri Lanka
Surf School Sri Lanka is not a surfcamp but purely focused on teaching intermediate surfers to progress in their surfing. I mention them here because I found their methods extremely helpful in getting me to progress further. Sometimes, good surf teaching is about psychology and not only about the sober analysis of what you do wrong. They get that.
If you choose to get lessons there, stay nearby at Hotel Kabalana by Ceilao Villas. Fantastic boutique hotel and close to the surfspots The Rock and South Point.