Unawatuna surfing and birthdays

Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
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Trip End Jun 15, 2012


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Flag of Sri Lanka  ,
Monday, January 16, 2012

We arrived in Unawatuna on a Sunday, during the full moon, so the beaches were packed to capacity with guests from all over Sri Lanka. The wind was howling off the bay and bending the palms that lined our shore. Windsurfers, kite boarders and sailboats were out playing in the wind across the bay, and I looked forward to giving all three of them a shot this week, assuming that we would continue to get these big winds. But it was not to be, the wind was gone when the scattered thunderstorms departed the following day.

Estela and I took a walk down the beach to see what was there, and we scoped out restaurants for future meals, possibilities for recreation, and the general quality of the beaches. We had a couple of drinks at a beach bar behind a barricade of jungle growth tucked out of the wind.

Later, just before dark, Mason and I stumbled into the water in front of our bungalow. There were waves breaking there on the sand, maybe one or two footers, and we stayed in the water for about an hour, rolling around in the surf, letting the water push us around. As night came on I watched out west as the setting sun cast color into an array of lumpy clouds, and to the east as the full moon came up on the horizon, and north at the mouth of a thunderstorm popping silent lightening strikes somewhere in the jungle. Could life get better than this? I don't think so.

Unawatuna was one of the Sri Lankan beaches most affected by the tsunami, as it was in a direct line from the underwater landslide that occurred off western Thailand In 2004. The local restaurants all show pictures of the destruction that their businesses endured, and in many cases the buildings were completely destroyed. The beach was wiped out and thirty feet of sand is still missing, making the waves inside the harbor crash on shoreline properties. 600 people died on this beach during that tsunami, 22 of them foreigners. One unfortunate story we heard was of a French couple sitting on the shore with their three kids playing in the water when the tsunami hit. The parents were able to escape, but all three of their kids were carried off and never seen again.

On Monday our kids started on their school work. Shelby had stated that she wanted to climb ahead of her work and get it all done before returning home, so that she could concentrate on 'home’ things when we return to California. I’m anxious to see how long that lasts.

In the afternoon I found a guy right in front of our hotel with a bunch of old, yellowed surfboards for rent. I took one out to the reef to try to catch a wave or two. It turned out that I had gone out in too low a tide, and wound up surfing in about six inches of water, scraping my fingers on the reef as I paddled. I was able to catch a few small waves, however, and Estela sat on the balcony and snapped pictures of me. The waves were small and crumbly and destroyed by an onshore wind, but it didn’t matter much. It had been seven months since I had been out surfing and it felt good to realize that I was still able to catch a wave, especially on an ancient surfboard.

The next day I saw some locals out at the point when the tide was higher and a slightly larger swell had rounded into the bay. I got the same board from the same guy and walked out to the point, jumped off the jetty and paddled over to where the locals were. It took me a while to get used to where all the rocks sat below the surface, and to see how the waves broke on this point, and after about half an hour I was catching some waves, and going fast across the bay on this crappy yellow surfboard. Sudu was the guy who pretty much owned the break. I had met him a few days before when he caught me admiring his board at his guest house, the ‘One Love’. He looked like Bob Marley and had a real confident and laid back attitude about him, and I spent some time out in the water talking to him about things. The other guys out there were also pretty good surfers, very friendly, and surfed there nearly every day.

A couple of days later the swell had gotten bigger and I found right away where to sit to be well positioned for the biggest waves. Most of the locals sat inside, closer to the reef, and caught a large number of smaller waves. I sat outside and picked off the big ones that took me all the way across the bay. This session was extremely fun and risk free at this high tide level washed cleanly over the inside reef. Sudu wasn’t out in the water, so I didn’t have any big league competition and pretty much caught every wave I wanted that broke outside. I surfed until my feet cramped up, then belly boarded across the inside reef into the inner bay. It was one of the best surf sessions I have had in at least a year.

Mason and I spent some time out in the water this week snorkeling around, finding shells and chasing fish around. The inside reef wasn’t all that good for snorkeling, though. What we really needed to do was to get into a boat and go out to the outside reef, beyond where I was surfing, and spend some time looking at the large schools of reef fish that lived there. We never got that chance because on the last full day of our stay here I developed some kind of stomach virus that kept me in bed all day long. We leave Unawatuna tomorrow morning after a full week here, and I still have no energy and no appetite. This same kind of lethargy and lack of appetite hit me in Koh Chang last month, and I am scratching my head wondering what it is.

It was the girls’ birthday while we were here in Unawatuna, so Estela and I tried to figure out what to get them. I had stopped by a jeweler to look at sapphires a couple of days earlier, and had ordered a Garnet ring for Estela (her birthstone), and so we went to the same jeweler to see about getting the girls stones set into rings of silver to match that of mom’s. Garnet was their birth stone also, so it all worked out. We ordered the rings. Then we stopped by a bakery to see about getting a cake, but the bakery didn’t do entire cakes for whatever reason, but only sold slices (??). When we went to the restaurant where we regularly had dinner, I asked the waiter what he could do for us. He said he’d take care of things for us. He arranged for some balloons, and somehow obtained a cake for us, and make it like a regular birthday party, and all the waiters joined us for a piece of cake. That waiter got probably the biggest tip of his life, and he deserved every rupee of it.
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