HABU's guide to getting kitted out while on the island
Up until very recently if you were taking a surf trip to SL you would have had to have brought everything you needed with you. Replacing a lost fin was enough of a mission, let alone finding a board. These days it’s a different story with each village having their version of a Surf Shop. Here, in no particular order, we list our favourites.
No.1 - Onda
Surf shop in Colombo
Onda were conceivably the first to import hardware and they are still ahead of the game as far as volume is concerned. Tucked away down central Colombo back lanes, this unassuming outlet is crammed to the rafters with anything you’d need.
The real draw is the choice of boards on offer. If you want the most advanced tech grab a Firewire, or never been wet before, grab an oversized foamy. There will definitely be a board here you’ll want to give a go. You can get sidetracked quite quickly but the owner, Jacob, is usually on hand with good advice.
Before turning up you can peruse their stock on Facebook and sometimes it’s even possible, if you ask nicely, to put in a custom order for the next shipment.
No.2 and 3 - Salty Swamis
Surf shops & cafe in Hikkaduwa & Arugam Bay
With the coolest outlets on both the East and West coasts these guys just ooze good vibes and effortless style. And this translates to their carefully curated selection of boards. Currently stocking a good range from; Garry McNeil, Ross Williams Concepts, Pyzal, Chilli and Torq, they have a great mix of performance and soul.
You can find a basic selection of anything else you’d need, most of the other hardware is Creatures of Leisure. And they have a nice section with art and clothing for those looking for a Sri Lankan memento to take back home with them. They really are at the forefront on giving SL surf culture a voice of its own.
A definite bonus to shopping in either of these outlets is that they are both attached to awesome cafes. My usual visit involves ordering food and coffee (best coffee on the island) then wandering around the display area stroking some of the more beautifully handcrafted boards.
No.4 - Baba’s Surf Shop
Surf shop in Midigama
Well located in the middle of a wave rich stretch of coast, Baba’s is a lot of people’s first stop. Lose your fin at Rams? Get out, cross the road, purchase the replacement, get back in the water.
Our favourite thing about Baba’s - the great selection of second-hand boards. That and the fact he stocks rolling tobacco and Rizla next to the wax, and that there's a condom dispenser mounted on the external wall
Address: Midigama East, Galle Rd.
Phone: +94 (0)719 248 686
No.5 - Ceylon Sliders
Surf shop, Cafe & Boutique Hotel in Weligama
The smallest shop on the list, Ceylon Sliders are better known for their café, yoga, surf packages and hotel. In fact they may even be best known for their beautiful social media presence.
While their little outlet has some artfully hand-picked merchandise, what sets them apart, and the reason they get a mention here, is that you can trial a board before you purchase.
For their own branded craft, Ceylon Sliders have a stock of demo boards!
In the shop you can find some Bing boards. But for us the main attraction is their own sticks. Like Bing their own craft definitely lean to the soul side of the pastime. There is a reasonable selection of well-priced fish, mid-lengths and Malibus. We also really like the pricing on their signature fins.
No.6 - Dots Surf Shop
Surf shop in Hiriketiya
The Left to be found in the horse-shoe bay in deep South Sri Lanka used to be a place we’d surf alone. With no hostels or shops a weekend hanging on this beach would mean loading up the car. A hammock to hang between the Suriaya trees, an ice box and BBQ, a couple of boards and a spare leash. The rapid development of this area has changed this approach completely. But you can’t be too bummed when the guys coming in are trying to match their product to the unique laid back vibes this bay gives off.
So we have to give Navo at Dots credit and compliment him on his restaurant and shop. The shop is well laid out and stocks everything you’d need. It’s the kind of place you go and suddenly have a compulsion to buy something you just weren’t expecting to find. Last time I was there I was dragged out of the place crying about the lost opportunity to add a Campbell Brothers bonzer 5 to the quiver.
Address: Hiriketiya Rd., Hiriketiya
Phone: +94 (0)777 935 593
No.7 - High Life Surfboards
Surfboards in Midigama
No.8 - The Shack Beach Cafe
Surf clothing & cafe in Galle
This is another shop pared with an excellent café. The beach here mainly caters to learners and the shop does not have a wide selection of hardware – probably has more motorbikes than boards. While you can get a new leash, stock up on sunscreen, etc., the best thing about this outlet, in our humble opinion, is that they stock the very excellent HABU. Finding quality rashies and board shorts is the one thing which is still not common place in Sri Lanka, making a visit to The Shack Beach Cafe well worth it.