We recently ran a competition in partnership with The Seea, Bing Surfboards, Poler, Nixon and Manduka to win a week at Sunshinestories among many other magical prizes. We were extremely stoked when the winner, Betsy Harris was announced, a surfer hailing from Florida who runs a surf school with her partner David (www.surfasylum.com). The two of them joined us a couple of weeks ago and we caught up with Betsy to see how they got on.
Hi Betsy, please tell us about your week at Sunshinestories…
Staying at Sunshinestories was positively dreamy! You know you’re in the right place when you’re greeted at the door with smiling faces and fresh, cold coconuts! The villa is beautiful, but what struck me most was the friendliness of the staff and the attention given to detail. I definitely got a little spoiled with the tuk tuk drivers loading my board for me each morning, the most beautiful spread of food waiting for us every meal and a personal filmer at each surf session. The location of the villa is prime. You can slip out the front gate and a minute later you are immersed in the small, but bustling town of Ahangama, full of warm, friendly faces, colourful produce markets and the most idyllic coastline.
What was your favourite part of the experience?
You mean aside from the surfing, the delicious, spicy food, meeting and making friends from around the World, Chef Bandulla’s cooking class and visiting the Buddhist temple?! Ok, my personal favourite part was the coaching and video analysis. I would consider myself a proficient surfer. My partner and I actually have a surf school back home in Florida and I’m a little bit embarrassed to admit this, but I was a tiny bit skeptical about being coached myself. I’m always telling students at home that no matter where you are in your surfing, there is always room for improvement and I really believe it, so I kept an open mind and I’m so happy I did. Our coach, Head Surf Instructor Josh, was knowledgable about surfboard design, positioning, posture and weight distribution and how subtle changes can make significant differences, both in function and style. Josh’s tips were easy to understand and very relevant. Once you get past the basics, there can be a lot of intricacy in logging and it was great fun to have another log enthusiast to do a bit of geeking out with over some of the finer points of long boarding.
How were the waves? Any rememberable logging sessions?
This was my first time in the Indian Ocean and I fell head over heels in love. The water is the warmest and clearest I have ever surfed in with schools of brightly coloured tropical fish swimming below the surface and local fishermen diving for lobster and octopus just outside the line up. It might have been a bit small for short boarding, but I much prefer a longboard and the waves were perfect for a log. We had several super fun sessions, but my favourite was the second morning. We surfed just down the road from the villa at a spot they called Fishsticks, named for the Sri Lankan stick fishermen who mount perches above the shallow reef. The waves were in the waist to shoulder high range, glassy, with not a drop of water out of place and the line up was empty. Thanks in part to the tips from Josh the previous day, I got a few of the best nose rides of my life. Karson Lewis and a friend paddled out mid morning and we basically had our own private logging festival, filled with cheers, laughter and celebration of our good fortune. The majesty of the ocean, the tropical setting, the fun waves, and the best company made this session surreal.
Betsy wearing the Lido Seea suit.
David, Betsys partner, on a Bing Surfboards Noserider model.
What did you enjoy about Sri Lanka?
What I enjoyed the most was how true to self Sri Lanka still seemed. Many of the places I have previously traveled have been somewhat spoiled by the wrong types of tourism and/or overdevelopment, but Sri Lanka was different. I loved that the locals outnumber the tourists and that you can get a glimpse into their lives just by walking down the road.
There’s a warm, spicy fragrance that permeates the air, coconut vendors and roti shops every block, smiling faces, turquoise water and even though it has it’s own form of busy, there’s a simplicity to it all that is incredibly charming. I was completely enamored with the whole of it and left with broader horizons, a fuller heart and deeper sources of inspiration than I arrived with. Thank you SO much to Sunshinestories for having me! Lots of love and respect to the staff and other retreat guests who shared the week with me, it was an honour!
A huge thanks goes to the other brands who helped make this week possible. Keep an eye out for Betsy’s blog post on The Seea website soon and stay tuned for upcoming competitions in the future.