|On his last and most auspicious journey, Sinbad was commissioned to the island of Serendib (as the Arabs called it--later becoming Ceylon and then, Sri Lanka). It was said that a bounty of ivory exsisted here, and lay awaiting the adventurous soul brave enough to weather the hunt. Sinbad landed on the eastern shores, happened upon an old, wise elephant who carried him into the jungle to a sacred elephant cemetary. It was here that the treasure rested in the ground, and Sinbad claimed it, loaded it onto his ship, and sailed back to Bagdhad to retire a rich man.
In a very short time, I have adjusted to a minimalist lifestyle, by which the simple act of wave riding ranks supreme. Often before the sun fully rises from the watery horizon, I am engaged in sport, withdrawing only to feed. Sustainance is the only motivation to break from the otherwise marathon surf sessions, and duly noted, the local cuisine is stupendous. Flavorful, nourishing, balanced. Plates of fresh beets, and stewed curry potatoes and eggplant meet with mounds of jasmine rice, bowls of daal, and zesty salads made from cabbage, carrots, and pineapple. To cool the ensuing fire, we crack open fresh yellow coconuts and drink down their milk. Without fail, I complete every meal feeling recharged and utterly satiated.
Usually, while we are quietly digesting, breathing slowly, and enjoying the shade of a tree, Nikki begins to twist some joints. I have never considered myself skilled in this art-form, and thus am continually impressed with the expertise demostrated by my cohort. He routinely manages perfectly asymmetical cones with well-appointed paper filters. These cigarettes burn, draw, and ash with precision.
The Sri Lankan weed reminds me a great deal of the Mexican variety of my high-school days: brown, full of stems and seeds, and requires smoking alot of it to get "high." This suits me just fine, as getting "stoned" is not really my objective, rather I enjoy the ritual of passing the joint, chatting with those in the circle (Nikki: the Swiss-born fashion-photographer living in Tokyo, Miguel: a multi-lingual, Basque-national from Bilbao, Julia: an Ashatanga Yoga teacher from Austria, Jean-Pierre: a middle-aged Frenchman who lives in Biarritz and builds custom yachts) and then allowing in the warm, languid haze that follows. It is ironic that smoking marajuana in southern Sri Lanka is socially acceptable behavior, highly illegal and enforced by no one.
Arugum Bay I would come to learn, was during the 1960's and 1970's, a bastion of hippy activity. It's sandy shores drew yogis, baba's, gurus, artists, musicians, and no doubt lot's of "soul-seeking", glassy eyed westerners. In these days, a full moon was tantamount to a multi-day "rave," before Kool was "cool." Alas some of this spirit lives on here, though most of the hippies have been replaced by surfers and the search for enlightment replaced by the search for point-waves---looking for it, doing it, and then talking about it (to nausia).
After a week traveling with William Marshall--the 26-year-old Oxford Phd, Harvard Fellow, NASA consultant--all talk of swell, wind, and tide seems menial. I do miss my chats with Wil. One of the great things about being a traveler, though, is embracing the experience of constant and radical change. Last week I was dodging bombs in Kathmandu with a future Nobel Lauriate, and this week I'm riding waves in Sri Lanka with a pack of adolescent surf rats. And so, this is my reality.
This morning, I watched the sun rise from the "point" at Arugum Bay. As I sat there, bobbing on my new surfboard, the sky doing it's pastel water color thing, I welcomed the day with some deep "Prana" breaths. I kept one eye on the horizon for set waves, and one eye fixed on the near-by estuary for elephants who often come here at dawn to drink. The moon was waxing and the swell which had provided some of the best days of surfing life was finally on the decline. Alas a set pushed through--a wide-swinging one with a more westernly direction in it-- and I chased it down. As I dropped in, angling a high-line for speed, I could really relax and feel the energy from the ocean. The water texture was just beautiful, glassy and full of color from the early morning sky. I rode that wave all the way into the sandy bay, a good 100 meters down the beach before kicking out. And thus my day began...