Leave your shoes at the door – a week of living barefoot at Soul and Surf‘s Sri Lankan retreat will calm your mind and whip your surfing skills into shape.
Places to Stay: Soul and Surf, Sri Lanka
Leave your shoes at the door of Soul and Surf Sri Lanka – you won’t wear them all week at this chilled-out surf and yoga retreat, and it’s amazing how quickly living barefoot starts to feel totally natural.
Life at Soul and Surf follows a routine that is a far cry from a busy working week with little time to focus on fitness or time outdoors. Here you’re up at 6am for a quick banana smoothie before being bundled into a tuk tuk with surfboards strapped to the top, headed to the local beach for a two-hour surf lesson. Then it’s back for a hearty breakfast, followed by an hour of vinyasa yoga. Lunch. Yoga. Dinner, a feast of Sri Lankan fish curries, fresh salads and tuna steak. And then early to bed, until the eerie sound of the call to prayer from the nearby temple reverberates around the house at dawn. Get up. Surf. Yoga. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
This is no boot camp, though. Despite the packed schedule, there’s plenty of time for lying in the sun, for wandering the streets of the nearby colonial city of Galle or for stroking Reef, the resident surf dog, behind the ears. Surfing is in the morning cool before the heat hits, so that you can relax by the pool or hop on a paddle board on the river later.
This happy balance has been perfected over the years by founders Ed and Sofie Templeton, who started their first surf escape in Kerala and now also run pop-up retreats in locations as far flung as Lombok, Peru and Portugal. So what’s special about their Sri Lankan incarnation?
The soul of Sri Lanka
Firstly, there’s the location. It’s ideal for surfers keen to improve – the local beach is perfect for beginners or anyone, like me, who is keen to progress to green waves, and has a small beach break that’s easy to practice your pop-ups on.
And then that are the gorgeous sights, sounds and colours of Sri Lanka. Everywhere is a lush green. Coconut-laden palms sway overhead. Delicate lotus flowers float on the river. One night, a gang of light-footed monkeys creep over my bedroom’s roof, chittering to each other with glee.
When you aren’t exploring, the huge white villa where the retreat is based is a tropical haven. Rooms are spacious and decorated in muted white and grey tones. Some have outdoor showers or wide balconies, and all feel like calming places to switch off. There’s a sprawling, pastel-coloured indoor/outdoor sitting room full of squishy sofas and surf books, a step from the turquoise pool.
And then there’s the ‘Soul’ element of the retreat – a huge open-air shala where teacher Jessamin helps to unwind tight surf muscles with active vinyasa or slow-paced, candlelit yin yoga sessions each day. By the end of a week of daily surf and yoga I felt far more flexible and physically and mentally relaxed.
Stay there: An all-inclusive week-long stay at Soul & Surf costs £820, excluding flights and includes all meals and tuition.