Kicking back with Sri Lanka’s new surf heroes

Kicking back with Sri Lanka’s new surf heroes
The Travel Diary — Photographer Dhillon Shukla travels to the coastal communities of southern Sri Lanka, where he captures the country’s burgeoning surf scene – where tradition and Californian slider culture collide.

In December 2017 I travelled to Sri Lanka for the first time. I was shooting a video in Kandy – a city located in the country’s central province – for two days. Not wanting to take the long flight back to London so soon, I decided to extend my stay by five nights and go in search of a personal project to photograph.

My uncle – who had lived in Colombo, the capital, for two years – tipped me off about the coastal communities of southern Sri Lanka, where there is a rapidly growing surf subculture. It has remained somewhat undiscovered by the Western world. So, that’s where I went.

The subsequent photos capture the eclectic communities of Weligama bay and its neighbouring beaches (Midigama and Mirissa), illustrating how California’s slider culture has reached an unexpected pocket of Asia.

Here, inhabitants embrace the archetypal ‘surfer’s uniform’ of Hawaiian shirts and sun-bleached wavy hair. Boldly identifying with these Western inspirations while still embracing their uniqueness, they dub themselves ‘Kalu Sliders’: Sinhalese for ‘black surfers’.

On my first day, I arrived on the beach at dawn; the combination of sunrise and a two-and-a-half-acre tropical island situated a 100 metres into the ocean (the only thing standing between this coastline and the South Pole) gave it an ethereal feel.

Mixing with the locals, I encountered young couples who had eschewed city life for a laid back lifestyle, families spending quality time in the surf, and pre-teens wanting to emulate their older peers.

Over the next five days I heard how for many in this seven-mile stretch, their first memories of the water were the three giant waves which hit during the 2004 tsunami, in which two-thirds of people lost their homes, livelihoods and loved ones.

15 years on, these coastal communities have been rebuilt – and the inhabitants continue to repair their relationships with the ocean.

 

See more of Dhillon Shulka’s work on his official website or follow him on Instagram

Enjoyed this article? Like Huck on Facebook or follow us on Twitter

Latest on Huck

In photos: Three decades of Glastonbury Festival’s people and subcultures
Photography

In photos: Three decades of Glastonbury Festival’s people and subcultures

A new photobook explores the unique cultural experience and communal spirit found at the UK’s largest festival.

Written by: Isaac Muk

Surreal scenes from the streets of Tokyo
Photography

Surreal scenes from the streets of Tokyo

A new book by photographer Feng Li uses images of strange encounters to explore the historical centre of street photography.

Written by: Isaac Muk

Re-enchanted England: Exploring Paganism and Folklore
Culture

Re-enchanted England: Exploring Paganism and Folklore

A new book dives into the ancient traditions and rituals that many are turning to in an age of uncertainty, crisis and climate breakdown.

Written by: Thomas Andrei

Inside London’s Museum of Sex
Culture

Inside London’s Museum of Sex

For two days only a derelict house in south east London will become a hub of artwork exploring eroticism, sexuality, gender, and the body.

Written by: Brit Dawson

Why is Neil Diamond’s mega-hit ‘Sweet Caroline’ so intoxicating for sports fans?
Outdoors

Why is Neil Diamond’s mega-hit ‘Sweet Caroline’ so intoxicating for sports fans?

During this summer’s edition of the Euros, one certainty is the ubiquity of Diamond’s 1969 hit. But how and why did it gain such a storied place in England fans’ hearts? Jimmy McIntosh investigates.

Written by: Jimmy McIntosh

Can things only get better, again?
Election 2024

Can things only get better, again?

With the re-emergence of D:Ream’s euphoric 1993 hit and a ’97 style Labour landslide looking likely, Hannah Ewens dives deep into the creation of Cool Britannia, and asks experts whether it could be repeated again.

Written by: Hannah Ewens

Sign up to our newsletter

Issue 80: The Ziwe issue

Buy it now