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Two Swedish Surfers at Home in Sri Lanka, Guest Camp Included

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Two Swedish Surfers at Home in Sri Lanka, Guest Camp Included

Mitch Fong August 14, 2017

Indoek, an LA-based surf culture website, spotlights wave riders living in style the world over—in classic beach bungalows, in aeries made of shipping containers, in the back of tricked-out vintage vans. (Take a look at Surf Shacks, the site’s new companion book.) Our favorite Indoek stop to date is Sunshine Stories, a surf camp and yoga retreat in Sri Lanka founded by two adventurous young Swedes.

Linn Lundgren and Petter Toremalm met in high school at 18. “It was love at first sight,” says Linn. “We both grew up in the countryside in the south of Sweden and we shared the same dream of exploring the world.” They both also happened to belong to an intrepid little-known subculture, the diehard Nordic surfer. Together they deferred university by three years and hit the road, testing the waters all along the way—”we traveled in South Africa, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Guatemala, Laos, Thailand, to name a few countries.” They also began blogging—Sunshine Stories was initially where they chronicled their travels and interviewed inspiring people they met along the way, asking each, “What makes a good life?”

Nine years later (including a stint back in Sweden as college students), they have found the answer in Ahangama, a Buddhist beach village on the south coast of Sri Lanka about 25 km from Galle. Join us for a tour of their Swedish-inflected, tropical compound of two colonial villas, one for themselves, the other for guests, within walking distance of some of the island’s best surf.

Photography by Mitch Fong, courtesy of Indoek unless noted and with thanks to Indoek illustrator-writer Sean W. Spellman.

Linn and Petter’s Own Home

Two Swedish Surfers at Home in Sri Lanka Guest Camp Included The couple live in a 75 year old Dutch colonial style house with a generous veranda surrounded by banana and mango trees. When they purchased the villa two years ago, it was in good order, but the terracotta roof tiles required immediate attention: &#8\2\20;The monkeys had played and run on them so much that it had started to rain in.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: The couple live in a 75-year-old Dutch colonial-style house with a generous veranda surrounded by banana and mango trees. When they purchased the villa two years ago, it was in good order, but the terracotta roof tiles required immediate attention: “The monkeys had played and run on them so much that it had started to rain in.”

The house is situated across the street from the Sunshine Stories villa, which is just 500 yards from the Indian Ocean. Linn and Petter first visited Sri Lanka (previously known as Ceylon) in 2009, just after the island nation’s long civil war had ended. “We remember being in places like Bali and Thailand and saying, ‘I wish we were here 30 years ago, it must have been amazing,’ and then we got to Sri Lanka and it was like traveling back in time.” They describe Ahangama as “buzzing with local life, such as fruit and fish markets and a small train station—it’s not just another tourist town.”

Two Swedish Surfers at Home in Sri Lanka Guest Camp Included Linn&#8\2\17;s restored vintage Honda 90, shown here on the veranda, was a gift from Petter on their eighth anniversary. The mahogany double doors lead to the living room and to the couple&#8\2\17;s office.
Above: Linn’s restored vintage Honda 90, shown here on the veranda, was a gift from Petter on their eighth anniversary. The mahogany double doors lead to the living room and to the couple’s office.
Two Swedish Surfers at Home in Sri Lanka Guest Camp Included Since moving full time to Sri Lanka in \20\14, Linn and Petter tell us they&#8\2\17;ve been too busy to prioritize their own home. That said, they wasted no time transforming it Scandi style with gallons of white paint and a stripped down aesthetic.
Above: Since moving full-time to Sri Lanka in 2014, Linn and Petter tell us they’ve been too busy to prioritize their own home. That said, they wasted no time transforming it Scandi-style with gallons of white paint and a stripped-down aesthetic.

“In classic Sri Lankan style, all the rooms had different bright colors: the living room was deep purple, one room was orange, and another baby blue,” says Linn. “It took a lot of paint to make it white.”

Two Swedish Surfers at Home in Sri Lanka Guest Camp Included The white tiled floor and much of the wooden furniture, including the living room&#8\2\17;s circular table and the dining table, came with the house.
Above: The white-tiled floor and much of the wooden furniture, including the living room’s circular table and the dining table, came with the house.

Admiring the canvas and wood camp chairs? See 5 Favorites: Canvas and Wood Folding Chairs, High to Low.

Two Swedish Surfers at Home in Sri Lanka Guest Camp Included Where to store the surfboards? Linn and Petter&#8\2\17;s quiver of Bing boards (all made in California) hold pride of place in the dining room.
Above: Where to store the surfboards? Linn and Petter’s quiver of Bing boards (all made in California) hold pride of place in the dining room.

Linn purchased her antique cupboard from a woman in a neighboring village. She uses it to store her stock of kimonos, which she makes in collaboration with women in the community and sells locally.

Two Swedish Surfers at Home in Sri Lanka Guest Camp Included Occy, one of the couple&#8\2\17;s eight rescue dogs, was found by the side of the road the same week they opened the Sunshine Stories retreat.
Above: Occy, one of the couple’s eight rescue dogs, was found by the side of the road the same week they opened the Sunshine Stories retreat.
Two Swedish Surfers at Home in Sri Lanka Guest Camp Included Next to a banana palm, a vintage hospital table found (and purchased) at a junkyard serves as a drinks cart. &#8\2\20;We love marking the end of a hot day by making G&Ts; it&#8\2\17;s a tradition my grandfather started when he visited us,&#8\2\2\1; says Linn.
Above: Next to a banana palm, a vintage hospital table found (and purchased) at a junkyard serves as a drinks cart. “We love marking the end of a hot day by making G&Ts; it’s a tradition my grandfather started when he visited us,” says Linn.

They use their Marshall speaker here and elsewhere to listen to music on Spotify: This is their current favorite playlist.

Two Swedish Surfers at Home in Sri Lanka Guest Camp Included Formerly dark brown, the kitchen cabinets received a thorough whitewashing as did the walls and ceiling.
Above: Formerly dark brown, the kitchen cabinets received a thorough whitewashing as did the walls and ceiling.

The red-painted concrete floor is a traditional detail that remains: “We tried painting the concrete black in our entry, but it peels off. The only way to get rid of it is to remove it and fill in with a new one.” Photograph by Linn Lundgren.

Two Swedish Surfers at Home in Sri Lanka Guest Camp Included Petter designed the office&#8\2\17;s metal and wood rolling desks and had them fabricated by a local carpenter and welder. The chairs were rescued from the dump and given new caned seats. Photograph by Linn Lundgren.
Above: Petter designed the office’s metal-and-wood rolling desks and had them fabricated by a local carpenter and welder. The chairs were rescued from the dump and given new caned seats. Photograph by Linn Lundgren.
Two Swedish Surfers at Home in Sri Lanka Guest Camp Included Double doors in the living room lead to the master bedroom. The couple imported their white bedside lights from home: They&#8\2\17;re the Ikea Ranarp Clamp Spotlight, \$\19.99 each. Photograph by Linn Lundgren.
Above: Double doors in the living room lead to the master bedroom. The couple imported their white bedside lights from home: They’re the Ikea Ranarp Clamp Spotlight, $19.99 each. Photograph by Linn Lundgren.

Sunshine Stories Surf Camp & Yoga Retreat

Two Swedish Surfers at Home in Sri Lanka Guest Camp Included Sunshine Stories is situated in another breezy Dutch colonial villa; this one had been remodeled by the prior owners in a style inspired by the work of the late famed Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, and mainly required cosmetic upgrades.
Above: Sunshine Stories is situated in another breezy Dutch colonial villa; this one had been remodeled by the prior owners in a style inspired by the work of the late famed Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, and mainly required cosmetic upgrades.

Linn and Petter bought the house when their university in Malmö granted them permission to write their final theses off campus. With so much extra room, they soon found themselves running a B&B. And noticing that their visitors liked joining them in their daily surfing and yoga habits, their schoolwork got put on hold as Sunshine Stories morphed into a combination surf camp and yoga retreat.

Two Swedish Surfers at Home in Sri Lanka Guest Camp Included The villa is built around a grassy courtyard with a frangipani tree and has open air dining area and living areas. Guests come from all over the world to take part in weeklong stays of organized classes and lessons. A typical day begins at 6 a.m. with yoga on the lawn &#8\2\20;as the sun rises and monks chant in the neighboring temple.&#8\2\2\1; After a communal breakfast—healthy eating is another Sunshine Stories draw—the surfing begins.
Above: The villa is built around a grassy courtyard with a frangipani tree and has open-air dining area and living areas. Guests come from all over the world to take part in weeklong stays of organized classes and lessons. A typical day begins at 6 a.m. with yoga on the lawn “as the sun rises and monks chant in the neighboring temple.” After a communal breakfast—healthy eating is another Sunshine Stories draw—the surfing begins.

Initially, Linn and Petter lived at the retreat and did all of the cooking and cleaning and much of the guiding themselves. They’ve since hired a staff of pros, and now oversee operations not only at Sunshine Stories, but at a year-old second retreat, Ceylon Sliders, located 15 minutes away on the beach in Weligama and geared to guests who want a more à la carte experience.

Two Swedish Surfers at Home in Sri Lanka Guest Camp Included Part of the living room is set up for post surf discussion and video analysis that coaches present one on one to students.
Above: Part of the living room is set up for post-surf discussion and video analysis that coaches present one-on-one to students.
Two Swedish Surfers at Home in Sri Lanka Guest Camp Included Guests stay in communal rooms for two to six with mosquito netted beds built to Petter and Linn&#8\2\17;s specs. Situated off the courtyard, this room opens to its own outdoor showers.
Above: Guests stay in communal rooms for two to six with mosquito-netted beds built to Petter and Linn’s specs. Situated off the courtyard, this room opens to its own outdoor showers.

The sea breeze, well-positioned fans, and thick clay brick and limestone walls keep the house cool without air conditioning. For more ways to avoid AC, see Expert Advice: Hacks for Staying Cool without AC.

Two Swedish Surfers at Home in Sri Lanka Guest Camp Included Our favorite of the guest rooms calls to mind a domestic portrait by Danish master Vilhelm Hammershoi (see A Culinary Space Inspired by a Painting). The accordion hanging rack, Linn tells us, is sold locally in roadside stalls for about \$4.
Above: Our favorite of the guest rooms calls to mind a domestic portrait by Danish master Vilhelm Hammershoi (see A Culinary Space Inspired by a Painting). The accordion hanging rack, Linn tells us, is sold locally in roadside stalls for about $4.
Two Swedish Surfers at Home in Sri Lanka Guest Camp Included &#8\2\20;As Swedes, our first thought was to get bunkbeds from Ikea, but Ikea doesn&#8\2\17;t exist here, so we had to teach our carpenter what a bunkbed is,&#8\2\2\1; says Linn. The antique desk chair came with the house.
Above: “As Swedes, our first thought was to get bunkbeds from Ikea, but Ikea doesn’t exist here, so we had to teach our carpenter what a bunkbed is,” says Linn. The antique desk chair came with the house.
Two Swedish Surfers at Home in Sri Lanka Guest Camp Included Linn and Petter with Yasawathie and Neel, two members of the Sunshine Stories staff. For more details, go to Indoek and Sunshine Stories
Above: Linn and Petter with Yasawathie and Neel, two members of the Sunshine Stories staff. For more details, go to Indoek and Sunshine Stories

Join us as we explore three more idyllic island-living setups:

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