Having spent some time Googling paddleboarding in Sri Lanka, we came across Sri Lanka SUP (Ceylon Water Creatures (Pvt) Ltd. We were interested in doing something a bit different to their standard packages and they were happy to put together a bespoke itinerary for us. They had excellent knowledge of the area, we were keen to paddle with elephants but were informed that this is a seasonal activity in January. Having read the weather reports, we also wanted to paddle in the lakes and rivers around Arugam Bay (we were travelling in July), but thankfully they told us that wasn't advisable because of all the snakes and crocodiles! We can be pretty naive when it comes to travelling, and although we planned the rest of the trip ourselves, this was definitely the right part of the trip to get more expert advice on! We ended up staying in Madiha for the first three nights (the south of the island) where we could safely paddle in the lakes and rivers, then in Arugam Bay (on the east coast nearer to the south of the island) for four nights.
Our trip was most definitely out of season and we were really surprised at the lack of paddleboards there... we even had one of the paddleboards strapped to the roof of our taxi from Madiha to Arugam Bay as there didn't seem to be any others available!
The first three nights we spent at Beach Inns in Matara. It's a family-run hotel that's really reasonably priced. We went for a non-air-conditioned room and it was absolutely fine (it was at the end of June). It's right on the beach and the view from breakfast was beautiful...
Although Matara is a popular spot during the surf season, we hardly saw any other tourists during our visit. We felt that being white was a bit of a novelty out of season, a few of the locals did shout the odd comment (one declaring that they loved me!) but it was light-hearted and I never felt threatened. The sea was no good for surfing due to the time of year, but the lakes and rivers were beautiful. We then travelled on to Arugam Bay where we stayed at Stardust Beach Hotel in one of their beautiful cabanas.
Sam managed to surf his paddleboard while we were there and our guide took us to different surf points on a tuk tuk during our stay. Unfortunately we lost our GoPro to the sea so we don't have any footage of the paddleboarding at Arugam Bay, but you can have a look at the lake we paddleboarded on (as well as Arugam Bay itself) in our video.