The real surfer's paradise

by Alf.Alderson

Surf the best waves of your life on a surf yacht charter in the Maldives

Incredible as it may seem, Gordon Brown once claimed to have the best job in the world. Well, Gordon, you’ve been wrong about many things recently and that was one of them.

For the best job in the world belongs to a young fella named Fayez who works as a surf boat guide in the Maldives. Sure, he must rise early, often before 6am, and has to commute to work – but the commute is a short paddle on his surfboards from the boat on which he lives, with two or three visiting surfers in tow, and work is surfing on perfect tropical waves with just a few other people, each wave peeling with mechanical precision across a reef populated by bright turquoise parrot fish, turtles, even manta rays.

That, Mr. Brown, is the best job in the world…

If you’re a competent surfer with a penchant for fast, barrelling reef breaks, you can have a taste of Fayez’ average working day by chartering one of the increasing numbers of ‘surf boats’ which operate out of the Maldives’ capital Malé.

You’ll sail out to the vast array of coral reefs which surround the 1,996 mostly deserted atolls of which this island nation is comprised. Here, swells generated in the oceans of the southern hemisphere pulse northwards for thousands of miles and across forty degrees of latitude to end their lives booming ashore in dramatic aquamarine explosions that are just begging to be surfed.

Until the turn of the century this was relatively new surf territory, but increasing numbers of surf boat charters now allow waveriders from all around the globe to enjoy a week or two of surf paradise in the Maldives, surfing fast breaking, glass clear waves that are as warm as bathwater.

When I visited in early August we had fourteen consecutive days in which the surf never dropped below head high, and was frequently double that size. The swell had been coming through for days before we arrived and was still pounding ashore as we left. You’ll never need to surf in anything more than boardshorts, a rash vest and plenty of sun cream; and it’s quite easy to get in five surf sessions a day since you’re literally living next to the break. So just a bit better than August in Newquay, then…

Of course nowhere is perfect and the Maldives’ increasing popularity and ease of access means it can get somewhat busy in the waves at times as boat after boat anchors off the best breaks and half a dozen Aussie, Yank or Brazilian surfers hop over the side to catch a few peaks and peelers.

But the further away you travel from Malé the fewer surfers you’ll encounter - the Maldives are strung out over a distance of 750km from north to south so there’s still plenty of scope to explore if you can persuade your captain to sail away from the beaten tack.

That said it’s hardly worth the time and trouble of heading off on ‘surfari’ as you’ll still catch plenty of ‘best ever’ waves on even the busiest breaks, especially if you get up at daybreak for your first surf session, when you’ll find that even the popular breaks near Malé are yours for the taking; and when the late risers paddle out, clamber back onto your floating hotel and enjoy a leisurely breakfast while you sail away for an hour or two to more distant, less busy breaks.

Our boat, the 24-metre ‘Rani’, was quite basic but still plenty comfortable with six two-berth, en-suite cabins, two large sun decks (one covered – the tropical sun is too intense for sunbathing for much of the day), an outside dining area and, since we were offshore, ample supplies of cold après-surf beer (the Maldives constitute a Muslim republic so alcohol is banned when you’re ashore). Meals naturally focus on fish, which will have been swimming beneath the boat about an hour before it’s on your plate.

With ever-present waves, downtime is largely spent recovering ready for your next surf session with a good book or snoozing in the shade as the warm tropical sea breeze wafts across your surfed out frame. If you should have energy to spare, hop over the side and explore the amazing reefs – we saw everything from angel fish to dolphins and sharks.

Idyllic as it may appear, the Maldives isn’t the place to learn to surf. There are no easy-to-ride beach breaks here, just reefs of varying degrees of shallowness which will shred your flesh if you get rolled across them in a wipeout. That said Maldivian waves, unless big, are not excessively powerful, and our group of seven suffered no injuries other than sunburn and dehydration, both easily avoided if you use a bit of common sense.

We did manage to break a lot of gear, from snapped leashes to dinged boards so you need to take plenty of spares and a good board repair kit. And anything you don’t really need to take home – well, leave it for the boat crew. These guys may have a seemingly idyllic life but they earn very little and we left bits and pieces such as t-shirts and flip-flops with them that were much appreciated.

Any hey, who cares about leaving your favourite t-shirt behind when you’re surfing the best waves of your life? Get there soon though – as the world’s flattest country (the Maldives’ highest point is 2.4 metres above sea level) global warming may mean they’re on offer for a limited period only…

For more info on surfing in the Maldives go to www.maldivesurf.com

 

 

Alf.Alderson

Alf Alderson is an award winning freelance travel and adventure sports journalist and photographer based in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. His work appears regularly in various national newspapers and magazines in the UK and abroad. He is also gear editor and a major contributor to Outdoor Enthusiast magazine. Alf is the author of several books, including the Rough Guide to the Rocky Mountains, the official guide to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Surf UK and Surfing - A Beginner's Manual. His 'specialist subjects' are surfing, skiing, mountain walking and mountain biking, Examples of his work can be seen at www.alfalderson.co.uk