Riding waves of luxury - the Maldives

Pubished Traveller, The Age and SMH and online at www.smh.com.au/travel/riding-on-a-wave-of-luxury-20081113-64pz.html

I am a very long way from beer and the back of a station wagon in a beach car park down the coast.


On my first morning in the Maldives, a resort buggy collects my surfboard and I from a five star, over water bungalow with 360-degree, coral atoll views. At the poolside restaurant I have a light, pre-surf breakfast of 13 fresh tropical fruits and compotes, granolas, two yoghurts and an espresso before strolling over to the surf centre.


The resort surf guide, Johnny Dekeghel, from Noosa Heads, escorts me to the surf boat and explains the nearby breaks while we motor 20 minutes to a wave called Sultans. He paddles me to the take off spot and at the end of a fine surf, takes my surfboard from the water like a golf caddy and racks it on the boat.


Each morning, I check out the surf from a four poster bed and shower on a private balcony suspended over the lagoon. I swim at sunset, learn to ride a jet ski, chat with the resort’s marine biologist, dine out and savour the resort’s architecture and interior design.


The Four Seasons Kuda Huraa resort in the Maldives is one of a growing number of five star resorts around the world that appoint surf guides and sell surf packages to new generations of cashed up surfers chasing perfect waves in warm water.


The cerulescent sea in the Maldives is 28 degrees. It’s like swimming in silk. It’s 30 degrees in the day and 28 degrees at night. There are no mosquitos or diseases. You walk out of airports straight onto boats. The snorkelling is incredible and there are quality waves everywhere.


The Maldives is not a cheap destination and tourists are channelled through 63 four and five star resorts with rooms costing $400 to $1200 a night. New resorts will soon be built on another 50 of the 1190 islands in the Maldives.


I’m preparing for a 13-day surf cruise on a 100-foot motor yacht through the remote southern atolls. Luxury motor yachts and sea planes are the new panel vans for surfers. Some members of the international surfocracy arrive in their own jets, Dekeghel says.


I spend a night at Chaaya Island Dhonveli, one of two resorts with exclusive access to it’s own surf break.  The resort limits the number of surfing guests to 30 to ensure its wave remains uncrowded. Sustainable surfing. Not long ago, a group was asked if they would allow world champion, Kelly Slater, to come and surf for two days. The guests thought about saying no for a while.


Surfing in the Maldives was established at this resort by an Australian, Tony Hussein Hinde. Hinde was shipwrecked in the Maldives in 1973, discovered the surf, stayed there and kept it secret for 15 years. He started Atoll Adventures and the first organised surf tours in 1992. Earlier this year, Hinde had a heart attack and died at the end of a ride at his beloved break, Pasta Point, at Dhonveli.


I walk the length of the resort, surfboard under arm, round Pasta point and my jaw drops. The surf is six foot, about double head high, and wave after hollow wave barrels down the coral reef with just four guys out. The full time surf guide, Dara, gestures at the wave casually. “Here it is. You can see. It’s perrr-fect. Tide is perfect. Wind is perfect. Let’s go.” Dara paddles me out and then comes in to take some photos for my souvenir album.


The next day I take a domestic flight over the atolls (after the Maldivian word, ‘atolhu’)  to meet the motor yacht, the M.Y.Teate. Like a growing number of motor yachts in the tropics, it operates as a dive boat half the year and a surf boat during the surf season from March to October.


It has four opulent decks for privacy, eight double cabins with ensuites and teak and polished mahogany walls, floors and fittings.  There is an entertainment system, an on board PADI dive instructor and equipment, six staff, a chef and two boats to ferry surfers to the breaks. It’s the only boat stationed south that is equipped for night travel through the atolls. It’s a pleasure just to walk around.


Life is better after an uncrowded, off shore surf in the morning. It’s even better after a cool shower on the water deck and a full breakfast served on the upper deck while a crew member cuts up freshly caught tuna for dinner.


We have two nice surfs at a break in Laamu Atoll then decide to cross the open ocean to Gaaf atoll, a few miles north of the equator, that horizon at the centre of the earth.


The next two days we enjoy mellow surfs with local kids who have beaming smiles. In clear water we glide over a patchwork reef and schools of bright blue fish.  A Muslim call to prayer, moaning for peace, wafts over the waves.


[if cut]I visit the village of Gadhdhoo with coral walls and buildings. Islamic culture has given villages a devotional focus and they are incredibly clean and blessed without alcohol. We take off sandals to enter shops with polished tile floors. An island girl collects cowrie shells from the coral shore as Maldivians have done for millennia. [end if cut]


The next day, the surf drops and the wind turns on shore and the surfers all turn to philosophy and debate.

A few more days of no surf follow and it’s like “Waiting for Godot” on board. The search turns existential, as every search is prone to do. We surf small waves with potential but zigzag across the atoll looking for bigger waves and winds and argue about which way to motor and how much fuel we can spend.


[if cut]The surfers on board have come from Italy, Hawaii, San Francisco, Germany and Australia. They are managers, consultants and lawyers who know how to ride the waves of society as well as the waves of the ocean. Some have already booked surf trips to Mexico, Madagascar or Indonesia. [end if cut]


While the surf is small we read, practise fly-bridge diving and go snorkelling. Underwater, frondescent corals bloom like fireworks set in stone. Each frond is tipped with fluorescent pastel shades of mandarine, ultraviolet mauve, light blue or yellow. There are purple-lipped clams and giant fan corals. This fossilised, psychedelic garden is populated by clown fish, parrot fish, damsel fish, butterfly fish, surgeon fish, angel fish, unicorn fish, Napoleon and six-bar wrasses. Turtles drift by from another century.


I visit other island villages where Maldivians now dig up land against the threat of rising sea levels like crabs on beaches. Maldivians are handsome, languid people, often with angular, slender features and the wistful look of seafarers, always ready to break into a quick smile or share a joke.


The experience of being in remote southern atolls compensates for the unseasonal lack of surf but when we return to the northern atolls the swell picks up again. 


I spend my last two days at Hudhuran Fushi, a four star resort, with beautifully established gardens and trees that shade avenue walks to the surf boat jetty and its own left hand point break. 


There are 65 surfers staying here and surfers and their partners or families can account for a quarter of guests. There are surfing couples on honeymoon and dads buying sons a surfing birthday present. World Surfaris surf guide, Richard Kotch says partners and families love it. “They get to indulge at the resort, or the spa, or snorkel, dive and sail while the surfer goes surfing.” 


During my last surf, dolphins and barracouda jump, a swoop of manta rays swims around me and I catch the best wave I’ve had in years. A fast but relaxed, stand-up tube ride that every surfer knows is the ultimate in luxury. 



The Maldives surf season is March to October, with peak swells in June, July and August but often more reliable weather in April, May, September and October. There are waves in other months but not as often. Even gentle surf in the Maldives breaks on coral reefs with sea urchins. It is not for beginners.  Surfers need booties, a long sleeved rash vest, zinc and sun screen. Surf charter boats can be cheaper than accommodation in the Maldives but check the equipment and guide before booking.


Australian surf travel agencies







Boat charters

MY Teate.  11 day surf charters with all meals start at $3245 AUD per person for groups of 10. The boat is $2950 AUD (1700E) per day. www.line-upexplorers.com


Four Seasons Explorer. Surf cruises with 21 staff start at $21,000 AUD per day for a maximum of 22 passengers.


Tropic Surf Sea Plane

$3253 AUD per hour of airtime or approx. $6500 per day for up to 10 surfers and boards.



Four Seasons Kuda Huraa Water bungalows start at $1024 per night.

Chaya Island Dhonveli twin share, seven-day, surf packages from $2730 or $3955 ex east coast Australia.

Adaaran Select Hudhuran Fushi twin share, garden bungalows from $290 per night plus $75 a day for surf guide and boat.





© Copyright Andrew Bock 2010. All rights protected.