Hard to believe this is our 14th year in the Maldives. Started off at Lohi's back in 2002, and got hooked for life! Kinda hard to beat pretty lil tropical islands, idyllic palm trees, crystal blue water and plenty of super fun waves.
Things have changed a fair bit over the last few years - the area we surf used to be totally off the radar - but (no) thanks to a popular surf guide book and the construction of an airport close by the previously unridden realm now has it's fair share of charter boats. Still not as crowded as North Male, but gone are the days of us surfing there for 2 weeks and not seeing another soul. Don't you just hate progress....
What I don't hate is Business Class! Hooked an upgrade using our airmiles on the way over. Ysss, it's flipping awesome. Klapped a bottle of Moet in the business lounge before we left, and things just got better. Huge chair, which goes totally flat so you can dos all stretched out, lekker food and good wine. Was over far too quick. Eish - back to cattle class for the next 4 years whilst accumulating miles again. Emirates airlines rule!
September's not the best month to go to Maldives cos the weather can often be a bit iffy - and this year was no different. Schedules hadn't allowed us to travel earlier in the year - so it was now or bust. Luckily we chased a solid swell up from Jbay - which hit just as we arrived. So scored really good (albeit windy) surf for the first 4 days of the trip. Light crowds, and even some solo sessions in sheet glass. I was so busy surfing I hardly took any pics. Damn.
National Braai Day (aka Heritage Day) happened whilst we were there - so in true patriotic fashion we had a lekker braai. Trekked a braai grid over from SA, as well as some boerewors - and thankfully customs didn't seem the least bit concerned about our cooler bag of wors and steaks!
Our Maldivian crew were pretty impressed with our Saffa sausage - no corner shoppe out in the middle of nowhere so our chef baked some hotdog rolls. Hard to beat a boerie roll in paradise!
Pretty gnarly weather pattern set in nearing the end of our first week, with plenty of rain and unfavourable winds for the area we were in (well, not unfavourable if you don't mind surfing lefts - which were offshore...but am allergic to lefts). Only a coupla rungs above kookdom on my forehand, and a serious A grade kook going backside. Can't help it if my front yards a right point....
Cos winds were right for the zone we were in, we picked up sticks and headed northwards. First stop, the longest right in the Maldives. Needs quite specific conditions to be at it's world class best, but can still get some fun waves even if the stars don't align. Has a wicked lil bowl midway through the wave - which clamped shut on our boogie-boarding crew mate and rolled him over the reef. Made his way back out, and spent the rest of the session saying "very dangerous wave, very dangerous wave" repeatedly. Did try give some instructions as to how to dig the rail in for steering purposes etc, but musta got lost in translation.
We'd bought the crew a bodyboard and fins a few years back so we could get them out there with us so they could understand why we'd spend the whole day out in the water, instead of thinking we were mad.
There's a cool uninhabited island nearby, which a coupla years back hosted a full scale Saffa vs Maldives soccer match when we met up with Barry & Greg Heasley and their crew. But this time we were the only boat about so it was two on two. Gotto try keep fit whilst you on the boat, cos they feed you so well. Always try get a kick about or some bat & ball in every coupla days just to keep the legs ticking over.
After a few days we continued our northwards sail, to an area we used to surf quite a bit in the past but hadn't visited for a while. Two other boats were in the vicinity, but luckily they were opting to surf the lefts (which were picking up more swell) and left us alone on the right.
Swell was fairly small - but shoulder to head high peelers in paradise is just fine by me. Specially if there's just 2 of you in the water, and the fine print of the marriage contract says I get first dibs on any wave I want. Happy wife, happy life remember. Works fine cos I prefer the mid sized one's and leave the big sets for G anyway.
Snorkeling in the Maldives is world class. Water is so clear and there's a plethora of fish. The coral still hasn't recovered from the bleaching it suffered in the big El Nino of '98, but the gazzilion fish swimming around you more than make up for it. Stoked to have had a swim with a turtle, who didn't mind you giving him a back scratch - although did so tentatively cos they have gnarly beaks that look like that could take a big chunk of skin outta ya arm if they felt so inclined.
Was cruising along happily fish watching when suddenly a black tipped reef shark came across a few metres in front of me - just a lil guy of about a metre, but my first thought was "where's mom and dad"...and that was the end of the snorkel session!
No secret that our exchange rate sucks coconuts. Cos we went rather last minute - only booked a week before we left, the boat hadn't checked on it's beer stocks. Alcohol is tightly regulated in the Maldives as it's a Muslim country, so beer has to be ordered a while beforehand - not a case of being able to pop over to the bottlo to grab some. The slab was klapped 3/4's the way through the trip, so went on a beer-bumming mission to one of the other charter boats. Tinnies don't come cheap - $60 (R800) buys you 12 beers - thats nearly R70 a pop. Sip slowly.
The trip was coming to a close and we needed to get the boat back up to North Male to get to the airport. Had hoped to have a surf with Brad and Hannah before they left, but unfortunately just missed them - they pulled out the morning we arrived in South Male. The lucky fish are off on a quick mission to the Philippines, before heading home to say "howzit" and then off to their next job surf guiding in Mexico. Eish - tough life!
Got a few surfs in at a mellow lil right, and then quick as you can snap your fingers, the trip was over. On our last day we headed up to North Male just to see if we could pick up a wave there - but arriving at Sultans to find 6 charter boats and 4 resort boats all anchored up, and at one stage 50 peeps in the water - we took one look at it and went "no chance" - so just stuck out the fishing lines and went for a troll instead.
North Male is crazy crowded, but you can still get the odd session with just you and your crew. But generally speaking expect at least one other boat in the water with you. This all changes if the swell starts cranking - and suddenly the line-ups are empty. The average visiting surfer in North Male isn't all that flash, so one and a half overhead clears the line-up. Double overhead and you'll be one of a handful out there.
'Of course, the day we left the weather settled down, not a cloud in the sky, and a huge swell hit. Arg, don;t you just hate it when that happens! Normally we'd just have extended our trip, but unfortunately the boat had been booked for another charter. Win some, lose some.
Pretty good holiday all in all, weather coulda been better, and swell coulda been bigger in the second week - but hey - boardshort surfs, warm water, fish on the boat, tropical islands and palm tree's always makes for a good trip regardless.
Be back again next year (just not in September!)
Here's a couple more shots....