North Male' Atoll, Maldives
An Indian Ocean Playground
Where: The southeastern rib of North Male' Atoll in the Maldives, as it glistens in the sun-drenched and swell-blessed northern Indian Ocean between Somalia and Sumatra, south of India.
What: North Male' is a true coralline gem, a jewel of Islamic culture, and the ultimate archetype of your average Robinson Crusoeism. While it can be a bit pricey, this lung-shaped atoll is also the heart of Maldivian surfing--consistent, perfect, and generally user-friendly rights and lefts looping over non-jagged reef with 85-degree water in front of palm trees and beneath endless sunshine. Yeah, it's that nice.
When: April through October, during the southwest monsoon, when the Indian Ocean is corrugated with near-constant Antarctic swell and the winds are generally light and offshore. June and July are the peak months for swell. If you're seeking an attractive and easy escape from the smog of summer, North Male' is a good choice.
Why: Because it's literally halfway around the world, and you want to be wreathed inside the barrel of a utopian tropical aquarium while your bros are freezing at some crowded, crappy beachbreak back home. Plus, who needs reef-pass waves that can kill? Apart from psychos who have the rogue Evel Knievel gene, most of us would rather indulge in a summer smorgasbord of playful, thin-lipped turquoise bliss. Forget about Tahiti and Indo--the Maldives are where it's at. Hassle-free and exotic, with a good selection of shapely waves, North Male' is tough to beat and it fulfills any tropical surf fantasy you may have had or are having right now.
How: You can book a room at one of the all-inclusive resorts, or you can charter a live-aboard boat. The former is usually cheaper than the latter, though, and since the resorts have their own boats for surf transport, chartering a boat isn't really necessary--they generally go to the same spots the resorts can take you to. The easiest way to reach Male' is via Singapore Airlines, direct daily from Singapore, for about $1,200 a pop.
Places To Stay: Lohifushi Island Resort is great because not only is the left-hander there perfect, the resort can quickly take you to any of the surrounding spots in one of its comfortable dhoni boats. To the south is the famous Pasta Point fronting Dhonveli Beach and Spa (formerly Tari Village), where Maldivian surf tourism all started. Both Dhonveli and Lohifushi are killer places to base your Maldives surf trip, especially if you're a goofy-foot.
Places To Eat: Since the only restaurant around will be the one at your resort, you'll have to settle for the food there. But don't worry, because the grub is world-class, often running the gamut from Maldivian to Mexican.
Babes And Bros: Maldivian culture is very conservative, and, citing tradition, Maldivians are basically off-limits to foreigners. Most of the resort staff are men, anyway. Of course, it's possible to connect with fellow female (or male) tourists at your resort--ever heard of Temptation Island?
Crowd Factor: There's a chance you could surf a wave like Cokes, Jailbreaks, or Honkys by yourself, but don't count on it. Lots of surfers (Europeans, especially) are on to North Male', so don't be surprised if you share Pasta Point or Lohi Lefts with some Germans or Brits. There were several Israelis there when I visited; Australians, South Africans, Americans, and Japanese can also inhabit the lineup on any given day. It's hit and miss, but there are more than enough waves for everyone.
Stuff To Bring: Your resort might have some basic surf necessities like wax and sunscreen, but you'll need to bring everything else. A surf hat and a long-sleeved white rashguard are important, because the sun is positively scorching. Reef booties aren't really necessary as the reefs are semi-friendly. For surfboards, bring whatever you'd normally surf in fun-sized, lined-up waves, and leave the tow board at home.
If The Surf Is Flat: Since there isn't much land, it's highly likely that you'll be doing something ocean-based. The Maldives are world-famous for water clarity and abundant reef life--snorkeling and diving are killer pastimes. So is fishing, which is pretty doggone epic here. If you feel like exploring some local culture, you could hire a boat to take you down to the interesting city of Male', where you can cruise around on foot and take in the sights, sounds, and smells. If all else fails, grab a mai tai, throw down a beach towel, and bronze to your heart's (or skin's) content.
Helpful Web Sites: The best and easiest way to book Dhonveli or Lohifushi is through a reputable surf travel company like Wavehunters (wavehunters.com) or Antidote Travel (antidotetravel.com). Both companies also offer boat packages, if you're inclined. For other information, check out www.maldivesurf.org.mv (Maldives Surfing Association), www.visitmaldives.com, www.maldives.com, www.lohifushi.com, or www.themaldives.com.--Mike Kew