Surfing association attacks MNDF resort proposal over fears for local access: “Like England selling off Wembley Stadium”

The Maldives Surfing Association (MSA) has hit out at a proposed resort development on a Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) training island, claiming it will substantially reduce local access to an already limited number of high-profile waves in the country.

Ahmed Rifaee, a member of the MSA’s Steering Committee, claimed that while Maldivians were largely unaware of the significance of the waters around the island of Thanburudhoo to the country’s sporting heritage, the proposed resort development threatened to leave local people with access to just two world-class surf points.

Rifaee said that tourism laws presently prohibit non-guests from using prominent surf points based at the country’s resorts – legislation that threatens the future development of a sport he noted had gained the Maldives its greatest athletic successes and recognition internationally.

The resort proposal, first discussed under the previous government as part of plans to fund a state-of-the-art military training complex, was forwarded to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) this week to determine the legality of an island set aside for the military being leased for commercial purposes.

However, the private group linked to the development, Telos Investment, told Minivan News that a “robust development plan” was being put in place for local surfers, adding that discussions were already under way with surf authorities – including the MSA – over the issue.

Earlier this week, the MNDF confirmed to Minivan News that it would be leasing Thanburudhoo to a third-party that would develop the site as a surf resort. The island is currently used by officers for training and recreational purposes.

The country’s military authorities this month registered the MNDF Welfare Company in a bid to generate income to fund welfare services for the armed forces by investing in various businesses, including the tourism sector.

With an ACC investigation set to be tabled in the coming days, the development proposal was slammed by Rifaee, who claimed that the waters around the island were a unique experience for local and international surfers alike. He added that the waters housed two world class waves that had been used for generations to allow local surfers to hone their skills – no matter their levels of experience.

“We have been surfing these waves for a long time, they are one of the best training grounds for local surfers,” Rifaee said. “Outside the local community, it is little known by the wider Maldivian people about what a loss this would be to the country. I would say it was equivalent in England to selling off Wembley stadium to a foreign company.”

Former government proposal

In a proposal said to have been discussed last year between the government of former President Mohamed Nasheed, then senior MNDF figures, and Telos Investment, Thanburudhoo was to be leased for an initial 50 year period for development as a “boutique surf resort” to secure US$5 million in funding for an MNDF training facility.

The resort development plan was initially submitted by Telos Investment President Dr Gunnar Lee-Miller, who is said in the proposal to have experience “serving the Ministry of Human Resource, Youth & Sport, the Maldivian Olympic Committee, and several associations in a sports development capacity.”

MNDF spokesperson Lieutenant Abdulla Ali said this week that the concept of development of its training island as a tourist resort was approved by the former government in 2010, but that work had stalled “for various reasons”.

“However, we have started that process again, and the discussions are continuing,” Lieutenant Ali said.

No agreement at the time was reached on the proposals, which included a clause to allow local Maldivians “in good standing” with the MSA to have access to the waves around the resort twice a month, on every other Friday and Saturday.

While accepting that even limited access to local surf points was a less restrictive policy compared to other resorts in the country, Rifaee said even allowing access twice a month would be a major setback for national surfing.

“By allowing us to surf only on Saturday or Friday morning , when the waves are not always going to be there, this might not be too helpful,” he said. “It’s not just local surf spots that would be affected by such a proposal either. I’ve been told that there are one or two top dive spots in the waters. However, any resort development would need reclaimed land and a harbour, which will endanger these spots.”

Rifaee contended that while the MSA had yet to take a formal stance to oppose the resort development, discussions were ongoing over how to proceed.

“We are going to protest this if we have to. It’s part of our culture and has been for many years. Even my grandfather used to surf.”

Responding to the claims, Telos Investment told Minivan News that it would be issuing a statement soon regarding the project and the potential impacts on national surf development.

“To be sure, there is a robust surf development plan for local surfers and fruitful discussions with Maldivian Surf Association Leaders have already commenced,” Dr Lee-Miller responded by SMS at time of press. “We care greatly about the development of Maldivian surfers both in Male’ and the outer atolls.”

Minivan News was awaiting a full statement from Telos Investment at time of press.

Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Ahmed Adheeb was not responding.


In a proposal submitted in July 2011 by Telos Investment and senior Ministry of Defence figures, Telos Investment would pay US$5 million dollars for a 50 year master lease for Thanburudhoo to develop a surf property for tourists. The money would be used to fund the development of a ‘Leadership and Management Centre for Excellence’ at the MNDF’s Girifushi facility.

The proposal stated that Thanburudhoo had originally been given to the MNDF to carry out combat training exercises – a purpose that it could no longer maintain due to the number of surrounding resorts.

“So rather than letting an under-utilised island continue, MNDF believes that Thanburudhoo can be utilised to give a new lease and life and strong future to Girifushi and the emerging leadership of MNDF and the country,” the proposal stated.

The proposal was not an attempt by the MNDF to enter the tourism market, collect a yearly lease from an island, or form a joint venture with a foreign investor.

Former Economic Development Minister Mahmoud Razee, who was acknowledged in the same proposal as having provided “constructive counsel” to Telos Invesment and senior MNDF officials, confirmed to Minivan News that discussions over the proposal had taken place. However no agreement was reached with the Nasheed government, Razee said.

Razee claimed the decision to not move ahead with the proposal was “partly due to timing”, but also concern over providing access to the surfing areas around the island for “young people”.

The government of the time had checked the offer in line with its wider Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme and found it comparable to other privatisation projects, Razee said.

“However, what we didn’t do was make the project a joint venture with the MNDF,” Razee added.


49 thoughts on “Surfing association attacks MNDF resort proposal over fears for local access: “Like England selling off Wembley Stadium””

  1. The VERY few spots for surfing in north Male atoll are already way overcrowded and each additional spot given to a resort that can limit access will just make it worse. Chaaya Dhonvelli getting exclusive access for a few of their guests that pay ridiculous prices for the privilege infringes on the rights of both Maldivians and foreigners who soon will have nowhere to surf.

    I cannot believe Anni would have agreed to this but with Baghee Waheed and his puppetmaster Gayoom anything is possible for the right price. They want to hire more troops in preparation for the release of the report on August 29 perhaps, although the result is a foregone conclusion.

  2. The roads are paved in Male now and that has eliminated the rainy-season-formed frog puddles on the streets. My great grandfather, when he was a kid, used to wade these puddles too with the rest of the kids.

    And these are world class frog puddles, some a foot deep.

    I want them back too...

  3. what is this surfing association is ? First time heard them.

    How can this guy tell " even my grand father used to surf there " . Probably his grand father may not know how to swim.









  5. Bagee shiyam just bought 6 plots of land in laamu Atoll. is he getting ready to retire. where did he get the money!

  6. anti corruption commission luthufee kobaitho???

    vakimeehakah naajaiz faidhaa eh nulibey dhehtho mi kammehga?

    bid nukoh. kaafu atholhun rasheh. resort eh dhuvahakuves nahadhaa meehakah mio libigen dhanee 99 aharah!

    alhugandumenge dhelo kuri mathee...

    thee vaa commission eh! kammeh koh bala!

  7. woah! my grand father didn't surf THERE. But that he surfed. I said that people have been surfing here for centuries.
    This has been part of our culture. Long before tourism or fiberglass surfboards. We used wooden planks. So did the Hawaiians and many ancient, fun loving, ocean going cultures. When i was working in Noonu atoll, one of my fondest memories was watching a skinny little local boy, black as night, with a mop of sun bleached hair, very skillfully ride a wooden plank standing up . That was life for him and the bunch of his surfing buddies. Playing in the ocean after school. Just like kids everywhere playing in there parks.

  8. Mody, my grand father was a sailor. He navigated by the stars by the wind and the tide. He was the captain of a trading vessel that used to go to India and Sri lanka. This was when people knew how to live in this country.
    And ya, he could swim.

  9. Gunnar Lee Miller is lying. He never discussed anything with MSA. He had a talk with a few local surfers about this. "On going discussion with MSA" Non-sense. Even the bunch of surfers who talked with him told him to STUFF IT!!

  10. I would love to see the existing public breaks stay 100 percent open to all surfers but have a feeling greed will prevail. It usually does in most cases. I can only hope that if the new construction is approved, it will ruin the surf at jails and sultans in the process (and maybe even take out pasta point for good measure). If the locals can't surf, the yuppy tourists deserve to be screwed too.

  11. i agree with mody - a think surfing because a sport about 20 odd years ago in the Maldives and thus his grandfather to have surfed there - is a complete lie!

  12. Watching the emerging military power gain strength in the former democracy!

  13. This is compensation given to Shiyam, Nazim n Riyaz for taking the blame of coup d'état n for taking the fall on behalf of current govt.

    A share o resort in kaafu atoll, a luxury only the super rich get to enjoy. Their children's children are now secured.

    They all just need face some jail time n then after a few years a presidential pardon, or a medical followed by exile in foreign country on the back of the enormous wealth they will reap from this resort in time to come.

  14. Who is this Rifaee guy ? Howd his great grandfather get a surfboard (way back in 1950 ?), were surfboards even invented back then or did his grandpa surf on coconuy shells ?

    This smells like a very fishy story....

    And doesnt this Rifaee guy have anything better to do than surf ? Why doesnt he go get a real job in a Gaadiyaa or something instead of lollygagging in the sun talking about his grandpa surfing on coconut shells.... Youths these days are doing nothing productive....

  15. The eyes of the world are watching this situation to ensure that no further privatization of a precious natural, cultural and recreational resource is permitted. The waves belong to all humanity not an elite few. BF (Australia)

  16. “Like England selling off Wembley Stadium”

    I would like to inform you that England, Britain or United Kingdom do not own Wembley Stadium. IT IS PRIVATELY OWNED AND FINANCED. It is not owned by any government, it is privately owned by a profit making business. I would hate to make you feel like an idiot, but really, it is a bad analogy. I somehow doubt the surfers will win against power, greed and mass corruption that the Maldives Gov is now encouraging.

  17. Ishaaq, the only thing to be added into that comment is the proper term, "boh fengandu".

  18. Leave aside the surfer and look at the lease of the resort. It's absolutely absurd. Without bid in leasing an asset belonging to state company, no significant advance being paid, 50 years for an island in kaafu atoll to a bloody surf boy without experience with a rich friend and a false website that talks about a non existent 5 island resort project!!

    What would it take for everyone to get this. Imagine the chaos if this island was given to Reeko Moosa! I don't see any difference in giving this to Gunnar lee miller!

  19. This is not England selling wembley...this is us selling an island right next to airport for free! Atleast gmr paid something for the airport.

  20. I have had it. This government is more corrupt than Anni, and not only that, this government is pure evil and corrupt at the sametime.

    Where the hell is anti corruption commission. Even they are in the pockets of the regime. Screw this and may god bless the mndf chiefs with good surf waves as they ride it

  21. Looks like its the surfer dudes with best judgements on economic policy?

    I love surfers and have total sympathy with with them. However, the fact that they have to stand up to voice their opinions so strongly in seemingly standard economic policy matters shows that the country is in disarray when it comes to policy making.

    At this state, I am willing vote any surfer for President. It may be a good idea to have some of of you guys as MPs. Time to take back your surfing rights, at least.

  22. BTW,

    Surfer-in-Chief could be re-branded the title of the future Maldives President in step with the times.

  23. surfers are now crying over spilt milk. what about the ppl who signed for sun travel shiyams party ...i dont hear them going and lobbying shiyam...what about those who think waheedeen does help them a lot...go ask him not to do this. hate to say this..but u guys need to stop this was stopped from former govt because of your voices as well although MNDF lies saying it was approved by previous government.

  24. whats this maldives surfing association? what do they do? i think ahmed rifaee is the chairman, secertary and pion of that.

  25. for all whose taking the piss out of Maldives surfing association, ahmed rifaee and surfers generally...i present to big fat middle finger.

    dont go on about a subject you dont know about.

    Surfers work, have jobs and have a great passion for the waves and the environment. Theres no other sport which has a greater relationship with the natural environment then surfing.

    SOS...Sustain Our Surfing

  26. It is so wrong on so many fronts. First, if this goes ahead, I am positive that the repercussions will be less local jobs than more. The surfari boat business will collapse in the region. The industry employs approximately 120 people on the boats during the surf season. This equates to 6 local jobs per boat with up to 20 boats working at one time throughout the region. Second, the local surfing community should have rights to surf whenever and wherever they want to at any given time. We are in their waters! The pretense of a Sporting Excellence program is crap. This guy is only after the dollars and wants to own 2 of the best waves in the Maldives. There is no such thing as a eco friendly resort. Thousands of plastic water bottles? Copious amounts of diesel for power? Treated sewage being released into the waters surrounding the island which hosts one of the areas best dive sites (HP Reef)? Even if they use the desalination system, what happens to all of the concentrated waste (salt)? It promotes algae growth that will kill the near by reefs. This is more than just about the surfing. Save the Waves!

  27. @ mody and his Gang
    Get the fact. We used to surf using wooden planks When we were kids in our island. Even our great grand father did that and it was part of our Island's culture.
    It looks like you are a member of Bhaagiee P.R team. You will justify anything in support of Bhaagiees.

  28. @Ali Ishaaq.

    Yes, the roads are paved and we no more use to shit on the shores especially in Male'.
    But when your great grand father if he ever did live, would have been squatting on the beach and shitting while hens and crows (leave the jinns out) would be feeding on that shit!
    Would you not want that too...............?

    Come on boy! Get a life!

    This spot being leased for private and personal gain is totally outrageous!

    Thamburudhoo is one of the greatest stretch of surf a right handed or left handed surfer could ride for about a quarter mile! And it is only a surfer who can realize the damage it would do for local surfers who wants to take it up as a career or hobby!

    A simple commenter with no life or common sense cannot!

    This is a National Disaster!

  29. Wow this is the standard of our country.Such a Shame. Still trying to protect one party or one person and yell at the other. Open your eyes your beautiful country is for sale!! N stop slamming the surfing community. They have a right to protect their love and sport. And I'm no surfer but I know that it has been going on in this country for decades n it's worth protecting. Bottom line is the previous government initiated this ( no matter how loud you yell or how well you swear) and this government who seems to be just hopeless is still going ahead with it. So do something about stopping that. Rather than yelling at your fellow Maldivians n defending dirty politIcians.

  30. @bullyrag
    your comment shows the kind of job you do.
    by the way i only see a bunch of drug parteys with long hairs running around with surfboards.
    as for the story of our forefathers surfing it seems like a story taken from the internet.

  31. Perhaps you need to learn a bit about our ancestors and what Maldivians do. The Association as all other associations was set up so they can get in the system and get access to financial and other support for the sport. That is not to say that surfing did not happen in the maldives before then.Sigh.

    You have so much to comment in defense of all the injustice against our people from those who are now ruling the country.

    How about a comment once in support of those whose rights are being violated and a nation being violated?

  32. I'm constantly amazed how stupid some Maldivians are. You criticize this surfer (for being a surfer) yet he's out there, in nature, enjoying it and hurting no one. I bet half of you are sat on your fat asses doing nothing. This is not about the surfer, this is about selling off Maldives natural resources to the rich elite, for use by the rich elite. The ocean is for everyone. Private waves?????....retarded!

  33. such a shame we Maldivians never understand how our culture is blended with sea! True we never had surf boards at the time! But come on, when I was a little kid I used to go to sea with my grandma and grandpa and we use banana tree stems and lie on top of them while it takes us on top of huge waves! You stupid fools! Before modern surfing evolved people were riding over the waves in many different ways!

  34. long time ago before I was born a guy called Ameen Didi was asked to become the king and he said I wan to become the leader only with an election from people and he became first president! That was when my illiterate grandfather first knew that people should elect their leaders and have a say in their state of affairs. But today we see people hijacking democracy by toppling a democratic government by staging a coup and they being paid with our wealth.
    We want our democracy and freedom back so that we have a government which will listen to our plea!

  35. giving this Island is not going to banned the surfing around the Island ?

    When MDP was negotiating with the foreign investors , it was good deal and when someone else do it is bad. Why some people have double standards ?

    Check how many Islands were given to Anni friends and MDP members without going though any bidding process . But those are genuine dealings for the benefit of the country and for its people.

    Infect Anni gave an Island in Male' atoll to Jabir freely and paid over million dollars for Herethera issue. In fact Jabir should have been charged with 10 millions dollars instead of paying from MTDC.

    These deals were done because Anni and Bandhe got a portion of the deal .

    I am not fully agree with giving this Island for an Investor without proper bidding process but my earlier comments were more of the surfing association Ahmed rafaee who had been telling lies about his grandpa surfing spot ?

  36. What i find more interesting is the fact that even this little article needed link itself to Mother "England" if you are so in awe of England, why not leave us alone and move ?

    Clearly your standard for everything in on heaven and earth is England. Please leave the colloquial colonialism behind.

    If you wanna be a reporter from Maldives, then be more Maldivian.

  37. @instigator
    dude! you got no sense of surf in you, idiot.
    people used wood planks to surf as they have to reach the beach from boats during the times they discovers small island countries like Hawaii and french Polynesia.this was known as he'nalu.(Surfing)

    only a surfer knows the impacts of privatizing the island.we know what it ill be like selling the best surf spot in Maldives.

    for instance,Hanifau island (you may know). great place to build a god how many visitors will we have annually.lets sell that area.most people will not agree to sell as they have some idea of that place,they know about the manta rays and whale sharks.

    as Hanifaru area, there are certain specialty in Thanburudhoo which attracts the large number of locals and travelers.moreover Thanburudhoo thila is a marine protected area. it will not be a good idea to build a resort next to a marine reserve.

  38. For those who denied that surfing is not the part of Maldivian culture I recommend you to visit the Island of Rasmaadhoo in Raa Atoll and ask the elders there whether they had surf or not using wooden plank that were used to make bed in olden day. Of course they were not using Modern day surf board. It maybe not a part of other Islands culture . People used to surf in that island even before tourism was introduced to Maldives or Maldives was opened to outside world. It maybe because that island was surrounded by huge waves. You may asked how do you know all these things. Because I am from that Island , I spend my childhood there and I used to surf there about 27 years ago as a kid. our ancestors did surf.

  39. its wrong. selling this beautiful wave is very wrong. weather its MDP, PPM, BAAGEE, NUBAAGEE i dont care.
    onl thing i care is to protect and keep this island as it is. its a natural wonder above and under waters. #SOS

  40. @Mody,

    I feel so ashamed that you are a Maldivian and don't know anything about the culture... Nowhere did Rifaee say anything about his granddad riding a modern surfboard. I have seen my granddad surf on a wooden plank, and I know that this is done in many island throughout the Maldives and in other oceanic islands around the world. Maybe you will see the world more clearly when you remove your head that is far, far too high up in your a*se. People are so stupid!

  41. I know those people who had huge advantage during last three years will have muti personality disease . Fathima you are one of the f--- and s--- from that time.

  42. Its a shocking how little some of you know about our culture and history. Anyway, that's your loss.

    And about Wembley Stadium: It might be owned and managed by foreigners but English players can play there and England football team play all their home matches there. In the case of Thamburudhoo, the waves will be off limits to Maldivians and we can't "play" there.

    Maldivians can't yet comprehend how good these waves on this islands are. A lot of surfers consider these waves amongst the top 10 waves in the world. Do you guys even know what this means? It means we didn't have to spend a single Laari to build this "stadium". We are a blessed country to have these waves. I hope, one day, there will be international cmpetitions of the top level at Thamburudhoo. Then you might get it.

    It might be good for you guys to go and watch when (atleast) two world champions (one of them revered and respected by most surfers all over the world as the father of modern surfing) come to compete in a competition at Thamburudhoo later this month (28th August). Maybe you can ask them how they rate the waves on this island.

    Furhermore, think about all the locals who's jobs depend on surf tourism. If this island is off limits there will be only two waves (previously 4) available for their guests. Crowded surf is not acceptable for surfing tourists. They come here to the promise of surfing uncrowded waves. Surfing in crowded waves is always unpleasant and dangerous. If this is the case, not many surfers will come to these islands to surf. Which means these safari boats will be anchored in the harbours and they won't make money. The captains, the crews, the surf guides and the tour operators all lose money.

    Furthermore, there are surf camps on local islands catering to tourists. The whole island benefits from this because surfers will spend in their shops and cafe's. Also there are a number of locals whose income is directly affected by these surfers: Surf guides and other locals who work at these camps. If Thamburudhoo is closed, the surfers (on average, not less that 100 surfers per day) who would have ususlly surfed on those waves (Thamburudhoo) will have to come to these 2 (Thulusdhoo and Himmafushi) islands to surf... Leading to over crowding and unhappy guests in their camps, meaning there will be fewer surfers who come to these local island surf camps. Unhappy tourists is bad publicity for this country. Ultimately this means that Maldives will lose its appeal as a surfing destination: The number of surfers who come to Maldives will start declining.

    This is probably the first time that any Maldivian government has had to face this sort of problem. Not many people in government ministries understand how surfing works or how surfers think and what they value. They don't value crowded waves.

    The government needs to do more research and pass laws that will lead to sustainable surf tourism in this country. For one thing: STOP DREDGING AND RECLAIMING AT PLACES THAT HAVE GOOD WAVES.

    In my view, there are three kinds of tourists who come here:
    1) Those who come for the natural beauty above the sea (and maybe snorkelling)

    2) Divers

    3) Surfers

    I maybe wrong but if this is the case we are losing our value as a surfing destination.

  43. "Telling a Maldivian you can't surf that wave is like telling Tenzing Norgay you cant climb that mountain!" - Amin Didi, one of the first people to ride a fiberglass surfboard in the Maldives.

  44. As both a surfer and diver who just spent several weeks in the Maldives, I can say that these are the two biggest draws of the country. And the North Male atoll is already absurdly overcrowded. If you want all your tourists to be Chinese and Russians, keep up the good work Waheed because you are ruining it for people who haye supporting dictatorship as well as for surfers and divers.

    Now the post about Raa atoll is of great interest as that is NOT known as a surfing area (my kind of place!).

  45. Everybody underestimates the surf industry. Its no surprise.
    And Dr Waheed announces in RIO 2012 that the entire Maldives is to become the first country to be a Marine Reserve.
    Now we have them taking out 2 world class waves and endangering the reef and natural beauty of an island. NUFF SAID.


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