Wave of the future: Surfing and the end of exclusivity

Professional free-surfer Dave ‘Rasta’ Rastovich, defeated seasoned campaigner Taylor Knox in the grand final of the Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy yesterday (August 10) to be crowned the 2014 champion.

The event saw six former world champions, including Knox, Rastovich, Sunny Garcia, Taylor Jensen, Fabio Gouveia, and Rochelle Ballard battling it out all week at Sultans Point.

For the third consecutive year, Hussein ‘Iboo’ Areef won the hotly contested Domestic Champions Trophy which showcased the island nation’s depth of surf talent. The ‘goofy footer’ (right foot forward stance) defeated Ismail ‘Kuda Issay’ Miglal, Amid ‘Ammaday’ Agil and Mohamed ‘Billu’ Irushad.

All six former world champions were impressed after watching the local final, with Contest Director Ross Phillips noting, “the standard of surfing today in the Domestic Champions Trophy was world class. It was a tough final and Iboo was a deserving winner.”

“The Maldivian Surfing Association is forging ahead in leaps and bounds. It’s fantastic to watch surfing progress at both a performance and organisational level in the Maldives,” he added.

Fewer barriers to local involvement

This is the fourth year that Four Seasons and Tropicsurf have held the event, and the third year that Maldivian talent has competed in the domestic category.

After national champion Areef last year highlighted the need for more local involvement in the competition, many of this year’s competitors agreed that there has been a vast improvement in the involvement of local surf community.

Spearheaded by collaboration with the Maldives Surf Association (MSA), the 2014 competition saw more local involvement, including Maldivian shadowing judges.

There remains one change Afeef would like to see in next years competition, however.

“It would be great to get a chance to surf against the champions, even just one local guy to compete in the main event,” stated Areef.

Similarly, Dave Rastovich commended the local surfing talent and stressed the need for local participation.

“Its crucial to involve the local community, especially in surfing. There have been big divides,” Rastovich told Minivan News.

Rasta went on to highlight the important link between privatisation and the divide between local and international surfers.

“[Exclusivity] always created a lot of division between communities. Division between visiting people and locals.”

“It suits a few, but to the detriment of the many,” Rastovich warned.

Rastovich, a dedicated marine conservation activist, went on to highlight some of the environmental issues faced in local oceans – a topic which has often intertwined with Maldivian surfing culture.

“There are so many great species of fish [in the Maldives] that you don’t see in Indonesia anymore, you don’t see in parts of Australia anymore, and certainly don’t see them throughout Asia.”

“So the great thing about here is that you’re not there yet. There’s still species, there’s still populations here, you have the time. It’s a no-brainer both ecologically and economically to preserve and protect,” encouraged Rastovich .

The end of exclusivity?

Speaking at the grand final ceremony yesterday, Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb explained the government’s new enthusiasm for the development of surfing in the Maldives.

“It was the youth who identified, who kept pushing us, to develop the surf,” explained Adeeb.

“The surf points were exclusive for the resorts and hotels here, but we have ended exclusivity for the locals.”

The surf breaks of the Maldives have been a battle-ground in recent years, with local surfers, ministries and resorts engaged in heated debate since 2011 over access to the waves.

After years of pressure from local campaigning against privatisation, the Maldives government appears to have retracted its original stance, announcing that all popular surf and dive spots have been freed from any access restrictions.

“We believe there are a lot of surf points in the Maldives that need to be protected, and we need to make it a sanctuary for the surfers,” stated Adeeb.

Ahmed Aznil, president of the MSA, pointed out that free breaks are not all plain sailing.

“A free for all, without the necessary legislative and management holds in place would eventually lead to chaos.”

The key to success, argues Aznil, is keeping the breaks well managed and to maintain clear communication between the government and stakeholders.

Meanwhile, the next Maldives’ surf competition will be the Red Bull Both Ways event, held at Sultans breaks between August 20 – 30. The competition, which has fifty slots for Maldivian surfers, challenges Maldivian and Sri Lankan surfers to ride both left and right waves.


Surf rage sees wave permits in paradise introduced: Sydney Morning Herald

“An Australian surf travel operator has introduced a “pass” system to restrict the number of surfers at one of the world’s great left-hand breaks, Lohis, in the Maldives,” writes Robert Upe for the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Only 35 passes will be handed out daily to try to control the crowds that have caused ‘chaos’, according to managing director of World Surfaris, Shaun Levings.

The congestion has resulted in heated exchanges at the reef break, opposite Hudhuranfushi Resort that has about 200 rooms and lists surfing among its activities.

‘The surfing population around the world has almost reached epidemic proportions because it is seen as ubercool to surf,’ Levings said.

‘A lot of the new surfers who don’t know the etiquette of the sport are booking themselves into international (surf) locations with reef breaks. But they aren’t experienced enough to surf them and they don’t follow the rules of surfing. Eventually, the experienced mellow surfers lose their cool.’

‘Surfing is meant to be for relaxation but (with the crowds) it becomes an arena where you are competing for waves. The whole vibe changes.’ ”

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World champions and Maldivian locals shred ‘sultans’ during Four Seasons surfing competition

Famed big wave surfer Taylor Knox dominated the Four Seasons Surfing Champions competition, winning the twin-fin, thruster and Grand Champions Final events, while six-time Maldives national champion Hussain ‘Iboo’ Areef clinched the Domestic Champions competition for the second year.

This is the third consecutive year the Four Seasons Resort at Kuda Huraa and luxury surfing pioneers Tropicsurf have hosted the contest for the ex-world champions. It is the second year Maldivian talent has competed in this prestigious event.

Six ex-world champions – Tom Carroll, Layne Beachley, Damien Hardman, Tom Curren, Taylor Knox, and Pedro Henrique – “represented the toughest field ever assembled” at the Four Seasons competition, according to the event organisers.

They competed in single-fin, twin-fin, thruster (three-fins) events that kicked off last Tuesday (August 27) at Thamburudhoo Island – home to two of the Maldives’ “premier” surf breaks ‘sultans’ and ‘honkeys’.

The two surfers who accrued the most points following the three divisional rounds qualifyied for the Grand Champions Final. Divisional and Grand Champion winners split a prize pool of US$25,000.

The evolution of the surfboard was showcased by the competition’s format, with the old school 1970s single-fin in round one, and round two celebrating the twin-fin boards that dominated during the early 1980s, while round three featured the state-of-the-art contemporary three-fin thrusters.

Knox, who retired as one of the most respected surfers on the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) world tour last year – aged 41 – said he achieved today what he had failed to do at the elite level.

“I could never do it on the world tour, I had to come to the Maldives and learn off these guys, and as Kelly Slater said ‘I’m one of the best surfers but not a good competitor’, but that’s changing now,” said Knox.

Single-fin division

Former three-time ASP world champion, American Tom Curren defeated former world junior champion Brazilian Pedro Henrique to win the single fin division of the Surfing Champions Trophy the first day of competition.

The surfing legends had to contend with high winds and sporadic rain throughout the day at ‘sultans’ which forced the organisers to stop and start the event several times throughout the day.

“Today was difficult because the wind comes around and creates rips [on the waves],” Curren told Minivan News.

“I’ve surfed in the Maldives three times before. When conditions are good, these are some of the best waves in the world,” said Curren. “The water is beautiful, the water temperature is warm, the reefs are well shaped and swells come from far [out to sea] when its less windy.”

“It’s rarely heavy, but a lot of fun,” Curren continued. “It brings a lot of people here. The Maldives is quite a destination for intermediary surfing.”

Despite the difficult conditions Pedro Henrique was able to make the most of the four foot waves, beating defending event champion Australian Damien Hardman in the semi-final and taking second in the final.

“This was the first time I’ve surfed a single fin,” Pedro Henrique told Minivan News. “It required heavy use of the surfboard’s rail and different body balance.”

Twin-fin division

The surfing pros faced another day of difficult weather conditions and “testing but fun” three foot waves during the twin-fin division held Saturday (August 31) at ‘sultans’.

Lone female competitor Australian Layne Beachley – the only woman to win seven ASP world champion titles, and arguably the greatest female surfer in history – was literally blown off her first wave due to strong offshore winds, causing her to ultimately suffer an opening round loss.

“They were really challenging conditions out there,” said Beachley. “Never underestimate the competitive spirit of these guys, they don’t want to lose, especially to a girl. It doesn’t matter how many world titles you have,” she added.

Competition was fierce with successful twin-fin performances requiring speed and maneuverability.

Ultimately, it was big wave surfing legend Taylor Knox defeated Tom Curren to claim the divisional win.

“That was an emotional contest for me because I was surfing with all my hero’s,” said Knox. “It was just really cool today, everyone I came up against was just surfing so well.”

Thruster division and Grand Champions final

After a week of surfing in stormy conditions, light offshore winds, sunny skies and steady four to five foot surf made for a fierce final day of competition yesterday (September 1).

Beachley narrowly missed out on the semi-finals after being defeated by former two-time world champion, Australian Damien Hardman on the buzzer during the thruster division round one heat.

Ultimately Knox’s “extremely committed power surfing” in which he scored the tournament’s first-ever perfect 10-point ride and tallied the event’s highest heat score enabled him to to defeat Hardman in the thruster division final.

Hardman noted that Knox’s performance raised the bar of the entire contest.

Following the thruster division, the Grand Champions Final pitted Knox against Curren and culminated in a showdown during the final 30 seconds of the competition, when Knox scored a late 9.17 to claim victory.

Domestic Champions competition

The Domestic Champions contest kicked off last Monday (August 26) with 14 local surfers facing off on conventional thruster boards, vying for glory and the MVR35,000  (US $2275.7) prize money pool.

The competitors’ excited energy escalated during the short 45 minute trip to Thamburudhoo – the last untouched island in Kaafu Atoll with public surf break access – known for its left and right hand breaks.

While en route to ‘sultans’, local surfers from Himmafushi and Thulusdhoo islands in Kaafu Atoll appeared on ferries they had arranged to transport them from their home islands to compete.

Although conditions at ‘sultans’ were not ideal – choppy seas, rain, wind, and three to four foot “fat lady” waves – the weather and surf improved by early afternoon.

After six fierce but friendly 20 minute heats, four surfers advanced from the semi-final round to compete in the final, last year’s Domestic Champions winner and six time Maldives’ national champion Hussain ‘Iboo’ Areef, Ahmed ‘AJ’ Aznil, Ahmed ‘Ammadey’ Agil, and
Ahmed ‘Madey’ Rasheed.

“This is a great opportunity for the Maldives’ best surfers to showcase their talent alongside world legends at our ‘home break’ of Thamburudhoo – the heritage and heart of Maldivian surfing,” said Maldives Surfing Association (MSA) President Ahmed Fauzan ‘Karo’ Abbas.

Following the competition heats, Tropicsurf Founder and CEO Ross Phillips conducted a coaching session for the Maldivian surfers. They were enraptured as Phillips leveraged his 24 years of professional coaching experience to delineate the five fundamental principles of surfing: 1) weight distribution, 2) center of gravity, 3) how the surf board is used (e.g. rail transitions), 4) body rotation, and 5) extension (for speed).

“I’m very happy and willing to offer coaching [tips] and give the Maldivian surfers my time,” Phillips told Minivan News.

During the coaching session, Phillips explained that professional surfers “make it look easy, like they’re not trying” and develop their own personal style, which is “all about body movement and flow”.

“The average surfer has a lot of body movement and minimal board movement. But for the board to maximum ‘radical’ movement, body movement should be minimal,” he continued.

Phillips also explained some of the science behind surf board shaping as well as providing contest strategy tips before everyone – including Phillips – took to the water for the last surf of the day.

“We didn’t know the five principles, we tried it [after the coaching session] and it helped a lot,” exclaimed Maldivian competitor Azly ‘Dude’ Nazeem.

“It was a good experience to participate, we’ve never had a coach before. No one taught me [to surf], I’ve never had a coach in my life,” added semi-finalist, 21 year-old Hussain ‘Kuda SP’ Rasheed.

The Maldivian surfers who attended the coaching session were elated on the trip back to Male’, having experienced noticeable improvements after applying what they learned during the brief coaching session with Phillips.

Domestic Champions final

Maldivian finalists Hussain ‘Iboo’ Areef and Ahmed ‘AJ’ Aznil from Male’, as well as Ahmed ‘Ammadey’ Agil from Thulusdhoo Island in Kaafu Atoll faced off in the late afternoon after spending the day chatting with the pros aboard the Four Seasons’ luxury catamaran.

Ahmed ‘Madey’ Rasheed was unable to return from his home island in Gaaf Dhaal Atoll to compete.

Areef dominated the competition for the second year running, scoring a 10 during the trials and taking an early lead during the final. He ultimately won the competition, with Agil placing second.

“It feels great to win. I applied the contest strategies [Phillips discussed during his coaching session] and surfed smart,” 36 year-old Areef told Minivan News.

“I made sure to have an early start and caught a wave right after the buzzer. That was really good because it gave me lots of confidence and set the bar for the judges,” Areef explained. “After that I waited for good waves with scoring potential.”

His message for the young generation of Maldivian surfers is to “surf a lot, get advice from experienced people, watch surf movies, and always push the limits.”

“This competition was really good from a local point of view, it was an awesome opportunity,” third runner-up Aznil told Minivan News.

“It was great to have a chance to hang out and talk to the champions,” he continued.

Aznil, also a finalist in last year’s event, noted that the bigger, cleaner waves made for a great last day of competition.

Although this was the second year the Four Seasons hosted a Domestic Champions competition for Maldivian surfers, this was the first time the Maldives Surfing Association (MSA) – the country’s surfing governing body – was involved.

While there were some hiccups, ultimately representatives from the Four Seasons and Tropicsurf sat down with some of MSA’s leaders – who were also competition finalists – after the event to discuss how they can better involve MSA and the local surfing community in next year’s competition.

“This year was the first time communication was established between MSA and the contest organisers,” Areef explained. “We had a long meeting with these guys and they are going to better involve our members in the event next year.”

“We were not asking for much – we don’t care about money – just fair involvement for the development of our local surf community. To be given an opportunity for local judges to improve their skills, to be involved in event organising, and to gain experience from the whole event,” he continued.

“Next year will be a bigger event with better local involvement, including shadow judging, beach marshalls, and we’re hoping locals will be given wildcards to compete in the main event,” he noted.

“It was great to sit down to talk and work it out,” added Aznil.


Big surf heats up bodyboarding competition final

The Burunu Shikaaru Bodyboarding Challenge, the first event of the Maldives Bodyboarding Association (MBBA), concluded in Male’ yesterday with big surf and competitors in high spirits.

The newly formed MBBA began this aptly named event – in Dhivehi, ‘burunu’ means a constellation that indicates the southwest monsoon and the best season for surfing, while ‘shikaaru’ is to hunt – on May 2.

What was originally planned to take three days stretched into nearly a week and a half of postponements and rescheduling with swells at Male’s surf area ‘Raalhugandu’ only reaching about a foot.

However, after a week of severe thunderstorms across the island-nation the five foot swells at yesterday’s (May 11) final provided competitors with the strong, hollow waves they were hunting for.

Ali ‘Kuda Ayya’ Khushruwan, founder of MBBA, won first place and MVR 10,000 (US$648). The competition’s youngest bodyboarder, 16 year-old Ali ‘Shaam’ Raafiu, finished a close second scoring only half a point less, and walked away with MVR 5,000 (US$324). Third place and MVR 2,500 (US$162) went to Ali ‘JD’ Javid, while Ijazulla ‘Ija’ Shareef took home the ‘rookie’ award.

“I didn’t know this would happen. I thought you know it’s really competitive, I didn’t expect this. Today it was really good, really strong and nice waves. Overall [my performance] was pretty good, but in the final I got really panicked because I didn’t get really good waves. I thought I’d place second. I’m really shocked,” MBBA founder and competition winner Ali ‘Kuda Ayya’ Khushruwan told Minivan News.

“I also didn’t know that my dad competed. The first day I told him don’t go, it’s going to be really big,” said Kuda Ayya. “It’s really nice, crazy, everyone came here to support me. I didn’t know that everyone would come, my friends and family, everyone was supporting [wearing ‘Kuda Ayya’ t-shirts],” he gushed.

Second and third place winners Shaam and JD were beaming after their performance in the final and craving the next competition.

“Waves today were really good. We didn’t think we’d get this size of waves. At the beginning [of the competition] it was good, but the waves were awesome for the final,” Shaam told Minivan News.

“It was very heavy and shallow, with a strong current and backwash. All the conditions are very difficult because this area is closed,” JD told Minivan News.

Both Sham and JD are “trying for first place the next time” and explained that competition is always a friendly amongst the Maldivian bodyboarders because “it’s a very close knit group”.

Kuda Ayya is also excited to compete in the for the next MBBA competition, planned to take place in June on Villingili Island, which neighbors Male’.

“It’s going to be good, really fun, it’s really hollow and really shallow. We have to be really careful, but it’s competition,” said Kuda Ayya.

Twenty-two bodyboarders faced off over 18 heats, with the best two from each heat automatically advancing to the next round, while the bottom two had a chance to participate in the requalifying rounds. Ultimately, eight bodyboarders advanced to the semi-final and four to the final yesterday.

Rough rides at Raalhugandu

Although regulars make carving the waves at raalhugandu look easy, the reef break is not for the faint of heart.

“If you can surf here, you can surf anywhere in the Maldives,” a local surfer explained.

Bodyboarders had to contend with a reef break plagued by strong currents, rip tides, backwash, a very shallow reef, all in an area less than a kilometer wide.

“You have to be very careful. It’s really hard to learn here [at raalhugandu], because it’s a reef break and really shallow – waist high where the waves break,” said Kuda Ayya.

“This break is pretty, it’s like when it’s big, it’s really good for bodyboarders, the waves are really strong and hollow. We need a critical, strong lip for maneuvers – like backflips which are my favorite,” Kuda Ayya explained. “But it’s a really small space.”

“In 2000 the artificial beach was made, that’s why it’s really small. Previously we had really long waves. It was really good spot in the 1980’s and 1990’s but what to do,” he lamented. “[Now] it’s really bad. I think the bodyboarding and surfing community is really small, that’s why they [the government] didn’t care and they did this.”

Although Raalhugandu can break big, after Kuda Ayya’s first round, first heat win earlier this week, he discussed having to compete on small waves.

“The heat went pretty good, the thing is the waves are pretty small [today], but I think it’s going to be fine,” Kuda Ayya said. “Actually it’s really hard to take the speed and doing the rolls and things, you have to paddle for the rolls and forward spins. It’s really difficult, but what to do,” Kuda Ayya told Minivan News the first day of competition.

Kuda Ayya is a Male’ local with 12 years of bodyboarding experience, including winning first place in international competitions held in Malaysia and New South Wales, Australia. He took first place in 2012’s Australia’s Senior Men’s Open, competing for the New South Wales team.

Raalhugandu regulars

“The MBBA plans to hold four or five contests yearly,” MBBA Media Coordinator Hassan ‘Rushh’ Rasheed told Minivan News.

“This is the first competition, so I think it’s pretty big. You can see lots of spectators,” he added.

Maldivian bodyboarders and surfers work together closely, especially raalhugandu regulars, and this was evident during the very well organised bodyboarding competition.

Five International Surf Association (ISA) certified judges – also local surfers – scored the competition.

“Although the maneuvers are different, the judging criteria is the same,” a competition judge told Minivan News.

“The Maldives Surfing Association (MSA) and MBBA we are together and work together. MSA is the governing body, but I think next year MBBA might change to a bodyboarding governing body,” explained Kuda Ayya.

The Burunu Shikaaru Bodyboarding Challenge was the first event held by the MBBA, which had its first round of elections February 10 and was registered February 11 with 40 new members. To compete in the competition bodyboarders had to be an member of MBBA.

The bodyboarding challenge was sponsored by Sonee Sports, the Tourism Employees Association of the Maldives (TEAM), and travel company, ‘I (heart) Maldives’.

The newly-formed MBBA’s mission is to help local bodyboarders of all ages get started and build a career in the sport. They aim to raise awareness, support, and promote bodyboarding throughout the Maldives.

Given the intimate relationship bodyboarders, and surfers, have with the ocean, the MBBA also plans to organise beach cleaning projects on islands throughout the country with local bodyboarders and surfers.

Joining MBBA only requires MVR 150 (US$10) and an application form, and membership has the bonus perks of a member identification card, event t-shirts, and “hopefully” surf shops and coffee shop discounts.


Maldives Surf Entertainment launches program to teach surfing to children

Sea Sports and Maldives Surf Entertainment have signed a contract to commence the ‘Bohfathi Raalhu Training Program’, a program to teach surfing to children between 8 to 15 years.

‘’Bohfathi Raalhu Training is sponsored by the popular surf brand “VOLCOM” which is solely distributed and sold by Sea Sports and is scheduled to start on 13 February 2013,’’ Maldives Surf Entertainment said in a statement.

‘’The training will focus on kids aged between 8 to 15 years, who will be given a basic introduction to surfing.‘’

The statement said that during the program the participants will be taught the history of surfing, surfing skills, surf etiquette, health and fitness, awareness about surf culture and ocean safety.

‘’The purpose of the training is to take surfing to new levels in the country, to develop local talent and professional surfers within the local population and to provide students with the ability to enhance their opportunities and pursue long-term careers within the industry,’’ the statement said.

According to the statement the the first phase of the training program will cover most islands with adequate surf breaks in the southern atolls between Fuvahmulaku and Thulusdhoo north of Kaafu Atoll.


Trouble on Thamburudhoo: ESPN

“It has to be stopped,” said Occy succinctly, talking with a small group of local Maldivian surfers. “They can’t develop this place, it can’t happen.”

“Places like this, we need them, ” reiterated Tom Curren. “They can’t be closed to surfers, they can’t be closed to anybody. How can you close the ocean?”

Former ASP world champions Martin Potter and Damien Hardman shared similar sentiments while participating in the recent Four Seasons event in the Maldives, writes Jake Howard for ESPN.

The situation on the ground, or the atoll, as the case may be, is that currently the Maldive’s Ministry of Defense are in negotiations with an American development company, Telos Investment, to build a resort on the island of Thanburudhoo, home to two of the northern Maldives best waves; a right-hand point/reef called Sultan’s Point and a left named Honkey’s. The concern of the Maldive Surfing Association (MSA) is that the island’s develop, which was once a training ground for the military, would in essence privatize the two prized breaks.

“There are approximately 100 surfers at Thamburudhoo each day, including surfers on safari boats, surf camps on local islands, tourists from nearby resorts, and locals,” reads the MSA’s impact report. “Currently there are four available surf breaks. If Thamburudhoo becomes exclusive that number is halved to two. The remaining two waves on Himmafushi and Thulusdhoo cannot cater to the escalated number of surfers.”

“We do not have any intention of closing the surf breaks,” said Minister of Defense and National Security Mohamed Nazim in a conversation aboard the Four Season’s surf charter boat “The Explorer.”

He added, “The deal may involve perhaps charging some kind of fee to use the breaks, but we do not want to close them completely. I know this because I am the one that is directly involved in putting it together.”

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Surf legend Damien Hardman wins Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy

The 2012 Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy concluded on Sunday with the top prize going to two-time world champion Damien Hardman.

The 46 year-old Australian narrowly defeated three-time world champion, US contender Tom Curren, to win the grand prize of US$10,000 – on top of his US$6000 winnings for both the Single and Twin-Fin divisions.

“I can’t remember the last time I won sixteen grand,” Hardman said, following his win, the trophy for which was presented by Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim.

“The standard of surfing was great, we’re all in our mid to late 40s but it doesn’t matter how old you are if you put the work in to maintain your fitness and ability.”

Accepting the trophy for the runner-up, Curren used the opportunity to highlight the imminent privatisation of the Thanburudhoo surf breaks – including the competition break Sultans – by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).

“The break at Sultans is under threat of privatisation. There should be a consensus about that – local surfers need to be respected and the discussion needs to continue,” Curren said.

Under the proposal, Singaporean investment firm Telos would receive a 50 year lease on the military training island to develop a “boutique surf resort”, in exchange for US$5 million to develop an MNDF training facility on nearby Girifishi. Local surfers would be permitted to surf the breaks twice a month.

Maldivian surfer Hassan ‘Ibu’ Areef, who won the Four Seasons local title and a prize of MVR 25,000 (US$1621), told Minivan News that Sultans was one of the most accessible and consistent waves for local surfers, and one of the few left in Male’ Atoll that had not been privatised by upmarket resorts.

“There are limited places for local surfers to go,” he said. “If the breaks are privatised, we will have nowhere to go and practice, and private surfing businesses and safaris will also be affected. It is really sad.”

“This is not all about money; it is about enjoyment as well. These people to not really understand surfing culture. They only see a business opportunity,” Ibu said.

The privatisation of the competition-standard break would deny local surfers a home ground advantage during big competitions, he pointed out, “because we will not have been able to practice there.”

Other local surfers have also slammed the idea. In a document circulated on social media,‘Surfers’ Report on Thanburudhoo’, they argue that the island has two of the atoll’s four accessible waves (Sultans and Honkeys).

“If Thanburudhoo is a resort the only two accessible waves in the atoll are in Himmafushi (Jails) and Thulusdhoo (Cokes) – the number of accessible waves in the atoll is halved from four to two,” the document states.

Most of the waves in the atoll are claimed by their respective resorts, including Tombstones (Full Moon resort), Ninjas (Club Med Kani), Lhohis (Hudhuranfushi) and Chickens (Kuda Villingili).

Sparked by the tournament’s international media attention, the situation has begun receiving attention from surf publications around the world.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that privatisation not only infringes on local surfers’ rights to freely access the reefs and islands they’ve inhabited and lived off for centuries,” reported South African surf news website Zig Zag.

“It also ensures any visiting surfers who can’t afford to pay the prices of these ’boutique’ resorts will instead be forced to sit shoulder-to-shoulder waiting for a set at the last two quality spots in North Malé. The knock-on effect could even lead to surf tour operations going out of business – why go on a surf trip when you’re not allowed to surf half the waves? The end result would mean locals not only lose out on waves, but for those employed by, or operating their own surf tour business, their very livelihood could be threatened,” the site reported.

Local surfers present at the Four Seasons’ event seized the opportunity to confront the Defence Minister about the proposed privatisation, following the presentations. Nazim reportedly promised further discussions.


Maldives surfing threatened by privatisation: Zigzag

Telos Investments wants to develop a ’boutique’ surf resort on Thanburudhoo island, home to two of North Malé’s best waves – Sultans and Honkies. If this proposal gets approved – which is looking highly likely according to long-time local surfer Ahmed Nasru (Mickey), who claims the process smacks of underhanded dealings – then the number of quality spots in the area which are open to locals will halve, writes South African surf news website Zigzag.

This will leave only Jailbreaks (on Himmafushi island) and Cokes (on Thulusdhoo island) as the last quality reef passes in the area without exclusive rights and open to local surfers.

Privatisation of surf spots is nothing new. For decades now entrepreneurs and even companies have been buying up land adjacent to quality surf breaks from South America to North Sumatra, claiming rights to the breaks in front of their resorts, and making them exclusive to guests.

Local surfers from the North Malé atolls of the Maldives are very familiar with this process. Some of their finest surf breaks – like Lohifushi and Pasta Point for example – have been deemed off-limits for many years after resorts were built on the islands hosting these waves. It’s something the local surfers have learned to live with, because they always had a few other quality spots in the area to fall back on.

If the Telos Investment proposal goes through, that will all change as their last few quality spots are gobbled up by privatisation.

And then of course there is the ethical question: it’s becoming increasingly clear that privatisation not only infringes on local surfers’ rights to freely access the reefs and islands they’ve inhabited and lived off for centuries. It also ensures any visiting surfers who can’t afford to pay the prices of these ’boutique’ resorts will instead be forced to sit shoulder-to-shoulder waiting for a set at the last two quality spots in North Malé.

The knock-on effect could even lead to surf tour operations going out of business – why go on a surf trip when you’re not allowed to surf half the waves? The end result would mean locals not only lose out on waves, but for those employed by, or operating their own surf tour business, their very livelihood could be threatened.

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Save Our Surfspot (SOS) campaign gathers support

“Maldivian surfers are beginning to attract support from around the world for a campaign to save a popular surfspot from privatisation,” reports Travel News Maldives.

“The Save Our Surfspot (SOS) campaign was launched in response to news that the Government of the Maldives wants to sell Thanburudhoo Island in North Male’ Atoll and its two surf breaks known as ‘Sultans’ and ‘Honkeys’ for US$5million. The island is also a breeding ground for herons, a protected bird in the Maldives.

The campaigners have organised an online petition via international campaign website Avaaz with a target of 10,000 signatures, as well as a social media campaign to encourage people to support the cause. Their calls are now starting to be taken up by the international surf media and supporters as far away as Australia, the USA and Russia.”

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