A Travel Log Through the Maldives
By Richard Prause
Day 1 7/17/21 Travel
The previous week was full of anxiety – packing, tying up loose ends at work, preparing to leave our families, testing for covid, getting a cast for a broken wrist (will I even be able to surf????!!!!), worrying about cancelled flights and testing results….everyone is on edge.
Today I fly from Charleston to Washington DC solo. No worries until landing in DC, another plane crosses our path and we abort landing just inches from the ground. Boosted back up into the sky, into the storm clouds, banking around the airport and jerking every direction in the turbulence. We land despite the cross winds and lightning all around. An ominous start.
I meet Trevor in the airport, his trip also started out easy in Atlanta but had a ‘crab’ landing in DC, where the plane is getting blown sideways by wind before the nose has to be quickly re-adjusted right before the wheels strike the pavement. Was his plane the one that caused us to launch back into the sky earlier? We embrace each other, brothers that have not seen each other in years, about to embark on a journey of a lifetime.
We check into the Washington Dulles Marriot hotel and wait for Dave, Jason, and Cody to drive up from Wilmington. They have been packing and re-packing and packing again their surfing gear and are now traveling with a whole extra surfboard bag – 16 boards between three people ;) All of their waffling around put them on the road late and they have been enduring hellish traffic. They finally make it and we all meet for burgers at Clydes in Reston. Spirits are high, Stoke is thick in the air. The shackles of day to day routine and social norms are beginning to melt away, a brotherhood is forming.
Skiba and LeRoy are bragging about their travel itinerary, no hopper flights or long drives, their Maldives arrival time in the morning so they can surf the first day. Just hanging with their feet up in the air, minutes from their home airport. The joke turns out to be on them when their flight is cancelled and they have to drive down to Myrtle Beach to leave a day late.
Day 2 7/18/21 Travel
Washington to Dubai
Emirates Airbus A 380 double decker – the largest airplane in the world. Drinks are flowing, the food is good and plentiful, the stewardesses are foreign, attractive, and flirty. The plane is half empty. Most people have a row of seats to themselves. Pretty much the exact opposite in every way of domestic US flights. The boys are loving it.
Day 3 7/19/21 Travel
Dubai to Male
Flying into the Maldives with a window seat feels like flying into Never-Never land. The colors are hypnotizing. Every shade of blue shimmers from the transition of deep to shallow and rings innumerable round stars of reef, sand, and coconut palms. Ocean swells bend, refract, and line all the island dots in the sea. This is why we are here. An aquatic playground. A place to show us that we are not old yet. We are still lost boys. A place to be Peter Pan again.
A covered ‘speed’ boat takes us from the airport to our lodging at Adaaran Huduran Fushi, where a wave breaks that has captivated our collective minds every day for the last 5 years. Lohis. A down the line left that breaks deceptively close to a boardwalk on a private island. Heaven for a goofy foot. Well, our first glimpse from the boat as we drive into the channel sets off a ‘stoke stroke’ in me and every wave that rises up, breaks, and peels down the reef has me yelling at the top of my lungs ‘OH MY GOD, LOOK AT THAT, OH MY GOD, LOOK AT THAT, OH MY GOD, LOOK AT THAT, OH MY GOD, LOOK AT THAT, OH MY GOD, LOOK AT THAT, OH MY GOD, LOOK AT THAT, OH MY GOD, LOOK AT THAT, OH MY GOD, LOOK AT THAT’ . I had to apologize to the one family that was on the boat but was not a part of our group, they must have been terrified of the mad man screaming off the side of the boat. Unfortunately, we landed close to sunset, and there was a bit of a ritual for coming on to the island. This did not leave us any time to paddle out to the waves after coming onto the island. After years of dreaming, plotting, planning, now we are here and we are close enough to touch it and drink it, but it is still forbidden. Needless to say, I cannot sleep. I wander the island all night, striving for the first glow of the sun to signal morning.
Day 4 7/20/21 Today We Surf!
After 3 days of travel and years of yearning, it is our time. At the first spark of maritime light, I wake up Cody, Dave, Jason, and Trevor. They yell at me – leave us alone, it’s still dark! I reply ‘It is NOT dark, and the WAVES ARE FIRING! GET UP! I’LL SEE YOU OUT THERE!’ Cody and I meet a nice man from Brazil who tells us where to paddle out and get in, and says the waves look really good this morning. I grab my surfboard with the most amount of float, so that I can paddle as easily as I can. I have a new orthopedic contraption on my arm to support my wrist (which has a fractured scaphoid bone due to getting stuck in a rental van door 2 weeks prior) and the water seems to be moving VERY fast past the break wall adjacent to the waves. I am hoping that I will be able to paddle fast enough and actually stand up on my surfboard with a busted wing. I am first in the water, the sun is still below the horizon so the sky is still slightly dark. The ocean is alive with energy. The waves are bigger and steeper than they looked from afar. The first set of waves come in and it is alarmingly big. I watch with awe and a little bit of fear. Maybe I should have waited for my friends. I need a bigger board. Why am I out here alone? I should have waited for the sun, it is still kind of dark. Am I REALLY going to paddle for one of these waves?! Look at my arm, how is this going to work?! I thought we were going to be surfing easy, mellow waves, this is kind of heavy! I don’t know about this. Just then, a swell rises up and starts mounting a peak directly at me, with a long line of swell bending around the deep water channel that borders the little island and the reef that surrounds it. OK, here we go, this is my chance, this is what I have been waiting for, lets see what you have got. I paddle hard to match the speed of the swell. It starts to pick me up, hesitation now will end in shallow reef disaster, go Richard go, go go go! I am simultaneously being lifted up and dropping down the face of the wave and I am flying. 2nd star to the right and on till morning. A little bit of fairy dust and happy thoughts. I am a lost boy again.
My friends scramble across the boardwalk and breakwall like sand crabs, eager to join me. We gorge ourselves on the waves we have been dreaming of for years. Skiba and Leroy make it to the island this afternoon and paddle directly out into the brightness of mid day to surf the waves with no one out, everyone else on the island satiated from the morning and hiding from the sun. They wash away their travels and join the brotherhood of lost boys.
We surf a right on the other side of the channel, a wave called Ninjas. It is described as a beginner wave, but today it is overhead and groomed by offshore winds and about as dreamy looking of a wave that you could hope to find with no one else surfing it. It was a short ride into a deep channel on the outside, and a quick but powerful ride on the inside shallows. Another boat pulls up and watches Skiba drop into an overhead barrel. The crew on the boat all jump overboard at once and ambush the boys surfing on the outside. The boys out the back join me on the inside to escape the group of pirates that descended on them. Jason takes pictures from the boat and swims with turtles
Day 5 7/21/21 Lohis Cokes and Sultans/Honkys
A boat leaves at 6:30 am headed north for Cokes, a hollow right hand barrel when it is on. Reports from yesterday is that is was on fire! Skiba, LeRoy, and Jason are aboard. Cody, Dave, Trevor, and myself decide to stay and surf Lohis again. The swell has dropped and cleaned up overnight. The sets are still overhead, but the waves have lost all of the ‘scariness’ about them. They are clean and crisp and playful and so beautiful. The boys from Cokes come back slightly disappointed. Leroy buckles his board.
We take the afternoon boat south to Sultans. All of the boys are joined with a hearty crew of other surfers staying at Lohis. We arrive to a peak with 30 surfers already on it with very inconsistent waves coming in. When the good waves do come in, they are breathtaking, but the same pro level guys take the wave every time. Frustrating. I paddle a quarter mile further south to the other side of the island. A left is breaking there with no one riding it. The wind is blowing on the back of the wave over there, so the wave faces are bumpy. Luckily, being from the east coast, even the worst conditions in a normal surf zone look delectable when compared to the conditions we typically surf. I am rewarded for the long paddle with a wave that resembles a tanker wave on the outside that bends almost halfway around the compass as it wraps around the island. I start surfing the wave headed south, and by the end of the wave I am headed North west. Jason and Trevor paddle over and we cannot believe the length of ride and the way the wave bowls bends and cleans up as is moves from the reef outside of the island to the shallows inside of the island. A real treat to share with two friends. Just as we were celebrating our luck, another boat catches a glimpse of a mostly empty lineup with only a few friends trading waves. Just like at ninjas, the entire crew of the boat jumps out at once and dead eye stares us down as they stroke in unison straight past us, Vikings on a conquest. They proceed to paddle for every wave, multiple surfers catching each wave that comes in. So much for the friendly novelty session…After a half an hour, the currents change and the wave is ruined. It was time for us to paddle back to the boat anyways for fear of getting left behind!
Klauber is supposed to be with us today but his flight was cancelled the first day and he is being re-routed all over the world to make it to Maldives the next day. Charleston to emergency landing in Raleigh to New York to Milan etc etc. He says he is writing a book just on his travel to get to the Maldives, so that should be a good read.
Day 6 7/22/21 Lohis and Travel to Southern Atolls
We are jetlagged, bodies aching, sunburnt and salty. We wake up at dawn to find the waves at Lohis smaller and windblown. It is actually kind of relief to not have to surf today. We can pack our bags leisurely to get ready for our next leg of the trip – the Maahavi boat in the southern atolls! So we pack our bags and go to say goodbye to Lohis and what do our wondering eyes appear but perfect waves rolling down Lohis reef with not one single person out. The wind had switched and the glassy walls were beckoning us for one last ride. We all indulge. What a way to say goodbye to a dream realized.
We leave on the speedboat with a tear in our eye. When we get to the airport, we are united with the rest of the Motley crew. Julian and Klauber each flew in solo to Male that morning. Kevin had flown in the previous afternoon and stayed at a hotel that night. The three of them were grouped together waiting for us. A glorious reunion.
The plane ride down to the southern atolls aboard the DASH-8 aircraft was an uncomfortable ride. Cramped and HOT. Longer than expected. The twin propeller plane is not fast. Most of our surfboards did not make it aboard. We arrive to the southern atolls sticky and wet with a fresh gale blowing and only a couple surfboards. Not ideal. I hope our whole trip down here is not this stormy. Spirits are lifted as we motor to the Maahavi, a motor yacht outfitted to look like a modern day pirate ship. We are Captain Hook and Sneed. We jump off the top balcony into the dark night waters below. We fish with handlines. We drink beer and rum. Jason catches a red snapper! This boat rocks a lot more than expected.
Maahavi means “swell” in the local language. This is a good sign! Our battle cry is heard throughout the night! UP THE FUCKING SWELLIANS!
Day 7 7/23/21 1st day on the Maahavi
We awake to fresh onshore winds and a gorgeous cloudless sky. No surfing but after 3 straight days of surfing North Male, a day off is welcome. I feel guilty for the amazing waves of the past 3 days when Julian, Klauber, and Kevin have traveled 3 days to get here ready to surf and there is no surf for them. No matter, we are the lost boys on a stolen pirate ship. We jump from the crows nest to the impossibly blue water below. We swim the reefs and dive for buried treasure. The clarity of the water, the color and texture of the reefs, the abundance of sea life, it is all overwhelming. Someone spears a coral sea trout that turns into sashimi for lunch! We go ashore and look for coconuts and shells. Our surf guide, Hoobs, grew up and still lives on the neighboring island of Gahdoo. Tiger stripes, one of the best waves of the atoll chain rolls down the western edge of the island, and is his home break. He take some of the group to the inside of the island to show them the farms on the interior, soil rich with coconut husk compost. We motor to another island chain with reef passes but the strong wind is relentless there too. Maybe tomorrow we will surf again.
Day 8 7/24/21 Blue Bowls
The wind is still up but it has turned to the southwest, which could work at the next reef pass to the east. A right hander named Blue Bowls. In the research leading up to this trip, this break appeared to be the most consistent and able to handle the largest variety of conditions. We pull up to the edge of the reef and the wave looks surfable but intimidating. Uneven waves bowl and explode on a surprisingly close low tide exposed coral reef. Hoobs says it will get better as the tide comes in. I think that it can’t get worse…
Some of the crew hop overboard to look for fish. After an hour or two of watching the wave, it does appear to be cleaning up and breaking more evenly. The reef starts to disappear under the tide. I’m going out! The waves are much larger in the lineup than they appeared from the boat. The waves are shifty and bowling and the reef is colorful and close to the surface. All the boys get some glorious drops through the bowl and tragic wipeouts in the soup. Thankfully, no one gets hurt. I ride my bat tail quad, and it feels sparky through the backside bowls. Hoobs impresses us with his ability to catch a wave with almost no paddling. He is a wizard gliding atop the water. Jason sits far out to sea and catches waves no one else can find, he is liquid snowboarding on his self-shaped twin fin egg. Skiba slices and slashes the powerful bowls with frantic energy, air drops and vertical turns. The wind continues to ease and the tide keeps rising. The waves get cleaner and more organized with each set of waves.
The wave looks mushy from the channel but feels very powerful when you are riding it. The afternoon wind turns east and ruffles the surface of the water but the swell is picking up and the set waves are lining up all the way across the reef now. I borrow Codys new 6’3 roundtail that I made him for the trip. He tells me NOT to break it. With that board I am able to catch the wave at the top of the reef WAY out in deep water. It paddles fast and the wave’s energy grabs on to it early before the wave starts to break. The board is stable and fast. I am able to cut through the surface chop on the outside drop and then turn it hard and bold through the large inside bowl picking up overwhelming speed off the top of the wave. Like a pelican gliding the updrafts of a swell. A little bit of fairy dust and happy thoughts. We are flying.
Day 9 7/25/21 Love Charms & 2 Ways
We wake up and blue bowls is gone. Tide too low maybe? Wind shift maybe? We rest and eat breakfast and motor to Love Charms. Julian reels in a cubera snapper! The waves at Love Charms are sloppy lefts on the edge of a reef pass and Hoobs says that they are shoulder high but it looks much bigger to me. There is a peeling right and left off a trianglular piece of reef to the right. I am taking my twin fin fish out there. It looks like a clean chest high peeler that I could do a hundred cutbacks on. Hoobs says not to go over there it is too small. Too bad, I’m going anyways. I catch a waist high soft wave. Man it is small. Until a set hits. I am out of position. Man, that was an overhead wave. It must be huge on the other side of the reef where the other guys are surfing? I finally get in position to catch a corner. A soft running bowl peels off for 100 yards. I can barely tell where the transition of the wave is because the water is so clear and the reef is so shallow and brilliant. This is the experience I was hoping to have in the Maldives. Hover boarding in the middle of the ocean above a kaleidoscope of coral and fish. Cutback, top turn, high line, floater, glide and trim, backdoor the next bowl, keep working it, legs burning, fading into the deep water the wave fades away. AAAAAWWWWWWWWOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Dave, Klauber, and Cody come over. We trade waves and jokes. Back on the boat, we ask Jason, Julian, Leroy and Skiba how the left was? Hectic. A rip pulling us out to sea, then huge whitewaters pushing us relentleslly into the inside reef. We got pounded. Jason found some bowls to lay down power hacks (as he always does). I felt really good about the decision to surf the slower easier wave. Hoobs sits us down tonight and tells us tomorrow will be the best conditions of our trip. The swell is peaking and the winds will be light offshore for most of the reefs. Love Charms looks like it will focus the conditions the best. Get some sleep and be ready to surf all day tomorrow. Just what we wanted to hear!
Day 10 7/26/21 Love Charms as Cloudbreak / 5 Islands Reef Rash and Rum
We wake up in the twilight to an overcast sky and slate blue slick surface seas. We motor to Love Charms and see a wave turn inside out on the outer reef. Expletives abound. HOLY SHIT! NO WAY! FUCK OFF! Another swell peaks ups, folds over, peels down the edge of the reef, and shoots out a puff of smoke before it fades away into the deep water. These waves resemble the images we all love of Cloudbreak off the island of Tavarua in Fiji, one of the most prized waves on earth. Even the reef edge and small coconut palm fringed island on the inside lagoon resembles Tavarua. No one is out. Our crew is excited and nervous. Board bags shuffle as everyone finds the biggest board that they can find. I didn’t bring a big board, this is the Maldives, the waves are small and playful, I can handle anything it throws out on my six foot egg or sub six foot thruster. Not today buddy….who has a board I can borrow?! Cody? Nope I am riding my big board. Dave? Sorry Richard, I need this gun today. Jason, are you riding your Pyzel ghost? No, I’m going to ride my Maurice Cole, it has even more paddle power than the ghost, you can ride the Pyzel. Napolean Dynamite fist pump YESSSSSSS. Skiba cant wait, he leaps off the Maahavi and paddles straight to the lineup alone. Bomb dropping into maxing sets straight away, air dropping into oblivion. He is a madman. A few of us hop in the dingy to be ferried to the lineup. Hoobs comes with us riding my favorite zebra board. We all trade smaller corners and scratch to avoid cleanup sets roaring down the reef. All of us except Hoobs. He seems to never paddle yet he is always in a good position. He drops into the waves late on purpose, holding himself in the top of the wave until the last moment, then driving deep into the bowl of the breaking wave. Unbelievable. He is completely at home in this lineup, toying with the powerful conditions. He is Peter teasing the crocodile. We are the lost boys, cheering him on. Or maybe we are Hook, afraid of the crocodile. His confidence inspires me to push my limits. The pyzel ghost is oversized for me and I am paddling much faster than I am used to. I think that I can match the speed of one of the outside monsters ripping through lineup every thirty minutes. I try a few times, and I am out of position, too far back and I get smoked! Too close to the deep water and I miss the big part of the wave. Each repetition is giving me more confidence and more knowledge of how the waves break on this reef. The perfect one comes and I am in the slot. Paddle hard, trust myself, lean on the Pyzel, stand straight up and enjoy the view. One screaming friend after another wizzes by as I am locked in this temporary hole that has opened up in the ocean. The wave pushes me out with a sting of compressed mist at the end of the reef. Too easy. High Fives and hoots ensue. Then an even bigger wave marches down the reef and churns us up like weeds in a lawnmower. Time for breakfast.
A few guys head over to ‘two ways’ or as I like to call it ‘both ways’ or ‘10 turns’. Jason and Julian catch the left, which I have been eying. They look like they are having a hard time lining up sets, but when they come back, they both say that they got a couple 10 turn waves that were bowling at them as the swell bent around the reef! I head out for two more sessions at Love Charms. The swell has backed off some or the tide/current has changed or something but the big outside barrels are no longer raging. One session on the twin fin egg, looking for smaller corners to shred. One session on Cody’s 6’3 to try and bag some more big ones out the back. Hoobs comes by in the dingy and he has a wild look in his eyes! He shouts ‘get in the boat! We are heading to five islands, it is throwing perfect barrels on every wave!’ On the way he shows us an iPhone video of Skiba getting an impossibly smooth head high shallow barrel! Wow! We arrive to see Skiba do the same maneuver in person. Wow! He is just gorging himself on perfect barrels. A small crew is just watching from the shoulder, the shallow reef too intimidating for them. The water is running off the reef, down below sea level, and then back up the curling wave. The water is pulled so tight and glassy off the shallow reef that you can barely even see the wave when you take off – you just see reef. The wave is a right and I am trying to navigate it with my back to the wave. Some surfers actually like this position better, as you can grab the rail of your board and drag your butt/leg in the face of the barrel to regulate your speed. Well I never really learned that technique and one wrong move in this situation sends you face first into the shallow reef. EEEEKKKK. Skiba gets barrel after barrel. I have to try! Hoobs is also a goofyfoot and says ‘watch me’ then proceeds to get flung over the lip, arms and legs akimbo like a spider monkey flying through a jungle canopy. He ends up standing on the shallow reef, grenades of whitewater exploding all around him! Cut up legs and a buckled surfboard, not exactly the same confidence inspiring performance as Love Charms in the morning. I catch a few waves, always out in front of the barrel, but avoiding the shallow reef. I keep trying larger and larger waves, because a bigger barrel breaks in deeper water and is easier to enter and exit than a smaller tight one. The sun is going down and I have one last chance. The biggest wave that I have tried for yet is lumping up on the reef. All my friends are screaming for me to go. A smooth buttery drop, I try to negotiate my position to enter the barrel but fail again. Just then, the inside section lurches and pitches out in front of me. This section is smaller and shallower than I would like to deal with but I have no where else to go. I pull under the pitching wave but my line is not true. I go up and over with the breaking wave and am thrown flat on my back on the reef (at least it is not my head!). I turn around to see 3 more freight train waves barreling down the reef and there is not enough water on top of the reef for me to duck under the churning whitewater. I get pummeled for around a minute. I see my friends looking over the waves from the safety of deep water with concerned looks on their faces. I hope I make it out of the situation with most of my skin intact! The waves subside and I meet my friends in the deeper water, we climb aboard the dingy to head back to the Maahavi. Wild eyes and excited smiles are on everyone’s faces. That was gnarly! How shallow was that reef?! Skiba was the barrel sensei out there! Hoobs was surfing like a maniac! Ho, Richard how is your back? I dunno, check it out for me. Owww, Ewwww, that doesn’t look good. You are going to need some lime for sure!
We celebrate a day well lived with a bottle of Rum. Hoobs calls it “Happy Days” and this becomes our motto. I self medicate my injuries with a little too much rum and have a short blurry night – you will have to ask one of the other guys what was going on that night, but apparently it involved a lot of fun at my expense – including sharpie tattoos and interesting haircuts….
Day 11 7/27/21 More Love Charms and back to Blue Bowls
We wake up and Love Charms is smaller but super glassy and looking like the most fun waves you have ever seen, not as critical as the day before, just smooth and playful. I have very little strength after a full day of adrenalin spiking to the max, followed by a reef scrub and too much rum. I decide to take my GoPro camera out there to get some water footage of the boys. It was great fun learning to use this cool little camera in the surf and see the waves and reef from a little different perspective. There were also some nice end bowl corners that only I was in position to catch ;)
We pull up anchor and head back to Blue Bowls to satisfy the regular foots. I am still struggling physically, so I decide to go out with the GoPro again. Blue Bowls turns out to be shiftier than I remember, and I keep getting caught inside. Blue bowls is also turning out to be shallower than I remember, because I keep getting drug across the reef! After a pretty severe encounter with the bottom and a disregarded surfboard, I limp back to the boat defeated and cut up. I am also developing a pretty nasty sinus infection. Pushing your body to its limits day after day eventually catches up with you and I decide not to surf for the rest of the day. I miss some really beautiful waves at Blue Bowls but the rest of the boys fully enjoyed it! I am ready to get off this damn boat!
Day 12 7/28/21 More Blue Bowls then to Tiger Stripes
A rainy start to the morning. The boys paddle out at Blue Bowls and get some beautiful glassy waves. I watch and rest. We motor to Tiger Stripes, the wave I was probably looking forward to most on this boat trip. We catch a wahoo and a barracuda along the way! Klauber reeled in both fish! The wahoo is delicious as sashimi for dinner that night. Jason and Klauber surf Tiger Stripes in the afternoon but I miss out because I am asleep.
Day 13 7/29/21 Awake from sickness – fun afternoon at Tiger Stripes
Well, all that action did catch up with me, and I have slept or been in a fog for the last 24 hours. I really want to get off this boat! I am finally creeping out of the fog and decide to surf with the crew at Tiger Stripes. It is a little sloppy but what a fun wave! Bowls breaking in a lot of different places, easy to catch, long rides with fun bowls connected by mellow flatter sections. Easy to paddle back out. It’s nice to rinse off the last 24 hours.
The crew of the Maahavi create a beach barbeque for us (and also burn all our trash while we have the opportunity). It was nice to be on land for a little while, playing coconut baseball and collecting shells and turtle skulls. I don’t last long, and go to bed early. I wish I could sleep on the island.
Day 14 7/20/21 Glassy Tiger Stripes
A full day of glassy conditions at Tiger Stripes today is a real treat! I surf the morning on my blue thruster and really rip into some of the inside bowls! There are some big barrels on the outside reef and I chase them for a while but come up empty handed, since one only comes through once every 30 minutes and breaks on another reef outside of all the other waves.
Skiba had given Hoobs one of his surfboards and Hoobs proceeded to buckle the nose immediately. I spend the afternoon repairing the buckle and also some other dinged boards by hand with no power tools – I am really missing my Milwaukee.
For the evening session, I borrow Trevor’s 6’4 egg that I made him for the trip, it is basically just a cruisey paddle machine but with the tail pulled in enough to grip in the bowl. Jason and I sit wayyyy out the back and look for huge glassy wedging peaks to form up near us on the outer reef. The tide is too high for them to barrel, but they are an entry to a long snowboard ride all the way down the reef. AAAAAWWWWOOOOOOOO!!!!! Maybe I would like to spend a few more days aboard the boat ;)
Some of the boys surf the reef on the other side of the channel with a beautiful tapering left and a gentle sloping right.
Tonight we go ashore to Hoobs’ island GHADOO to be tested for COVID-19. A medical truck pulls up to a parking lot in the marina parking lot. This is weird. The technician is covered head to toe in Tyvek and even has a plastic face shield. She must be miserable in the tropical night. She pushes the nose swaps to our brain and we all have a fun time laughing at whoever is up for torture at the moment – gagging, sneezing, and slobbering.
Day 15 7/31/21 Last Day aboard Maahavi – Dream session at Love Charms
We motor back to Love Charms first thing in the morning. The waves do not look good from the back and we almost just keep motoring past. We decide to pull into the channel to see the waves from the front, and they are beautiful. You have never seen such beautiful waves. Impossibly glassy. Peaking up and tapering off so evenly. No one out. The sun is up high and hot early today. It shines straight through the clear water and lights up the waves with electric colors from the reef below. Just when you think it can’t get any better, it does. This session converted even the unbelieving regular foots – this is the best wave in the island chain. Every wave that comes through this morning is mesmerizing. Most of the waves are head high or little bit overhead and easy to line up and catch. There is still an occasional bomb set that wipes through the lineup. Trevor is on a tear, throwing spray in every direction. Jason is totally frothing – literally foaming at the mouth. Dave catches the most critical wave of his trip (twice!) on Trevor’s board. Kevin gets caught by one of the rogue sets, is pushed into a sandy cave, and comes up to his beloved Maurice Cole broken in half. Skiba, as usual, is getting super radical and also falling from the sky too late on a bomb. Cody catches the wave of the day, a sneaker set that missed the outside reef and doubled up and sucked out on the inside. He made the drop by the skin of his teeth and looked very surprised that he was still alive after regaining his composure. Julian cruises some beautiful rides, as is his custom. Klauber was feeling good on his backhand after 10 days of surfing. I was riding my beloved candy cane fish and felt like Mohammed Ali – float like a butterfly and sting like a bee! Leroy for the first time on the trip appeared timid in the waves, and for the first time in the trip comes up bleeding.
Against the goofyfoots’ collective will, we head to Blue Bowls one last time to give the regular foots some frontside surfing. Blue Bowls is not working. Skiba bounces off the reef. The other regular foots catch no waves. We motor to Beacons – it is out of control. The sun is setting on the last day of our surfing trip. Jason organizes a group shot and we all jump off the Maahavi in unison while the drone is filming. Up the Swellians! Remember when I said I wanted off the boat? Well I don’t want off the boat anymore. I want another day. And another….and another….
Day 16 8/1/21 Escape from Male!
We wake to an incredible sunrise – our last aboard the Maahavi. After a quick breakfast, we are on the dingy and over to the airport. There are a couple reef passes along the way that have really good looking waves! Earlier in the trip, I kept asking Hoobs about these spots on the map but he kept telling me the swell was not the right direction. I think he was keeping secrets…
We fly the DASH-8 back to Male. This one is cleaner and not as hot – thankfully. All of our board bags make it on the flight except the extra board bag shared between Dave and Jason – did you guys really need to bring a whole extra board bag?! Cody gets an ominous Instagram message from Hoobs. Bad news, try to stay calm….Trevor and Jason tested positive for COVID. Hearts sink. Everyone is confused. Are the results accurate? Can we get another test? Does everyone on the boat have to quarantine? Everyone with a negative test result is advised to get on the earliest flight out of Maldives. Escape from Male. Fugitives on the run. We are on the lam. We all get out. Except Trevor and Jason. They have a different fate. They never receive their secondary test results. They are ferried to ‘Fun Island’ - that is the real name, not a moniker. Here they join the legions of the undead also infected. They have 2 weeks, 14 days. I hope they make it out without too much boredom induced trauma.
Day 17 8/2/21 Dubai
Cody, Dave, Klauber, and I arrive in Dubai at night. Dave is excited and lines everything up – a nice hotel, a place to store the boardbags, places to eat. The hot dry desert air soothes the jungle swamp that has become my sinuses. We all thoroughly enjoy the luxury of a hot shower and a bed with more than 2” of padding that does not sway back and forth.
We sleep late and eat breakfast all morning. We lounge by the pool, drinking beers and taking naps. We cannot believe the disparity between our situation and our friend Jason and Trevor’s current situation. Cody and I venture into Dubai. We don’t head for the glitzy zone with the towers and the tallest building in the world, but instead to Old Dubai, along the ‘creek’, in search of some authentic middle eastern food. We find it at Al Khayma Heritage Restaurant. Then we wander around, enter a mosque, talk to a guy with a falcon, buy some trinkets to bring home. A really nice evening in a ‘whole newwwwwww world’.
Day 18 8/3/21 Coming to America
So far all of our Emirates flights have been mostly empty and quite nice. The flight back to America was not. It was packed to the brim and half of its occupants were toddlers. 14 hours in day care. But no matter, we made it home. It feels like we have been gone for 2 months instead of 2 weeks. We all test again for Covid. Everyone is clear except for Klauber. Poor Klauber. At least he can quarantine at home. The warm turquoise waters are a distant memory now. I can’t wait to relive the experience through the photos and videos. But for now, I am blissful in a moment to rest.
Hoobs – born on the island of Gahdoo in the southern atolls. Tiger Stripes is his home break. He spent some time as the surf guide at Lohis. He is stylish and calm. The bigger and more hollow the waves get, the more excited he gets. His surfing is reminiscent of a goofy foot Mikey February - slow, smooth and stylish some moments and absolutely radical the next. He takes care of all the logistics on the boat – getting lost board bags, giving the captain headings, advising the group on where the best surfing conditions will be, he shows us where to sit and what waves to take, he shows us where to fish and dive. He teaches us the customs of the land we are visiting. He blends seamlessly into the group of 10 eclectic Americans. He is our Pan.
Cowboy – a soft spoken Bangladeshi with a kind heart who acts as our server for all of our meals. An endearing soul, we all miss his whispered “You like some more” “Is good?” “Sank You” “Welcum”
Dingy Boy – a skinny kid from Sri Lanka who loves to smoke cigarettes with Room Boy. He is almost clairvoyant in knowing when we want a ride to the surf or back to the boat.
Room Boy – is like a ghost, we rarely see him but every time I come back to my room, it is somehow cleaner than it was when I left it last. He did throw away my donut from one breakfast that I was stashing away for an afternoon snack ‘Room Boy stole my donut!”
Chef – tall skinny man who kept tabs on the beer and liquor list. Apparently if inventory did not match, it was coming out of his pay! He made a fresh bread product for us every meal – rolls or donuts or loafs – it was much appreciated. The best meals that we had were the flat bread and curried fish. We ate what we caught and we caught a lot of big eye jack. Jack is not very tasty when cooked in the typical way of sliced and baked, but it was pretty good slathered in curry sauce and joined with basmati rice, veggies, and flatbread!
Captain – The only other native Maldivian on the boat besides Hoobs, the captain was a short but powerful man who loved to handline fish at night.
Jason – The organizer of the trip. A powerful goofyfoot from the Outer Banks who lives in Wilmington after going to college there. Jason is a jack of all trades, and it always amazes me how good he is at everything he does – and is there ever anything that he does not do?! He is probably the best surfer I know. He is also probably my closest friend, even though we do not see each other often. I met Jason over 20 years ago in Australia where we were both studying abroad. We traveled through Indonesia together - G Land, Desert Point, and Uluwatu. This trip is kind of a 20 year reef pass boat trip reunion for us.
Richard – That’s me. A goofyfooted surfboard shaper in my spare time and a research and development engineer at Boeing for a profession. I grew up in South Carolina with surfing parents, and I have been captivated with the activity and all the other associated ocean activities as long as I can remember.
Trevor – The youngest of the trip, Trevor is also a powerful goofyfoot with a football player’s build, who grew up on Isle of Palms. He lives in Georgia now and doesn’t surf much, but he can still crack the lip with the best of them. Everywhere we go, he earns the distinction of ‘most water pushed out the back of the wave’. Trevor is a big teddybear and a sweetheart of a man.
Cody – The class clown and the second youngest on the trip, Cody loves practical jokes and is constantly joking. I share this affinity with him, and we spend the whole trip giggling like stupid school boys. Cody grew up in Wilmington, but went to college in Charleston, so he is a bridge between the South Carolina and North Carolina crew. He now lives in Colorado and is more of a road-cyclist than a surfer these days, but he still managed to get some of the best waves every day and shred them to pieces!
Skiba – The intellectual theorist of the group as well as the most radical shredder. Skiba loves existential discussions and air drops, historical facts and vertical lip bashes. He also has a penchant for taking off too late on the heaviest waves of the session, competing daily for both the most radical move and the heaviest flogging. Skiba is born and bred in Wilmington.
Leroy – The happy go lucky guy who never saw a wave he didn’t want to send it on! Leroy was pushing his limits farther than anyone on the trip and coming away mostly unscathed, until the last day of the trip when he lost his board and got coral shoved under his toe-nail, giving him the nickname LeRoy LeToe. Leroy is from Wilmington and signed on to this trip via Skiba.
Kevin – Kevin came to Wilmington via South Florida. He is an ex heart surgery nurse and was a major punk rocker in his youth. Kevin has the best quiver on the boat with a couple of gorgeous Rustys. He also patches me up when I get drug across the reef. A kind and patient goofyfoot.
Dave – Uncle Dad. Dave is the oldest in the group and literally old enough to be our dad. Dave is a lawyer from DC who now lives on the beach in Wrightsville. He did not start surfing until his 40s, which is an incredible feat as the rest of us feel like we won’t be surfing much past our 40s. Dave loves to give advise but he also likes to stir the pot, especially when it ruffles Jason’s feathers (which is usually an easy task to accomplish). Dave was pushing his limits and I think he caught the best rides of his life.
Klauber – My oldest friend, Klauber and I met in 9th grade and became immediate brothers. We live down the street from each other and our kids are best friends too. We having been shaping boards and surfing together our whole lives. Klauber has recently become a priest, and we were all shocked and stoked that he was able to leave his flock to join this debaucherous crew of pirates for 2 weeks!
Julian – I think that Julian is the other born and bred from Wilmington. It seems that he came into Jason’s fold via surf photography in Jason’s college days. Fast forward to today and now Jason is a photographer but Julian is a Physicians Assistant in the ER. That being said, I think Julian snapped off the best photos of the trip one morning using Jason’s camera. He still has the eye. A stoic out of the water and a smoooooooth and stylish goofyfoot in the water, it was always a pleasure to watch him fade a bottom turn on his red and yellow lightning bolt single fin.