It’s not hard to build anticipation when you have booked a tropical island boat trip in the hunt for waves. Especially when your leaving behind your 4/3 wetsuit, the ice-cream headaches, booties, and the harsh weather a Victorian winter can bring. We were headed for a chain of atolls, in the middle of the Indian Ocean called the Maldives.
After a long stop over in Singapore, we finally landed in the Maldives. Half asleep still, walking off the plane into the night sea breeze and sticky humidity, there was one thing that you get straight away, the strong, pungent smell of diesel from the nearby Dhoni’s (traditional transport type of boat) surrounding the airport. They can’t show you that in a postcard picture like the one below.
Waking in the morning on the boat we would call home for the next week and a half was surreal. We could see waves breaking on the outer reefs and the warmth was already taking over. We left the safety of the inner lagoons and headed north. One thing that stood out was the amount of rubbish in the water. Smaller islands or outcrops in between atolls looked like collection traps for plastic. It was really eye-opening that such a beautiful place was being infected with the human races pollution and inability to protect it. The thing the got me most was the carelessness of the deck hands and staff on other boats just throwing the rubbish overboard. Which leaves you with this sense of guilt as I felt like I was contributing to the growing problem as more and more boats are thriving off the influx of surfers like myself.
In saying this, nothing was taking away the clarity and picture-perfectness of the water and surrounding islands. The colour of the water is literally Gatorade blue. The sea life seems to be absolutely thriving as well. During one surf at Chickens a pod of over at least 50 dolphins came through the lineup and showed us all up on how to surf.
Walking around the islands that surrounded the reefs was really worthwhile. As we stepped on to the wharf we were embraced by the locals and showed around the village. Surprisingly their English was quite good so we were able to ask questions and find out more about their everyday lives. Our surf guide on the boat knew all the locals and was able to help us organise an Australian v.s Maldives volleyball match. It was pretty special to be able to feel apart of their community as locals from around the island came to watch or join in.
On the surfing side of things it’s nearly worth just leaving the pictures to do the talking.
As this was one of the first surf trips I had taken overseas, I had no idea of what to expect and what to see. But when asking friends who had been there or knew of other people who had gone it was easy to form a picture of what it was going to be like. Lesson one. Mother nature always has the final say. I had been told and looked at previous surf reports and found that the Maldives is pretty tame when it comes to coral reef breaks in the scheme of things…compared to Indo etc. This is true, however, even if it is mostly in the 4-6ft range most years you may just get the swell of the decade. Paddling out and finding it constantly 6-8ft with the odd bigger day really puts you in your place. No matter where you are. Add in the fact that its your first time surfing over coral. Things really get interesting, especially when there is no warm up surf in something a little less daunting.
Lesson 2. The surf doesn’t have to be big for bad things to happen. One day we managed to find smaller waves to play around on. Strangely this is where the close call happened. One of the guys on our boat was knocked unconscious by a board hitting him in the head. Freakishly, everything happened to go right for him to come out of it okay. I was second to reach him as another guy on the boat managed to swim down and pull him off the bottom. He came up bleeding from the neck, unconscious and barely breathing. I just remember shouting to my old man and the other guys in the lineup to desperately come help and get him out of trouble. He didn’t look good at all. Blood disperses in water making the cut look even worse than it really was. Luckily, not one wave came, so we were able to get him on a board and paddle him out of trouble. If it wasn’t for the handy vascular surgeon that happened to also be on the boat, I would have thought he was dead. We were able to get him back to a hospital on one of the main islands where he made a full recovery. In my mind he is still one of the unluckiest and luckiest guys I know.
A lot of people have always told me life is not about the final destination but the journey you go on, both physically and mentally to reach the outcome you desire. Whether that be to go to a place to surf waves you’ve only dreamed of or it could be going for the career you have always wanted. For me, what I realised on this trip is the perspective and expectations you take with you, will in the end, affect how you enjoy yourself and be rewarded by the journey you go on.
Having an open mind and expecting anything that everyday life and nature can throw your way has really let myself see the beauty in things I wouldn’t have seen before. It has allowed me to have my expectations and mind blown, while giving me a deeper appreciation for the things we already have in our lives. So my advice is simple. To experience, learn and be embraced in the places you go, you have to be willing to open your mind to take it all in.
By Modern Explorer Contributor and Founder Braden Churcher.