••    Maldives    ••

For me, getting there proved to be rather easy too. As it only took 2 reasonable flights and a decent lay over in Dubai, before I could leave the land behind me and embark on a journey through small reef passes.

Since there is only water around Male and the Maldives you move by boat. As a surfer, diver, enthusiast or all three of those characters you basically have 2 options in the Maldives; stay on a luxury resort or take a boat trip. We took the latter. Fresh out of "arrivals" we took a boat that led to another boat… or should I say ship. I see boats as small water vehicles and this thing was out of that category. It was going to be our home for the next 10 days, we were not going to leave the water by any means. Stranded on a "mini" cruise ship in paradise. Life could be worse.

Flying from different parts of the world the whole crew eventually got together on the mothership. We all took our bags in the spacy cabins and started sipping away a weird, chemically advanced, orange welcome drink. It was morning and although we all didn"t sleep in the last 24 hours we were getting excited after seeing waves breaking in the background of a tiny island. Sarah was the last person to board and after we welcomed her, we started anticipating our descent to the best reef patches of the Maldives… it didn"t happen. After 1 hour of waiting and preparing boards we asked the staff why we hadn"t left yet. Turned out the anchor was stuck. The staff from Sri Lanka was on the case, but apparently the anchor was hugging the reef too much. After a few hours delay the anchor eventually broke and we started the journey of 40 minutes to the first waves out there.

Sultans, Jailbreaks, Honkey"s and Pasta Point were the first spots we saw. We could not surf Pasta Point as the resort in front of the wave claimed that beautiful patch of reef, you can only surf there if you stay in the resort. A real shame, as it probably is the best performance wave in the Maldives. We decided to go to Jailbreaks, a fun right with some long walls, complemented with a strong breeze of offshore wind. We got rid of our jet-legs riding a few speedy walls and putting our boards on rail.

After surfing a few hours, dark clouds appeared on the horizon. By the minute the offshore got stronger and the clouds got darker. Surfers were slowly starting to get out of the line up, paddling back up to their boats. We kept surfing until rain and black clouds were right above us… I started paddling back to the boat when hell broke loose. Intense rain and winds quickly reduced sight until we could only see a couple of meters ahead. The boats that bring you to the surf typically wait for you in the reef passes, in between the small islands. Depending on the tides, currents can be ridiculously strong here. When I reached the boat I couldn"t help to feel relieved, as the current was sweeping us and the boat out to sea and we could barely see a thing. Some of us were still paddling back to the boat, we could hardly see them. Eventually everyone except for Frank, who was filming from the water, made it into the boat. Frank was wearing a bright colored helmet, designed to be noticed when surfers are throwing fins next to his head, but in this case it proved to be a solid rescue tool when you are swimming alone in a storm, in between tiny islands and dealing with a big current. Frank started to drift away and we got a bit concerned, in between the wind chop we couldn"t see him anymore. After a few minutes he slowly gained in on us and was the last happy swimmer to get in the boat. Exciting stuff!

The board vessel brought us back to the mothership where dinner was already served. I forgot to mention that we were actually on 3 boats; there was a mothership, a board vessel and a dingy ( a small speedboat). We swapped stories of storm experiences and updates before crashing out. Or at least trying to sleep. Jet leg, medically referred to as desynchronosis, prevented some of us of falling asleep or sleeping until dawn. The next morning the storm had cleared and the waves looked nice. Time for another surf on the same wave as the night before. We took the dingy to Jailbreaks and found out that the wave was a lot more crowded than the day before. We went out for a surf anyway, but soon figured it was a good time to check out 2 different spots that were about an hour away; Chickens and Cokes. Cokes is a right-hander that is seen as one of the more hollow and powerful waves around and chickens is a left which has many different faces. It gets better when the waves get bigger. While cruising our way to these places we had lunch and went on the top deck to check out the beautiful little islands that we passed. I have never seen a place that looks more like the stereotype of paradise we all know from the pictures. Incredible… or increíble as basque/brazilian Jatyr would say. When we arrived the wind was already a bit stronger again, but we decided to surf chickens, there was definitely a few ramps out there. For dinner we surfed Cokes (there is a coca cola factory in front of the wave). The wind dropped and there were a few fun, steep walls on offer.

In the evening we discussed the weather/wave predictions for the rest of the trip. Wave forecasting technologies told us the first 3 days would see the most size in swell, which was acknowledged by our "amazing" guide on the boat. We wanted to go south to explore other, less frequently surfed, more powerful waves. Our guide assured us it would be too small over there and we should make the most of the waves and the conditions we had where we were. So, instead of sleeping well and getting used to the climate change, we ignored the fact the we were right on the equator and surfed as much as possible for the first 3 days of the trip. In exchange for these surfing sessions in heaven, the sun starting annihilating us. By the end of the 3 days we needed a rest as eyes were severely burned, lips were cracked and bodies were baked. My lip resembled a reef pass on our third night. It looked like we were in for a few mellow days, as forecasts (and our guide) said that on the fourth day the ocean would be close to flat… and it would remain very small until the end of our trip. Although we exploited our bodies and raised our chances of skin cancer, we were all satisfied that we made the most of the conditions we got so far as we were looking forward to some rest on the fourth day. We drank beers at night and those who lost a poker game had to swim around the ship in complete darkness. We saw plenty of small sharks while surfing earlier, so it was quite adventurous to say the least. Eventually we all crashed out… for real now.

Woken up by a bell that drives the herd to breakfast, lunch and dinner we stumbled up the stairs that leads to the first deck. Always eager to see if there was still some waves around, we knew it was going to be flat. We heard a few enthusiastic "yeeewws", which normally means somebody see"s a nice wave. When our eyes were starting to handle the bright, radiating, maldivian, morning light we saw what nobody had expected; pumping waves! It was about 2 to 3 times bigger than the night before and it was as glassy as waves can get. The forecast went from 2.4 meters with 16 seconds to 1.1 with 11 seconds, but the direction of the swell changed and that has probably caused these amazing waves to enter the Maldivian archipelago. Props for the "guide"! We could have gone south and scored it, but it was too late for that. The last thing we were going to do was complain though, amazing waves breaking everywhere. A left and a right. Both great looking, both with the odd barrel, but mostly just fast peeling waves. Picture perfect. I think you can imagine what followed.

The next couple of days there was more of the above; we surfed and surfed more. The water was so clear it was sometimes hard to see the wave you were surfing on. The waves turned on and not much off. Until lips were blown up and eyes had to be put away in a dark room for 24 hours. There was surfing with aspirin and ibuprofen. Sharks were spotted and surfers escaped the water. Dolphins were heard underwater. A ripping protest team was digitally captured and a few epic moves were missed. Cameras followed a flowing Tim, a powerful Marlon, a crazy Oli, technical Tristan, gracious Emma, a long tube from Lars, humongous hacks by Sarah, 1000 tweaked turns from Jatyr, backside rail grabbing Jeroen and a head stand by me. Good times galore! The only complaint was the sun, the abundance of waves and maybe the fact that most of the waves, although being picture perfect, were maybe not really performance orientated. The smash-able lips and air sections of Pasta Point looked even more inviting when we were shooting lifestyle 20 meters from the line up. Paying our way onto the island for a few hours, we could not pay our way into the waves of Pasta Point. Even paradise turned out to be imperfect in some way or another. At the same time it was all absolutely perfect.

Thanks to Protest, the Maldives and the whole crew on the boat for the epic experience.