Your guide to surfing in the Maldives
Saffa Surf Tours specialises in guided surf trips in South Africa and Namibia, but, that doesn’t mean we can’t drool over other lesser-known and uncrowded surf locations, does it? This article was written by a friend from Booksurfcamps.com – Octavia. In the article, she explains everything you need to know about surfing in the incredible Maldives.
We’ve just added the Maldives to our surfing bucket list, and we’re pretty sure you’ll do the same after reading this:
Imagine surfing a break all by yourself, one that has hardly ever been touched before, perhaps not even named yet. Strategically located in the heart of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives benefit from full exposure to southern swells, which translates into epic surfing conditions on the outer reefs of remote little islands, some of them uninhabited still.
Described by Marco Polo as “the flower of the Indies,” around 1,192 coral islands and 26 atolls make up this dazzling country. A relatively untouched paradise, surfing in the Maldives is divided into three regions: the Male Atolls, the Central Atolls, and the Southern Atolls. While the swell size and consistency can vary between them, the main difference lies in the crowds.
The Maldives are exposed to the same swells as the surf in Indonesia, but the waves are not as aggressive. It is, therefore, the perfect destination for intermediate to advanced surfers, with plenty beginner-friendly spots too.
Very few breaks are accessible from the shore, the best ones being located on the outer reefs, accessible by surf charters only. On the bright side though, there are so many breaks so close to one another that finding good surf should not be a problem. The Maldives are an enchanting surf playground, with more breaks than we can possibly count, new ones being discovered as we speak.
When to surf in the Maldives
The surf season in the Maldives depends on the atolls you wish to travel to. You will normally find clean conditions between March and May, with June to August seeing bigger swells and the highest potential for some big waves. Tropical storms are more frequent during the Southern Hemisphere winter, and the wind is mainly offshore. September and October are known for their consistency.
You can find some waves during the dry season too, between November and February. On flat days, there’s still plenty of fun to be had in the water, as the Maldives are a renowned snorkeling, scuba diving, and standup paddling destination. Water temperature stays at a toasty 81ºF (27ºC) all year round, so your board shorts will suffice in this tropical paradise.
Mellower than the waves in Indonesia, with less punch and power, the swell is, however, incredibly consistent and will undoubtedly leave you in awe. You will find just about anything you could possibly want, lefts and rights, hollow and fast waves, as well as shallow, fun, and friendly waves. Long rides are always on the offer, and the majority of the spots allow for an easy take-off, even the bigger ones.
Surfing in the North Male Atolls
Surfing in the North Male Atolls is the closest thing to perfection that a surfer can hope to get. With consistent waves offering some of the longest rides in the country, North Male gets bigger swell than the South Male Atolls and is the most popular surfing region in the Maldives. The breaks here are more accessible thanks to the many resorts.
When southeast swells kick in, usually all the breaks are working, which means waves everywhere. When the waves are small, the breaks can get a bit crowded. But when they get bigger, the crowds are no longer an issue.
The North Male Atolls are blessed with excellent surfing conditions between April and October, during the southwest monsoon season, and are home to world-class breaks, the likes of Chickens, Coke’s, Lohi’s, and Pasta Point, as well as many, many others worth checking out. Here are the best of the best:
This break is located on the uninhabited island of Villingilimathi Huraa, right next to Thulusdhoo Island, and can offer some incredibly long rides, up to 500 meters, with waves from 3 ft (1 m) to over 14 ft (4.2 m). To give you an idea of just how gorgeous this break is, on big swell days, it is considered one of the best waves in the world. Is that a good enough reason to get you to come here?
This left-hander has two sections, the last one offering some great opportunities to get barreled. It is also one of the fastest waves in the North Male Atolls. And if you’re wondering where the spot got its name from, don’t worry – it’s not from the surfers fearing the big waves here; it’s from the wild chickens roaming the island.
Best for: intermediate to advanced surfers
Also close to Thulusdhoo Island, just across the channel from Chickens, this right-hander has some hollow and barreling sections to offer. Another one of the best waves in the Maldives, this one breaks over a shallow reef. When the swell gets big, only experienced surfers should tackle it.
Wondering where this one got its name from? It might not be what you think – it got it from the Coca-Cola factory on Thulusdhoo Island.
Best for: intermediate to advanced surfers
Hudhuranfushi Resort, also known as Lohifushi resort, is considered the best surf resort in the Maldives, and it is home to one of the most consistent breaks in the country – Lohi’s. Widely regarded as the epicenter of surfing in the North Male Atolls, this consistent left-hander usually breaks in two sections. But when the swell is big enough, it has the potential of becoming the longest barreling wave you’ve ever ridden!
Best for: experienced surfers
Visible from Lohi’s, this slow and mellow right-hander is just perfect for beginner surfers. On small days, it offers great conditions with an easy take-off and faster middle section. When the swell gets bigger (over 4 ft/1.2 m), it doesn’t work as well and becomes more suitable for longboarders and SUP surfing.
Best for: beginners and intermediate surfers
A wonderful left-hander that is only accessible to guests staying at Chaaya Island Dhonveli Resort, this break has two distinct sections – Macaroni Bowl and Lock Jaws. It breaks over shallow reef and works only on big-swell days.
Best for: experienced surfers
Dubbed one of the friendliest rights in the world, Sultans is famous for its relatively mellow waves, the easy take-off, and the wrapping section at the end. It is a great place to get barreled for the first time, it is fast and can get quite long, and works best with bigger swells.
On the island of Thanburudhoo, in the Kaafu Atoll, it collects the most swell in the North Male Atolls, so head here when it’s too small in all the other places. Its popularity also means that it can get pretty crowded, despite the fact that it is only accessible via a 15-minutes boat ride.
Best for: all levels
Also on Thanburudhoo Island and only accessible by boat, this fun left-hander with a mellow take-off is a great alternative when Sultans is too crowded, although this spot can get pretty crowded as well. Although not as popular as Chickens and Coke’s, some say this is the best wave in the Maldives. When the conditions are right, it gets super long!
Best for: all levels
Perhaps the fastest wave in the Maldives, this right-hander offers rides of up to 300 m and has three distinct sections, the middle one offering some awesome barrels.
Also known as Prison Point, due to its proximity to a former national jail (right across from it to be more exact), this spot has only recently been opened to surfers. Located on the island of Himmafushi, part of the Kaafu Atoll, Jailbreaks works better with bigger swells.
Best for: experienced surfers
Surfing in the South Male Atoll
Separated from the North Male Atoll by a deep channel, surfing in the South Male Atoll is characterized by slightly smaller, but nevertheless impressive waves. Since there aren’t as many resorts and the breaks are mainly accessed by charter boat, crowds are not an issue here. Here are some of the best:
- Guru’s – A fast left-hander with a splendid wall offering the chance to pull off some nice aerials. It is accessible from the shore and is therefore very popular with the locals. Recommended for experienced surfers.
- Twin Peaks – As the name suggests, this one breaks in two directions. It picks up more swell than other breaks in the South Male Atoll, and is one of the favorite surf spots in the area, yet remains uncrowded. Recommended for longboarders, beginners, and intermediate surfers.
- Natives – If you’re staying at Kandooma Resort, then this fast and hollow right-hand break will be right at your doorstep. Sometimes called Foxys, sometimes Natives, the name itself is of little importance, as it offers rides between 100 and 150 meters, with many barreling sections. Recommended for experienced surfers.
- Riptides – A speedy right-hander with a very suggestive name, as strong currents can sweep you seaward, so make sure you check the currents before heading out. Located near Guraidhoo Island, it offers 150-meter long rides right in the middle of the channel. Suitable for all levels.
Surfing in the Central Atolls
Exposed to both the southwest and southeast swell, these picturesque islands offer high-quality breaks for all levels, all without having to worry about the crowds. The Central Atolls benefit from the longest swell period in the Maldives and are home to numerous reef breaks, mostly right-handers, the majority of which are only accessible by boat.
Thaa and Laamu atolls are currently the most popular destinations among surfers, and there are still many secret spots that are only known by genuine charter operators.
- Mulhaku – A two-ways wave, the right-hander holding bigger swells. Easy to ride even when big, it is recommended for beginners and intermediate surfers.
- Veyvah – A fun left-hander with an easy take-off and long wall, recommended for beginners and intermediate surfers.
- Muli Inside – A fast right-hander with long, hollow, and barreling walls. It needs bigger swells to work, as it is shallow, but still has a safe ending. Recommended for intermediate surfers.
- Muli Outside – A right-hander that picks up more swell and offers long walls for intermediate surfers.
- Malik’s – Off the island of Hirilandhoo, this left-hander offers some great barrels on long and fast walls for beginners and intermediate surfers.
- Bowling Alley – A left-hander that remains consistent regardless of the tide, recommended for beginners and intermediate surfers.
- Outside Mikado – The most consistent break in the Thaa Atoll and one of the most powerful waves in the Maldives, this right-hander with fast and hollow walls is for advanced surfers only.
- Inside Mikado – This right-hander is suitable for beginners and intermediate surfers.
- Finnimas – A shallow left-hander that breaks over an exposed reef, with some great barrels for intermediate and advanced surfers.
- Machine – One of the best options when surfing in the Laamu Atoll, this break stays true to its name; not only does it break like a machine, but you need the physique of a machine to be able to ride it. It requires a lot of paddling when catching waves as well as when escaping them, with a shallow reef at the end that adds to the danger. This barreling right-hander is recommended for intermediate to advanced surfers.
- Refugee’s Right – One of the more dangerous waves in the Maldives, this right-hander breaks over an extremely shallow and uneven reef and is reserved for advanced surfers only.
- Refugee’s Left – A left-hander that produces some heavy waves that tend to close out too quickly, recommended for advanced surfers.
- Bedhuge – A favorite stop on a Maldives surf trip, this remote right-hander is suitable for beginners and intermediate surfers.
- Ying Yang – The most consistent wave in Laamu, this has some thick barrels and an inside section that can be unforgiving. It starts as a friendly wave, but gets quite aggressive as it progresses. This right-hander is reserved for advanced surfers.
Surfing in the Southern Atolls
An off-the-beaten-path destination with year-round beautiful weather, the Southern Atolls (comprised of the Gaafu Dhaalu and Addu atolls) pick up both the southwest and southeast swell, yet have a shorter surf season than the other atolls. When it comes to surfing, this is one of the final frontiers, with plenty of nameless breaks and only a few charter boats operating in the area.
The most impressive waves in the Maldives can be found in the Southern Atolls, offering great quality and variety, with barreling and hollow walls, as well as soft and playful breaks. Unfortunately, the surf only works from March to mid-May and from mid-August to November. The waves are not usually present between mid-May and mid-August.
Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll
Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, also known as Huvadhoo Atoll, has the best surfing conditions in the Maldives. You can find waves on almost any islands, as it picks up more swell than any other atoll in the country, and from every direction.
- Beacons – Considered by many to be the most powerful wave in the Maldives, this right-hander is for pro surfers only. Due to the unforgiving shallow reef, it is only surfable in a clean southwest swell, which makes this aggressive break rather fickle.
- Castaways – A soft right-hander in an idyllic setting. It works with all tides but is better when the swell is bigger due to the shallow reef. Recommended for all levels.
- Voodoos/Blue Bowls – A long and smooth right-hander that is surfable in all swells and tides, offering an easy ride but also some sections to pull off some tricks. Recommended for beginners and intermediate surfers.
- Five Islands – A long and hollow right-hander that breaks on a shallow reef, best surfed a mid to high tide. Recommended for all levels.
- Two Ways – Also known as Booga Reefs, this is both a right and a left-hander (as the name implies) that needs a bigger swell to work nicely. Recommended for intermediate surfers.
- Love Charms – On a low tide, this left-hander breaks in two distinct sections. During big swells and high tide, it becomes one long and hollow wave. Recommended for all surfers.
- Tiger Stripes – A left-hander with a reputation for epic barrels. When there’s a swell, you can always count on it to perform. Recommended for all levels.
- Antiques – A smaller and friendlier right-hander, less fierce than its brother, Tiger Stripes, but equally consistent. Recommended for beginners.
The southernmost atoll in the Maldives does get its fair share of quality breaks, most of them remote and barely touched:
- Air Equator Lefts – Located on the northeast coast of Meedhoo Island, the oldest populated island in the Maldives, this break offers some fast and full barrels. It is a very remote spot that hardly ever gets ridden, recommended for all levels.
- Shangri-La – This right-hand reef break got its name from a resort on Villingili Island, and is recommended for all levels.
- Madihera – To the south of Villingili Island, this fun left-hander is a swell magnet but, unfortunately, too much wind can ruin it. Recommended for all levels.
- Approach Lights – Located on the southern tip of Addu Atoll, this break gets hit by the full force of the southern swell and typically ranges from 2 ft (0.6 m) to 10 ft (3 m) and gets pretty intense when overhead. Recommended for experienced surfers.
Now that you know where to start, what are you waiting for? Start exploring the atolls and reefs. Who knows, you might even find a new break and get to name it yourself!
*Cover photo credit: Bruno Ahlgrimm via Flickr
Wax your surfboard and join a surf camp in Asia and Oceania, where there’s always a fun wave to be ridden, regardless of the time of year!
Octavia is a travel writer for BookSurfCamps.com. She is a passionate mountaineer, rock climber and adventure addict who feels just as comfortable high on the rocks as she does deep down in the sea.