For many, a boat trip searching for surf around a tropical archipelago is at the top of their ‘to-do’ list. For her entry into our ‘Write To Surf‘ competiton, 12-year-old Cape Town local, Maya Figl, recounts her recent trip to the Maldives – an adventure she’ll never forget.
OCEAN ADVENTURE – by Maya Figl
I was trembling, extremely nervous, and very, very excited. I am one of the lucky kids out there, who has been able to go on so many boat trips, but this one was different. This time, not only Mom and Dad would be surfing the hollow, shallow reef breaks, but so would I.
Maya rides a bomb during her trip, while her father watches on proudly from the channel.
During the holidays, my family and I went on an incredible boat adventure in the southern Maldives. Every day the ocean and OA3 (Ocean Adventurer 3, the boat on which we stayed) surprised us with new opportunities and experiences. There was, therefore, never a dull or un-adventurous moment during the whole trip.
Our tour through the Maldives took us from the North Male Atolls, all the way down to the southern most tip of the Huvadoo Atoll, searching for reef passes along the way that were ideally exposed to the southeasterly and southwesterly swells.
We arrived in Malé, the main island in the Maldives, and were escorted on a water taxi to the OA3. There we were welcomed and then settled into our cabins.
The OA3 at anchor, ready to set-off to another island at a moment’s notice.
We immediately left Male and headed up north to the very well known surf spots: Cokes and Chickens. After the long flight we were excited to get into the water, so we waxed-up our boards, pulled on our booties, and got in the dinghy. We sped down to Cokes and there I came into close contact with the sharp, gnarly reef for the first time. Luckily I was wearing booties so I didn’t get cut too badly, but was quite shocked at how scary a reef can be. After the session, I knew I would be more careful when paddling into hollow waves, as touching the reef is not very pleasant.
The next morning, we completed the same routine, but we decided to surf Chickens instead. We were out for quite some time, surfing the hollow left hand point break, and watching little reef fish splash around on the surface, when my Dad spotted a pod of dolphins. The dolphins swam down to where Mom and I were sitting and jumped in and out of the waves. One rushed under me, and almost as if it were magic, it brushed his back against my toe. I felt both shocked and special.
The next day we carried on to one of my favorite spots, Sultans. It was one of my favourites because the wave wasn’t too steep, was easy to catch, and long, so I could fit in a lot of turns. I caught more waves at Sultans than at Cokes, because the wave didn’t break on the reef as hard, so I wouldn’t hit the sharp coral if I fell. I caught some epic waves at Sultans and so did my sister, Mom and Dad.
Yum! The best coconut water Maya has ever tasted.
We found secret surf spots in the middle of nowhere and managed to sneak into resorts for delicious dinners. As we got further south, there were more reefs to snorkel at, and more fish, sharks, sea turtles, octopi, and rays inhabiting them. On one occasion, we snorkeled with stingrays next to a local fishing boat that was feeding them tuna. It was super scary because when the sting rays swam towards you, you could see their yellow “tigers” eyes staring at you, and their sting was not far behind. Another time, I saw 22 sharks in one snorkel session, seeing a white-tip shark twice, a nurse shark twice, and a black-tip 18 times. We also saw numerous beautiful eagle rays, some of which were travelling in pairs, or even threes. We all loved watching them glide through the water.
We explored islands and lagoons that grew deep with water on the high tide, and were drained from their water and the animals inhabiting them on the low. We would often stand at the entrance (and exit) of the lagoons and watch stingrays, and moray eels drift out of them. In the deeper waters we were then able to snorkel with the rays and eels from the lagoons and stare at their beautifully patterned backs.
Exploring the mangrove forests, where bats flew overhead.
In the lagoons we often came across mangrove forests full of luscious leaves and fruit bats. The fruit bats cast huge shadows over our heads as they flew over us, which was a bit creepy. When we explored deeper into the lagoons, we came across “mini islands” that were crammed with palm trees, and coconuts, which grew on them. Unfortunately they were also littered with rubbish such as: flip-flops, plastic straws and bottles, tin cans, and fabric. We knew the litter had been washed on the shore from the ocean, which was very sad as this means some litter is still out there and affecting the animals. Once we went to an island, with only two people and many palm trees living on it (this island was unfortunately also full of rubbish.) One of the men saw us, and as a welcome gift, he climbed up the tree and chopped off some coconuts, which he gave us to drink. It was delicious, the best coconut water we drank throughout the whole trip.
There was not a lot of surf for a while, so we all grew restless and grumpy. Mom came up with the idea of what we call “wake surfing,” which is basically surfing behind a motorboat. I pretended that the mini wake was a huge wave and I was smacking a thick lip. Yannah (my 10-year-old sister) also managed to do a few tricks, and mastered her wake surfing skills. We are now both super amped to go wake surf again.
When the surf went flat, Maya and her sister took turns wakesurfing.
We carried on cruising even further down south, until we reached Yin Yang – a beautiful right hand surf break with a mellow outside (Yin), and a very hollow inside (Yang). We had an afternoon session and went back the next morning wanting more. Later we had another afternoon session with some amazing waves. We got some great shots, but most importantly we had a lot of fun. Until Mom’s accident…
Mommy was going for another turn on the shallow and hollow inside, but she was too late. The lip threw her upwards then smashed her down on the coral reef, bottom-first. She was in big pain, and was not able to surf for the rest of our trip. When we arrived back in Cape Town, the x-rays showed that she had broken her sacrum and coccyx. Ouch!
We did a night crossing that night, and we got to sleep on the aft deck. Mommy had to sleep inside due to her injury, whilst Yannah, Dad and I shared a mattress. The boat was very wobbly due to the waves coming from all directions, so we all got nauseous and uncomfortable. The next day we found out that the autopilot had broken only an hour into the crossing, so our captain, Norman, had to steer through the whole night. Due to the autopilot fiasco, we had not found a place to anchor until about 10:00am. When we found a suitable anchorage spot, we all immediately got changed and went for a snorkel.
A white-tip shark cruises by on one of many snorkelling adventures.
We saw napoleon fish, jellyfish, turtles, eagle rays, and many other different fish species. As we swam a little further away from the island and into the depths, we saw a group of tiny, big-eyed, and very cute calamari. They looked almost as if they had been stolen from a cartoon picture, and placed perfectly in the ocean, their tentacles swishing gracefully as they moved. Norman said it would be best to carry on with the crossing because the nearest waves were still quite a while away, and he wanted us to enjoy many more fun surf sessions. We dragged ourselves out of the water and carried on with the journey, not really wanting to because we all got sick of the wobbly conditions onboard.
Eventually we reached the Southern Huvadhoo Atoll, where we surfed spots like Five Islands, Love Charms and Blue Bowls. Five Islands is a right-hand surf break, which was pretty hollow all the way from the outside to the inside. It was close to a resort, so we often had to share the break and the waves with other surfers. It wasn’t too bad though because all the surfers we met were friendly. They wanted me to have nice waves, so they all told me to drop-in on them when a good wave came. Not so much for my Dad though, he had to wait his turn, but somehow he still got the best waves of the day.
The OA3 parked in paradise (left). Maya’s bravery grew the more waves she shredded over coral (right).
I also enjoyed the spot called Love Charms. We paddled out at Love Charms the one time, and about 10 minutes into our session, a turtle came to join us. Then about five minutes later another one came, until four turtles were playing around in the waves with us. It was really cool, and I will never forget it.
But my favorite spot of them all was Blue Bowls. It was, and is, one of the most amazing surf spots in the Maldives. I am so lucky to have been able to surf Blue Bowls. Every session made me feel awesome. The feeling you get when you make the take-off and snap the lip on an amazing wave is indescribable. I was out the one time, and there were some sets coming through. One wave was building-up, and just as I was about to paddle over it, it smashed down on the reef – of course taking me with it. The next one broke, and the last wave of the set was busy building-up. I took the risk of paddling into the steep wave, which was about to break on a one-metre deep reef. I was on the search for a steep, nice wave, and got rewarded greatly. I took-off, and immediately got barrelled, then I did some snaps and carves, and hopped out the back. It was ridiculously fun. Now I know, taking risks is totally worth it!
Like every holiday, ours came to an end. We enjoyed amazing surf, incredible snorkels, interesting animals, inviting warm water, and epic memories. The Maldives are wonderful in every way possible, and are such a beautiful place. I cannot wait for our next boat trip.
A video edit highlighting some of the adventures from a lekker Maldives surf trip.
This submission is a part of Zigzag’s ‘Write To Surf’ journo contest.
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