The Maldives, Mala Deva, is a dreamscape for many adventurous surfers. ‘The necklace of God’, is a three part story following a mixed bag of surfers into the tropics for a 10 day surf charter adventure. All words and images ©Nick Aldridge.
BEHIND THE POSTCARD
Surf travel has changed. Or maybe I just couldn’t afford this kind of surf travel before. We don’t have to explore or think too much. We don’t have to suffer to get to the perfect surf. Someone will take care of it. I’ve never imagined myself on this kind of trip. But there is a deep sense of contentment amongst our motley crew. They’ve worked hard to get here.
Searching for Paradise in the Lowest Place on Earth.
Chris grafts ten hours a day in the blazing sun fitting roofs in Australia, comes home to look after three girls under 8 years old as his wife goes off to teach at night school, and then puts in three more hours on the admin after the kids are asleep. Everyday. He surfs, eats, sleeps and reads novels and laughs quietly at the banter over meals. He deserves this. The other guys on the boat are no different. By the sweat of your brow you’ll get to go on boat trips with your bros.
Necklace of the Gods
And while the Hamathi bobs on the tides of this hard-earned idyllic escapism, the resource that fuels the country’s economy, the reality of the Maldives shimmers as if in another dimension.
It is well known that the Maldives is the lowest country on earth, a string of islands on the verge of being wiped off the map by rising sea levels caused by global warming. Swallowed entirely by humanity’s indifference. Beneath the surface, and on page five of the international political headlines, this is functionally a one-party-state, where the nation’s first and only ever democratically-elected president, Mohamed Nasheed, a former human rights activist who brought the country’s environmental plight to global attention, is now serving a 13-year prison sentence on politically motivated charges of ‘terrorism’.
Posters and graffiti around Malé town demand the release of their ‘Climate Hero’. The social and environmental activism of the imprisoned ex-president Nasheed are a distasteful smudge on the marketing strategies of the Maldives property / political elite who run the country’s tourism industry. Politics, environmentalism and democracy really (or is that rarely) interfere with the story of escapism that Maldives tourism sells the world. The island chain seems to exist solely as a playground for our sterile nouveau-riche tropical fantasies.
On a boat trip in the Maldives you will not be challenged. The locals will not bother you in the line-up. This isn’t Uluwatu, or J-Bay, or the Gold Coast, where the residents surf better than you. There is only this endless horizontal blue line punctuated occasionally by the blips of coral and palms trees, like the pulse on a dying man’s heart rate monitor. The Maldives is like a blank canvas, depopulated and packaged for sale so you can occupy it, for a price, and fill up the space, momentarily, with your dream of paradise that invariably reflects your version of tropical surf adventure back at yourself – to be shared on Facebook later, of course. For you the national language is English (it’s actually Dhihevi) and the currency US Dollars (it’s actually the Rufiyaa). Because you, the visitor, will never see behind the curtain of this extremely private place.
Read Part 1 HERE