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.
The Hamathi, our home in the Maldives for 10 days.
THE LUCKY PACKET
The world rocks like a boat in the channel. I dream of coral bottom barrels, warm as a bath, the flow of swell refracting impossibly around the reef in a crazy horseshoe that leaves me facing the place where I took off.
I push under and parrot and butterfly fish scoot away. I dream of a tropical island with perfect waves, white beaches, palm trees and crystal water lapping at my feet under bright blue skies. I dream of ocean crossings, watching atolls and islands drift by and disappear into the blue horizon. I dream of perfect four foot waves, clean offshores and only a couple of friends out. I dream of sleepy islanders emerging from their houses as the relative cool of sunset makes an evening stroll with friends nothing but a pleasure after a long hot tropical day.
Disorientated, I wake up in a stripped-bare hotel room that still sways as I stagger to the shower, under a cranky ceiling fan, wondering when my world stopped being the perfect simplicity of life on a charter boat.
Our ferry, heading out into the parking lot of super yachts for the mega-rich.
WHEREVER YOU GO, THERE YOU ARE
The Maldives. Mala Deva, Sanskrit for ‘the necklace of god’. A chain of atolls strung in a vertical line just south west of Sri Lanka. The atolls mark the crater rims of ancient volcanoes. Atolls contain atolls within the atolls, circles inside circles in a kind of oversized series of cell diagrams from biology class.
Tropical perfection on one of the Maldives many islands.
We cross the street from the airport, jump on a ferry and head out into the parking lot of super yachts for the mega-rich, looking for our home for the next 10 days. The Hamathi is an 80ft surf charter, run by True Blue Travel in partnership with ‘Perfect Wave’, that earns its crust ferrying surf tourists, like me, through the uncrowded waters of the Central Atolls. The boat is perfect. Simple, yet comfortable.
Unlike the experience of being on a boat trip with a bunch of your mates, we’re a ragtag group of individuals. It’s a lucky packet surf trip. A group of strangers thrown together in a confined space for 10 days, united only by our enthusiasm for surfing and the fact that we’ve all managed to stump up the cash to pay for the experience. A benign group of white men, mostly with kids, mostly in our 40’s and early 50’s. Living the dream? A modern reflection of the old surf cliché.
Chris, the Kiwi, staring onto blue horizons.
We come to relish the drone of the motors and the gentle listing of the Hamathi as she cuts through the viscous blue, it’s the sound of not needing to be anywhere else, not having to do anything other than watch the horizon, surf that wave, drink this beer. My phone is off. I’ve forgotten to set an out-of-office thingy on my email, but fuck it, I’m not a heart surgeon, no one’s gonna die if I’m AWOL.
By the third day, I can’t remember the names of the places we’ve been and the waves we’ve surfed. It’s only by looking at my photographs that I have a vague recollection of spaces and times that are not the present. I don’t know where we are on a map and I’m not 100% sure where we’re going, because I don’t have to think about any of that.
This island was once a prosperous coconut farm, it now sits abandoned in paradise.
**Part two coming soon.