In the late 1970s, Tony Hussein, an Australian nomad in search of surf to discover, was shipwrecked on a reef 30 miles from the Maldivian capital of Male. After a few stalled months, Hussein built his own dhoni, sailing him through the atolls, until he stumbles upon a perfect A-frame that breaks the tiny island of Thanburudhoo. Satisfied, it was then that Hussein said to himself: “my road ends here.

Since Hussein’s discovery, stories about the Maldives’ untapped surfing potential have spread. And, for those looking for a tropical surf trip during the COVID-19 era, the Maldives is one of the only options available. Fiji? Not easy unless you are a citizen. Indo? Quite a few hoops and an expensive visa to navigate. The Maldives, however, is open to visitors from the United States with just a negative PCR test 72 hours before departure. And what’s more, as the peak surfing season approaches (April-October), the crowds are thinner than ever.

To learn more about how to get there, what to expect and where to stay, we spoke to WaterWays travel experts Mike Tan and Sean Murphy, a surfer who recently spent a month there, and the Surfline Forecast Team.

Photo: Dara Ahmed

Getting There

Despite the distance, which is considerably remote for American travelers, the Maldives has the fewest obstacles to overcome to get there. The only requirement is a negative COVID-19 test. Things are a bit trickier for visitors from Australia or parts of Europe, but if you’re from the United States, this is one of the easiest tropical surf destinations on the table in this regard. moment. Just prepare for a long plane ride.

“It’s really one of the only places that’s open,” said Mike Tan, “without jumping through so many hoops to get there. One of the only things you have to do to get there is a test. COVID-19 72 hours before you arrive It’s a lot less complicated than, say, Indo to get that special visa and the exorbitant amount of money.

“For all those people who go to Tavarua or to the beautiful surfing stations in Indo or other places like that every year, and they are looking for that kind of experience, there really is no other option for the moment, “said Sean Murphy. “The Maldives really are the only place. And in the Maldives, Cinnamon Dhonveli is one of the best options for quality surfing, convenience, and consistency.

READ MORE: Maldives Travel and Surf Guide

Photo: Dara Ahmed

Surf season

For a full breakdown, here’s Jonathan Warren from Surfline:

“Made up of around 1,200 islands stretching south across the north-central Indian Ocean, there is almost always somewhere in the Maldives offering quality surfing any day of the year. However, there are a few big climatological aspects along with swell and wind to consider when planning a trip to maximize your chances of scoring.

“These islands get swells all year round, but expect May through September to be the most active months for more frequent and stronger pulses – the greatest chance of seeing good surfing. -above. This is due to the fact that winter storm activity in the southern Indian Ocean is at its highest during this time of year. As the number and strength of these storms decrease during the southern hemisphere summer, the chances of a strong swell will also decrease, particularly from December to February. However, you still have about a 50% chance of finding something in the ‘entertainment zone’ (chest to head or so), but you may need to look around the islands a bit. more to the south. Keep in mind that it’s not just about winter storms in mid-latitudes. On a more regular basis, the short to mid-period SE-SSE swells that breed from the high pressures near Australia are among the best producers of surf in the region.

“The other important factor to take into account is the seasonal monsoon winds. From around May to November (the rainy season) the prevailing winds are westerly, often blowing from a more favorable northwesterly direction – at least for the majority of popular places on the eastern side of North Male Atoll. . Then, from mid-December to February (the dry season), the prevailing winds shift in an opposite direction, to the east – which is on land for most places in northern Male. During the months between these two seasons – March / April and November – there will often be light winds and glassy conditions. In fact, overall some of the best surfs of the year will be in shoulder seasons. “

TL; DR: The Maldives have waves all year round, but May-September is your best bet.

READ MORE: The five best surfing weeks of the year in the Maldives

Photo: Dara Ahmed

Waves that you will surf

“We often call the waves in the Maldives ‘Indonesia Lite’,” Murphy said. “It’s kind of like the surf you get in Indo, but generally smaller. It’s really clean, crystal-clear reefbreaks. The waves don’t are generally not very thick.You should expect to ride waist-to-chest on the smaller waist, 10ft faces with the occasional double-headed swell.

And there are a handful of waves to choose from – the right surging at Sultans, tear-off left spikes at Lohi’s and Pasta Point, and many more a short boat ride away.

“It’s got a bit of all types of waves – from ripable to barrel,” Murphy continued. “Lots of waves offer both super tear-off walls and barrel sections. But barrels are not flat, knotty barrels. It caters to a wide variety of surfers, as long as the expert surfer doesn’t expect Pipeline barrels. For example, Gabriel Medina was right there and he was tearing him to pieces. “

WATCH LIVE: Vodi, Maldives Surf Cam

Photo: Dara Ahmed

Crowds

Of course, crowds everywhere looked a little different during COVID. While your local spot may see crowds neck and neck – everyone works from home = more time to surf – most international destinations, which mostly see foreign surfers in the lineup, are nearly empty. And if you stay at Cinnamon Dhonveli, you first have dibs at Pasta Point.

“They have exclusivity and a limited number so it’s rarely crowded,” Murphy said of Pasta. “It’s 30 maximum. But because you can surf anytime of the day, and there are a bunch of other spots to go to, during all my time surfing Pasta, I don’t think I’ve surfed with more than eight. guy in the water. The wave can comfortably hold a dozen people when in operation.

Kurt Arnold, a Huntington Beach-based surfer who was there in October, practically had it to himself:

“Normally, they allow 30 surfers [at Pasta]. There were only nine others on the island. Normally there are 300 people on this island. There was hardly any crowd. Half the morning guys took the boats to other places. It was day after day surfing on my own. I’m a clumsy, so I was left alone and surfed my brain.

TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Regional surf forecast for Maldives

Photo: Dara Ahmed

Safety Precautions

The trips in general at the moment are a bit sketchy. In fact, it’s not recommended at all during a pandemic. But if you are going out of town, rest assured knowing that the staff at Cinnamon Dhonveli are taking every precaution.

“The staff on the island are wonderful,” said Arnold. “For those who are worried that it’s safe, they keep it really clean and sanitized. They all wear masks and gloves, they disinfect your bags. They really stepped it up.

And once on the island, contact with the outside world is minimal.

“One interesting thing about the Maldives is that the resort islands do not have villages or domestic populations,” Murphy said. “It’s just the staff and the guests. The staff are very well tested, and they are not allowed to go back and forth between Malé and their villages.

READ MORE: How to travel safely during COVID-19

Aerial view of Dhonveli cinnamon. Photo: Dara Ahmed

Accommodation

Besides the world-class waves, what can you expect on the island? Let’s just say that Cinnamon Dhonveli’s accommodations are good to epic.

“They redesigned the sunset bar and the design is awesome,” said Arnold. “It’s that really cool art deco style, kind of like the design of the Empire State Building. They also redone each garden bungalow and ocean bungalow. Everything is top of the line – a brand new air conditioner, new mattresses, very nice linens and towels. I would call it five stars.

And when it comes to surf trips, location is key.

“You can see Pasta Point right from the hotel,” Murphy said. “Then they have a boat for the sultans at dawn. Typically, they’ll have 30 to 45 minutes without the Sultans really getting really uncrowded before the other boats start to appear. Sultans may be 1,000 yards away; it’s super close. And on the other side of Sultans is a southpaw breaking the same reef. With all these waves so close, this is one of the most accessible surfing destinations in the world.