If you've been toying with the idea of sampling near perfection in the Maldives' Outer Atolls, then booking a trip during the mid-season may just entice. And here's why.
You see, strip out the crowd factor of the peak season, remove the saturation of charters, with less presence in the water, it means you're left with a play-park of world-class quality - ripe of solitary opportunity. True though, are the winds that accompany the quieter seasons , making for some challenging conditions, traditionally why surfers have not made the trip.
But, with an experienced guide to navigate, it is possible to find a breaking wave suitable to most ability levels, no matter the wind direction. Just ask Stumpy Wallace, a legendary surf guide who was one of the first to surf and name a number of breaks in the Outer Atolls – and now spends his time with World Surfaris, imparting expert knowledge on those who sign up.
To give a taste, we caught up with Stumpy to talk through why mid-season might just be the new peak of the Maldives.
MSW: How long have you been a surf guide in the Maldives? Why do you keep coming back?
SW: More than a decade. I was on the first trips down south with World Surfaris, it’s a beautiful part of the world, why wouldn’t I come back.?
Fair enough. What kind of waves do you like surfing?
Anything these days, the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, where I’m based, can be a bit slow at times so whenever I can get back to the Maldives, I’m usually over the moon.
Tell us a bit about the Outer Atolls, what makes them so special?
It’s a little different to the Male and Central Atolls in that, it’s a lot more exposed to southerly swells, therefore one of the more consistent spots for the entire season. There are far less resorts, charter boats down there too, meaning the crowd factor is not really an issue.
Gaafu Dhaal and Addu Atolls are some of the most remote atolls in the Maldives in general so the fact that there is also surf is a bonus. The waves are a little hollower, faster and exposed to the wind but when you get it good, there’s nowhere else in the Maldives I’d rather be.
The Outer Atolls have a reputation for only being a good option early and later in the season. Why is that?
This is a fair comment, but due to the consistent southerly direction swells, it pumps all season down there and with an experienced guide, you can navigate your way around the breaks to find one that is offshore in the prevailing trade winds.
It’s a great option because it is highly likely you will be one of, if not the only surf charter down there, so even if you might be surfing, the odd wind affected wave, there will be no one else on it.
Why should people travel to the Outer Atolls during the mid season?
There’s no denying that it can be windy, but there is a working break for every wind direction. The crowd factor is minimal and the waves can be a little steeper and faster, making it perfect for people who have maybe done the Male and Central Atolls before and want to try a different area.
I have also received a lot of feedback over the years from my guests that they would rather surf a wave slightly wind affected with no one on it compared to hassling it out with 20+ other guys in the lineup.
Why is the crowd factor minimal?
Less resorts and boats in the area and it is a bit harder to get to, usually requires a domestic flight from Male International. All easily organised by the team at World Surfaris and their ground crew operation.
What kind of waves can people expect?
A little bit more power, a bit hollower and you have to pay more attention to the tides. Unlike the Male Atolls where you can surf on most tides. Some of the waves down south are unsurfable on a lower tide.
The swell direction can often change the waves too. For example, if the swell at Beacons has too much west in it, it can just be a heavy close out…having someone who knows these tips and tricks is key to you getting waves.
What tips would you give someone looking to book a surf trip down South during the middle of the season?
Go with an experienced guide who knows the area, get a decent boat with a good skipper who will travel at night, have some good boards under your feet and keep an eye on the forecast to make sure you are equipped for all conditions. And if you can, go with a bunch of people you know you will get along with.
What about the boat people will be staying on, what's it like?
Sharifa is a wave-hunting machine that is dedicated to finding uncrowded waves down south all season. To maximise surf time, a lot of the sailing will be done at night (if weather permits) and she will be guided not only by yours truly but a local legend from down south by the name of Hoobx.
Hoobx hails from the island of Gadhoo, which is where Tiger Stripes breaks. He knows the area as well as anyone and is also a great surfer in his own right. Often surf forecasts can be wrong down South and you need someone with experience in all conditions to get the most out of these charters and the waves on offer.
How about for non-surfers?
Non-surfers are more than welcome. If they love relaxing, fishing or just being part of the great experience, then by all means, they should come along. The area is beautiful and non-surfing people have always loved their experience on the trips I have done in the past.
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