Review: Surfing The Maldives With 12 Strangers and Barton Lynch
“It’s so hard to get all your mates together at the same time, for the right trip,” says Ryan, aboard charter boat, the Carpe Vita, which is best described as ridiculous, or luxurious, or both. Private rooms with ensuites. Polished floorboards. Spa on the roof. That sorta thing. We’re anchored between a left and a right in the North Male Atoll of the Maldives and the two of us have decided to forego a third session for the day. Surfed out, we sit on the third level’s back deck, by the bar, and take in the sun.
“Someone can’t make that date, someone can’t get the money together by then," continues Ryan – a mid-20s plumber from Phillip Island in Victoria. "That’s why a trip like this made sense. I had two weeks off from work, why not?” We’re on a Legends Trip with 12 strangers hosted by ’88 World Champion Barton Lynch and his wife Holly. Ryan and I had never met, nor had we met anyone else on the trip, but we were fast becoming mates. A common goal of waves, and a perfect setting with a stoked out World Champ will do that to 12 surfers.
It’s early May. I was told there’s less surf here in May, and the Maldives at the best of times has a reputation for umm, let's say not being the Mentawais, but we’ve had pumping 4-6 foot, near-flawless surf for three days. We’ve sunburnt eyes, worn out paddling arms, and grins on our faces. In this moment it feels as if we could probably chill on the back-deck for the rest of the trip and be more than satisfied. Still, Barton and the rest of the guests have taken the dhoni (the charter's smaller boat) further south for a session at a playful right called Ninja’s.
The break to the right as we look out from the boat’s back deck is Cokes. Today it's not doing its thing, thankfully. Yesterday it was every bit the best barrelling wave in the North Male Atoll. Four-foot with the odd six-foot set. An outside section, an inside section, and better sets that would link the two. You'd eye it off down the line as you took off, pump pump pump and fly through the inside, maybe even pull in and scream out of the wave as it doubled over on the shallow inside reef. With three days of consistent waves surfing under the stoke and guidance of Barton, it would be the landmark day of the trip, many of us getting highlight waves of our lives. The swell seeming to grow with the same pace our development did over the trip.
The line-ups here are unlike any of the surf-tourist destinations in the world I've been to. They host a cosmopolitan mix of surfers from Spain and France and even land-locked countries of Europe, like Switzerland. There’ll be a few from Israel and the odd surf-guide from Australia who will look like Mick or Parko by comparison. So if you're used to surfing in the competitive line-ups of Australia, you’re going to get waves in the Maldives. You just are. Personally, I’m in the bottom tier of surfers when it comes the line-ups along the northern beaches of Sydney in places like Avalon, Narrabeen and Whale Beach, hell, throw me in the line-up at Snapper and I might just drift all the way to Kirra before I finally get a wave. But here, in surf that was better than the best days at home, I was picking off the sets. I felt like a star, we all kind of did.… until Barton would take off.
"Yeah, it's been good," I reply as Ryan takes a sip from his tap-beer poured by our Sri Lankan bartender. We spot dolphins in the middle of the channel. To the left as we look out is a break known as Chickens, about 400 metres across from Cokes. It’s the longest breaking wave in the Maldives. At least 250 metres long when it links together, offering fast barrel sections too. Two nights previous a few of us had paddled out at dusk. Surfers from other boats had paddled in for dinner just as it started to pump and we had it to ourselves. The sunset was an Instagram cliche, the waves were an oil-slick glass, the swell was building and did I say we had it to ourselves!? Barton was frothing out that we were frothing out that he was frothing out on just how perfect everything was. While the five of us waited in the line-up a manta-ray launched (for real, this actually happened) out of the water just a couple of metres from the surfer furthest out. One of our line-up screamed, the rest laughed and kept surfing till you couldn't see the sets breaking on your head.
One session at Cokes or Chickens or – if you anchor further south – Sultans, Pasta Point, Jailbreaks and Honkeys (the most frequented and consistent concentration of breaks in the Maldives) feels the value of three to five sessions back home – the number of waves, the average length of ride. With three sessions a day in the Maldives on a good day, you’re looking at the equivalent of 9-15 sessions a day of your average surfing… only this time in a tropical paradise. The canvas provided for honing your bottom turn and cutback, "redirects", "lip-line floaters" and all those things commentators talk about on ASP webcast is immense and forgiving. Couple that with Barton Lynch hooting from the shoulder then discussing your technique and how you can improve as you paddle back out, and the boost your surfing gets on a trip like this is unquestionable.
Ryan and I finished our beers and pondered having a third before dinner but instead we head to the roof of the boat for a jump into the ocean. From there we can see the dohni in the distance rounding Cokes as it returns the rest of the group from their surf. Tomorrow morning we'll wake and do yoga with Holly on this very same roof as the sun rises, the wind settles, and the waves turn good again. "And this could be one of the best surf trips we’ll ever go on," I say to Ryan. He nods, before leaping off the railing and into the ocean below.
The Maldives surf charter Carpe Vita with Barton & Holly Lynch is on again in May 2015 and can be booked at The Perfect Wave
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