Island Life: Welcome to Reality
Having spent the first part of winter in the stunning land of Sumatra, it might seem unusual to want to leave. Perfect waves, empty lineups and a wonderful welcoming culture, however, one of the beauties of travelling across the world with zero plans and zero commitments is that opportunities can spring up all over the place. If you send out positive vibes and keep an open mind, great things can happen – and that they did.
Just as we were settling into the Indonesian way of life, a job opportunity popped up for a couple to run a surf and yoga camp over in the Maldives. We applied online and before you know it Ben and I were on the next flight to Malé.
Stepping out of the airport is the funniest experience here. Rather than the hustle and bustle of buses and taxis, there are boats and yachts bobbing alongside the airport jetties. On the boat we hopped, an hour trip over the dark and moonlit ocean to the island of Himmafushi which was to be our home for the remainder of the winter season. The following day, we eagerly explored the small island that takes only 40 minutes to walk around. The water is unbelievably clear, with baby black tip reef sharks cruising in the shallows, manta rays floating by and a right-hand reef break in front of the island’s prison called Jailbreaks.
With no guests for the first couple of weeks, the owner of ‘Just Surf Villa’ (Check them out here) invited us onboard his boat, the Blue Star surf charter vessel, where we spent 8 days navigating the North Malé Atolls with a group of Italians. I guided a few yoga classes on the roof of the ship as the ocean gently rocked us into complete relaxation. We were lucky enough to witness a lunar eclipse in the middle of the ocean 🙂
On returning to our island, it was time to get into the swing of running a surf camp. Due to it being the offseason, Jailbreaks rarely works, so a boat is required to access different reefs that are sheltered from the north easterly winds and exposed to the swell. Luckily for us, the surf camp has its own boat and the captain to help us search for these gems.
One of the best waves we found is known as ‘Honky’s’ – a really unusual, but incredible wave that starts off in a deep outer section and wraps a full 90 degrees around the small island into a fast, walling and shallow inside section. The boat drops anchor in the channel, where you paddle out towards the crystal clear blue lines. With very few people in the water, there was an enthusiastic energy from most of the surfers, especially the locals who usually wait until the high season to surf the bigger swells.
Welcome to reality
Despite the external appearance of this incredible location, the reality is that due to climate change an increase in sea temperature is causing the destruction of most of the living coral reefs, which is disastrous for the marine ecosystem and has a huge knock-on effect to the biodiversity of the surrounding areas. A group of legendary local surfers have got together to try and replant some of the coral, in an effort to help the regeneration of the reefs. Having spoken to them, it is quite disheartening to hear how they have witnessed this beautiful ecosystem slowly dying in front of their eyes, leaving grey and barren areas that were once colourful underwater gardens.
Their aim is to grow back what was lost so that their children can experience the beauty that used to be a part of everyday life. Unfortunately, it is an uphill battle because the coral can only withstand very specific temperatures, so even the new coral that is being introduced is likely to suffer as well. It is a real eye-opener and so sad to think that these amazing communities have been affected so badly by western civilisation and industry on the other side of the globe. As the average land height in the Maldives is only a metre above sea level, it’s also an uncertain for the islands future as sea levels continue to rise – again a symptom of global warming. Chatting with the guys, it is nice to hear that they still have a positive outlook on life and bright hopes for the future. With the introduction of renewable energy, cutting out fossil fuels, plastics and decreasing the carbon footprint we can all help to reduce the impacts on the delicate and vulnerable environments on the planet.
With a few more months to go and access to many different boards from guns to single fins, I am looking forward to getting as much time in the water as possible. As the salty sea woman I am, I couldn’t be more at home with these endless waves!