The Maldives tends to conjure images of palm-fringed islands with white sandy beaches surrounded by azure gin-clear waters and brightly colored reefs teeming with fish, however, these spectacular islands and atolls also provide some of the best surfing waves on the planet. From the crowd-packed, but perfect breaks of the Northern and Malé Atolls to the off-the-beaten-track, fast-forming, clean barrels of the Southern Atolls, here are some of the best surfing spots in the Maldives.
Photo credit: www.lalumitravels.blogspot.com (Ninja’s, Malé Atolls)
When to Go
The best time of the year to head to the Maldives to surf is during the Southern Hemisphere winter, which lasts from March until October. The best surfing waves in the Maldives are created and alleviated by the North-East and South-West monsoons, which bring off-shore winds that create beautiful, peaking waves for most of the day. The North-East storms occur mainly from March until April and bring optimal surfing conditions to the Southern Atolls in the archipelago, while the South-West monsoons, which occur between May and October, provide outstanding surfing the Northern and Central Atolls.
During this ‘surfing season,’ the largest waves are most likely to occur between June and August, caused by storms in the Roaring Forties bringing big swells to the archipelago, similar to those found in Indonesia around the same time. Swell is amazingly consistent during this time of the year, with the average wave measuring two to eight-foot in height. The typical Maldivian wave curls up like most point breaks and boasts workable corners, cozy pockets and beautifully long rides with very sets rarely walling up or closing out in the channels. The waves break on mostly dead reef, and there is very little chance of coming into contact with the reef unless you are surfing at low tide, which isn’t recommended.
Where to Go
Home to 26 geographical atolls and more than 1,200 islands, the Maldives offer plenty of spectacular places to surf from the northern atolls to the south. The entire archipelago can be divided into three different surf areas: the Northern Atolls (also known as the Malé Atolls), the Central Atolls, and the Southern Atolls, and all provide excellent surf with different characteristics such as swell size, wave consistency, and popularity. While the country boasts many incredible surfing spots, few are easily accessible by simply paddling out from the resorts. Many of the best surfing spots in the Maldives are on the outer reefs and on the southeast sides of the atolls and can only be reached by boat. The Northern Atolls also tend to be more crowded than the Central and Southern Atolls, especially between May and August.
Photo credit: www.soulsurftravel.com (Thulusdhoo Island, Malé Atolls)
The Northern Atolls (Malé Atolls)
Originally “discovered” by shipwrecked surfers in the 1970s, the Malé Atolls tend to attract the most crowds due to their clean and pure waves, and easy access from the Malé International Airport. They have become an integral part of the international surf scene, as well as the central hub of the burgeoning surf scene in the Maldives.
The Northern Atolls are divided into the North Malé Atoll and the South Malé Atoll, both of which offer an even mix of left and right-hand breaks, especially in the prime summer months, when south swells are abundant between April and October. Although considered to be transition months with west or southwest winds blowing, March and November can surprisingly good for surfing as many of the surf breaks in Northern Atolls reef chain are well protected and will remain clean.
While the North Malé Atoll tends to have the longest rides with both lefts and rights regularly stretching well over 300 feet, it also tends to draw bigger crowds, and famous surf breaks are more often than not, packed. Crowding can sometimes be an issue due to the relatively easy access of the waves, with nearby resorts shuttling surfers out to the breaks in this rich wave zone. The South Malé Atoll, however, is closer to Hulhumale airport than the North Malé Atoll and doesn’t get nearly as crowded with just as spectacular waves.
The best surfing spots in the Malé Atolls of the Maldives are:
Named after the island resort of Lohifushi, Lohi’s boasts a consistent left-hand wave that breaks in two sections, but can also form a perfect long wave that barrels across the reef if the swell is big enough. Ideal conditions call for swell from south-east and winds from the north-west, but it can also work well with north-west and north-east winds. The internationally acclaimed WQS O’Neill Deep Blue’s competition is held here every year.
Located right opposite the public jail on the island of Himafushi, Jailbreaks, also known as Prison Point, features a reasonably fast, perfect right-hand wave that begins slowly and builds in size and speed as it goes, boasting long walls and three tube sections.
Photo credit: www.themaldivestravel.com (Jailbreaks, Malé Atolls)
Only accessible by boat, Riptides was named for the powerful currents that can sweep through the channel. The break offers a beautiful 500-foot long right-hand break in the middle of a channel and is ideal for both long and short-boarders, as well as intermediate surfers who can carve into the wall of the wave.
Located off the uninhabited island of Villingilimathi Huraa and across the channel from Thulusdhoo Island, Chickens offers long left-hand waves ranging three to ten feet in size with two sections providing easy barrels on the second section of the wave. On big swell days with perfect wind conditions, surfers can enjoy rides of up to 1,600 feet long, making this one of the best waves in the world. Named for the chicken farm on one of the nearby islands, Chickens is ideal for intermediate or experienced surfers.
Close to Thulusdhoo Island and named for the Coca-Cola factory on the island, Cokes offers a spectacular hollow and tubular right-handed wave that breaks over a shallow reef. This wave is recommended for intermediate or experienced surfers only.
Accessible from the shore and very popular with locals, Guru’s is a smooth left-hand wave that picks up plenty of swell and reaches perfection with prevailing north winds and big southern swells. This wave is a comfortable ride and recommended for all levels of surfers.
Ideal for beginners and long-boarders, Ninjas or Piddlies, is a slow, right-hand wave that is best surfed in west to northwesterly winds and moderate swell, as swells larger than four feet tend to ruin the break.
Located off the island of Thaburudhoo, Honky’s offers a super long, fast left-hand wave that can double in the second section to over six foot and is an ideal spot for winter surfing in the northeastern winds.
Hailed a ‘Goofy’s’ (right foot surfers) Natives/Foxy’s is a hollow and fast right-hand wave that breaks over a shallow coral reef for about 500 feet with many opportunities for clear blue barrels. If you’re fast on the backhand, this is the wave for you.
Photo credit: www.perfectwavetravel.com (Natives/Foxy’s, Malé Atolls)
Exclusive to the guests staying at the Chaaya Island Dhonveli Resort, Pasta Point is a fantastic left-hand wave with two sections, namely Macaronis due to the bowling type of wave formed, and Lock Jaws, which only works on big swell days and dumps into very shallow water over the reef.
Located off the island of Thaburudhoo, Sultans is a super-fast wave that works in big, long southern swells and westerly winds with a beautiful right-hand curl and excellent consistency.
The Central Atolls
Situated between the Northern and Southern Atolls, the Central Atolls offer a longer surfing season than its counterparts with good waves around from March until November. Less crowded than the Northern Atolls, the Central Atolls have some world-class right-hand breaks with consistent surf and pristine barrels that are protected from all wind directions and are more often than not empty, although Thaa and Laamu Atolls have seen increasing crowds as surfers looking to escape the northern crowds. Thaa Atoll’s top surf spots include Finnimas, Malik’s, Inside and Outside Mikado, while Laamu Atoll boasts Yin Yang, Tsumani’s, and Mikado.
The best surfing spots in the Central Atolls of the Maldives are:
Consistent, thick and best in a strong southeast swell, Yin Yang begins as a friendly wave with a beautiful wall and becomes more aggressive with a long, sturdy inside section that can be punishing, but can produce some incredible hollow barrels. Outside the reef, Yin Yang has a mellow wall with safe, friendly rides in deep water.
Photo credit: www.maldives.com (Yin Yang, Central Atolls)
Aptly named, Tsumani’s is the largest of the left-hand breaks on the eastern side of the Laamu Atoll and features a right swell angle that tends to close out due to the shallow reef on which it breaks. Well-protected from westerly to northerly winds, the break offers three amazing sections with hollow barrels on the first and last sections.
Pure perfection in big swell conditions, Mahibadhoo has three sections – the outside, the corner and the inside – and makes for a fun wave when the swell is right, and all three parts connect. The reef is straight and shallow and creates impressive barrels just after take-off, which run into more extended heavier barrel sections further down the wave.
Muli features two sections to the wave – the Inside (F1), which is a very fast, hollow and barreling right-hander with long walls and is well protected from the southerly winds, and the Outside (Mushrooms), which is a right-hander with long walls that need slightly bigger swell.
Located off the island of Hirilandhoo, Malik’s is best surfed with a large southwest swell and winds from the southeast, producing a beautiful left-hand break with long speedy walls and big barrels.
A powerful right-hand wave with fast, hollow walls and great barrels, Mikado is the most consistent wave in Thaa, but not as protected from the wind as other breaks. Outside Mikado will give the ride of a lifetime with high tide.
Photo credit: www.mahalosurfexperience.com (Mikado, Central Atolls)
Located off the northeast tip of the atoll, Isdhoo, also known as Langon Bank, is a rarely surfed right-hand break that is protected from southerly winds and comes alive in big south-southeast swells.
One of Laamu Atoll’s best breaks, Finnimas is a shallow fast left-hander with some great barrels.
The Southern Atolls
Known as being the last frontier when it comes to the best surfing spots in the Maldives, the Southern Atolls are made up of Huvadhoo and Addu Atolls and are home to some of the most remote areas on the planet, many of which are only accessible by charter boats. Being that much further south, the Southern Atolls have an even longer surfing season than the Northern and Central Atolls, with excellent surfing conditions from February right up to November.
Huvadhoo Atoll, also known as Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, is known to have the best conditions for surfing in the Southern Atolls due to picking up more swell than any other atoll in the Maldives, and from all directions. Good breaks here include Beacons, Castaways, and Tiger Stripes, with Beacons and Tiger Stripes being hailed as being the most impressive and powerful waves in the archipelago, barreling hard and fast on to a shallow fringed reef – not for the faint-hearted! Addu Atoll’s best breaks include Approach Lights, Madihera, and Shangri-La.
Due to political reasons, a special government permit is required for boats to travel here, the first of which only began in 1993, leaving many more to explore and discover. The breaks in the Southern Atolls remain among the most idyllic and secluded, maintaining the pristine beauty of a remote island paradise complete with mind-blowing waves.
Photo credit: www.surfatoll.com (Madihira, Southern Atolls)
The best surfing spots in the Southern Atolls of the Maldives are:
Beacons is only for advanced surfers and the brave-hearted! The break has an unforgiving shallow reef which can be broken down in south-west swell, but is deadly in southeast swells when peaks slam straight onto close-out sections of the coral.
This break is paradise found in an idyllic setting off an isolated island surrounded by plenty of marine life. The wave is a soft right-hander that can be surfed on all tides, but is best surfed in high tide when the swell is bigger than four feet due to its shallow reef.
Tiger Stripes or Rockets
Another one of the Southern Atoll’s best waves, Tiger Stripes, also known as Rockets, is a fun left-hander with long workable walls and a smooth inside tube section that breaks out easily in the channel. This break is super-consistent and can be surfed on all tides, although it can be challenging in a strong swell. Antiques is a break to the left of Tiger Stripes that is always a couple of feet smaller and way more forgiving.
Photo credit: www.youtube.com
Named after one of the Maldives’ newly built resorts on Viligili Island, Shangri-La is an odd right-hand reef break that wraps around the east coast of Viligili Island in small westerly swells.
Voodoos or Blue Bowls
Protected from the southwest and westerly winds, Voodoos or Blue Bowls is a very long right-hander with four to six feet of height that provides a comfortable ride with pleasant sections in all tides and swells.
Article by Mia Russell©