Despite decreasing rates, the Maldives remained on the red list of countries to travel to. The first problem was how to get there. A plan was finalized after 47 facetime, 154 screenshots, and over 1000 messenger conversations. We would fly from Manchester to Aberdeen to Madrid. Then, take a direct flight from Madrid to Male. We would then go on a 10-day “R&R” trip in Spain before returning home, tanned and full of Sangria, while avoiding quarantine at the hotel.

It was challenging. Our surf coach Mark was ‘pinged” by the NHS app just days before the trip and tested positive for COVID-19. We needed a coach for our coaching trip. We had the perfect guy in mind: Pepijn Tigges from The Netherlands. Pepijn re-entered the North Sea in his board shorts after some last-minute logistics. With a strong swell in North Male, I flew out a couple of days before the crowds to see what was available and taste it.

Day of Arrival…

Our 21st arrival was made, and guests began to land at Male International airport. Bard and Ole, both from Norway, were the first to arrive. They beam through arrivals taking line-up photos from the plane. Next came more Norwegian shredders, John and Jarand (aka Jiffy), who arrived from Lohis resort in search of rights. Next, Elad Jody, Ken, and Jody from California came to help with jetlag. Julia and Dimitri, seasoned Russian surfers who we had met in line at the chickens last year!

The crew grabbed their board bags and set off for Dhoni, which would take them to our destination for the trip. Everyone’s jaws dropped as Gurahali appeared in view. This boat stands out because of its traditional design and large size. It measures 28m in length and has seven en-suite cabins. There is also a large lounge, a bar, a sundeck, and other chill-out areas. This is the best way to surf in the Maldives.

Keep your feet in the wax…

We all wanted to jump in the water as soon as possible, so we headed north to Himmafushi for 40 minutes. The boat could anchor here while the rest of the group surf Jailbreaks or Sultans. We arrived at each break with less than ten people, and our timing was perfect between shifts”. Pepijn took John and Jarand to Jails, while I took Bard and Ole to Sultans. Julia, Dimitri, and Julia were born by Pepijn. While soaking up the travel funk, clean chest-to-head-high sets were the ideal introduction to surfing in the Maldives. At 15.55, 3 additional boats arrived at Sultans. This increased the number of people from 8-12 to close to 30. We were ready to return to the ship and sail south towards quieter pastures.

After lunch, we set sail, hoping to reach as far south as possible before continuing the cruise the following day. The ‘Shark Island,’ a nurse shark breeding ground right before a luxurious resort, was our destination. Leed, the legendary Dhoni captain, pointed out two 2.5m sharks under the boat as soon as we arrived. Everyone grabbed masks, jumped in, and could not comprehend how large and calm the animals were below. This was just before about 30 sharks came swimming toward us. This was too overwhelming for a few guests (*cough John Jacobsen*). This was their most memorable snorkeling/diving experience, only a few meters below the surface. This is more than just surfing in the Maldives…

As Chef Simon prepared our first dinner, we shared stories and made new friends. It’s something we talk about a lot when we go on trips. But it does make a difference when you surf up to 8 hours per day. Each meal is high-quality and will satisfy any hungry surfer.

After dinner, we went through a PowerPoint explaining the week’s forecast. Even though transitions between slides weren’t working due to intermittent 4G, everyone appreciated seeing the route we took across the confusing atolls. Elad stated that PowerPoint was the highlight of her trip, even though she had just swum with sharks a few hours earlier.

Surprise session…

We decided to follow the wind as a steady swell lit both sides of the central Atolls. This was a significant problem. We had low expectations when we visited Riptides South Male, as the weather was forecast to be windy and trim the next two days. The swell was too small for us as we passed the reef, seemingly right in the middle of the ocean. A waist-high set appeared in the channel moments later—next, a chest-high group. The tide was pushing in head-high locations with no current, so it wasn’t long before that. Everyone jumped in and got pumped up! The session was great! Everyone had a blast trading waves for 2 hours with no one around until the high tide ended.

There were already tons of clips, so everyone gathered around the TV to begin the video analysis. It cannot be easy to surf in front of others, especially when meeting them. A Renegade coaching trip can be a safe space. The guests had a blast laughing at each other’s mistakes, cheering on the waves, and enjoying the laughs. Pepijn’s passion and enthusiasm for teaching surfing and the sport are infectious. Each guest left the session with clear goals and plans to get back on track the next day. Some guests couldn’t sleep because they were too excited to put theory into action.

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