Words by Gero Lilleike
Photographs by Gero Lilleike / Roarke Bouffe / Dara Ahmed
I hail from a dedicated crew of Johannesburg-based surfers known as the GSA (Gauteng Surfing Association). Never heard of us? Well, now you have. Don’t forget it.
Refusing to be defined and restricted by the shackles of living in a land-locked city in the middle of the South Africa, we have developed a fine appreciation for surfing and the ocean over many years. Incredibly, we’ve racked up surf time all across the world. We’ve surfed all over South Africa, ridden waves in Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and even ventured abroad to surf swells in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Canary Islands, Mauritius, Bali, Sri Lanka and even Hong Kong. The list is growing.
In a recent escapade, a select GSA crew, including Ross McIlroy, Jerome Tozer and yours truly, unleashed themselves in the Maldives. Riding waves in an exotic location such as the Maldives is a surfing dream come true and this surf trip was hugely significant for us and more importantly, for the GSA.
We were writing our history.
Gero Lilleike, Ross McIlroy and Jerome Tozer, making history for the GSA in the Maldives. Photo: Roarke Bouffe
Our foray to the Maldives, however, wasn’t nearly as provocative or groundbreaking as that of the late Tony Hussein Hinde and his friend Mark Scanlon, two Aussie adventurers who were en route to South Africa from Sri Lanka in 1973. Tony was a natural-footer with an African dream of surfing the groomed walls of Jeffreys Bay but his dream was dashed when their sailboat ran aground on Helengeli reef in the Maldives.
Effectively stranded in the Maldives, Hinde committed himself to the islands and went on to discover and surf the very breaks that we were about to enjoy. That’s an epic tale, one that’s well documented in the film Serendipity, a story that has inspired surfers the world over.
Cinnamon Dhonveli, home to Pasta Point, one of the most consistent left-handers in the Maldives. Photo: Gero Lilleike
We were headed to Cinnamon Dhonveli to surf Pasta Point, a famed left-hander that Hinde himself loved and surfed for many years.
For a goofy-footer, Pasta Point is heaven and no aeroplane on earth could fly me over there fast enough. Our surf skill level is best described as intermediate with a hint of kookery and it remained to be seen how we would fare on the long walls of Pasta Point.
More than this, we would also be surfing another left-hander in the Maldives, Lohis, a wave known for producing big, gaping barrels. Hell yes, bring it on!
Waves for days at Pasta Point
The wave at Pasta Point delivers fun by the bucketload. Photo: Roarke Bouffe
After 15 hours of travel, our plane made its approach to Malé, the capital of the Maldives. Looking out the window below, I could see countless pristine islands surrounded by a vibrant blue sea pulsing with waves. We were amped!
A quick 30-minute boat ride got us to the Cinnamon Dhonveli resort and after checking in, we beelined for Pasta Point to check the surf. It was low tide and Pasta was laying down 4-foot runners in clear azure water that was impossible to resist in the humid heat. In the blink of an eye, we were lining up our first wave of the trip. The flood gates opened and we surfed our brains out!
Gero Lilleike riding the line at Pasta Point. Photo: Roarke Bouffe
With only 30 surf passes issued at any given time, there was more than enough stoke to go around and we gorged ourselves on the waves rolling down the point with only a handful of surfers in the water.
After lunch, we were at it again and surfed until last light. What a day! Every day should be like this!
The surf was firing the next day and there was nothing else to do but to go surfing. What a blessing!
We all dropped into bombs and had incredible rides that left us beaming with joy. Hinde was so right about this left, what a phenomenal wave!
We witnessed another magical sunset from the water and with only 3 of us on the point, it was the perfect end to another great day of surfing.
Magical sunset in the Maldives . Photo: Gero Lilleike
My barrel came the next morning. The swell had dropped off and within 5 minutes of paddling out, my first wave of the morning appeared and I thought I’d give it a go.
I was slightly out of position and I took off in the white water. I almost kooked it, but somehow I managed to regain control. I shot back onto the face of the wave and started making my way down the line. As the wave reached the inside reef section, the wall jacked-up ahead of me and all my senses stood to attention.
My time had come!
I tucked in and stepped on the gas as the lip of the wave curled over me, the sea gods blessed me with my first Maldivian barrel.
I was so stoked!
Most Joburgers will drown in a teaspoon of water and the fact that I got shacked at Pasta Point made me incredibly happy. I was beside myself!
Meeting the locals
The locals are friendly in the Maldives. Photo: Roarke Bouffe
After breakfast, we went snorkelling offshore in the hope of spotting blacktip reef sharks and turtles. We boarded Tony Montana, a boat operated by Atoll Adventures, and set off around the island. Just beyond Pasta Point, sharks and turtles are common and after a quick briefing, it was time to meet the locals…
We spotted a few juvenile blacktip reef sharks patrolling the reef and then a while later we were swimming alongside a beautiful turtle that seemed completely unphased by us. What a magical experience!
The wind turned onshore in the afternoon, effectively skunking us, but the day couldn’t have been better. My dream of catching a barrel in the Maldives had come true and my stoke pot was overflowing. I was quite possibly the happiest man on the planet.
You can easily acess Sultans and Honky’s by boat. Photo: Gero Lilleike
There’s a cranking right-hander near Pasta Point called Sultans, named so by the legendary Hinde himself and we were amped to surf it. Interestingly, the perfect left-hander adjacent to Sultans is called Honky’s, which was Hinde’s nickname.
It was still dark when we made our way to the harbour where we boarded a boat with surfboards underarm for the short ride to Sultans. When Sultans is firing, it gets crowded very quickly and by catching this early boat, it meant that we would have Sultans to ourselves for the magic hour before other boats arrived.
We arrived at Sultans at first light and the waves looked fun. There were a few bigger sets that looked tantalising and as they rolled in over the reef, the inside section hollowed out and barreled beautifully over the reef. We could only imagine what it would look like on a big swell with heaving barrels rolling down the line.
We jumped into a warm, deep blue sea and paddled over to the peak. The sunrise was spectacular!
We had a fun surf at Sultans but after 2 hours in the water, hunger drove us back to the boat. A thick storm rolled in that afternoon and the surf went mank.
It was time to look forward to surfing Lohis!
Living the life at Lohis
At the gate to Lohis. Photo: Photo: Roarke Bouffe
The storm set in overnight and it was pouring with rain. We packed and made our way to the harbour to catch a boat to Malé where we would transfer to another boat to get to Adaaran Select Hudhuranfushi resort, home to Lohis.
When we set eyes on Lohis for the first time, we were amazed, yet again, to see a perfectly structured wave. It looked super fun and we couldn’t get into the water quickly enough!
Ross catches his first glimpse of the waves at Lohis. Photo: Gero Lilleike
It’s a fast, rippable wave and on a large swell, Lohis delivers big, long barrels that run endlessly down the point. With a surf pass limit of 45, crowds are well-managed and we got it good with only a few surfers out.
Access to the wave is made easy with a slipway that serves as the entry and exit point to the surf and perhaps the most attractive facet of Lohis is that it’s a wave that caters for all skill levels and there always seems to be a fun wave on offer.
Lohis from above. Paradise. Photo: Gero Lilleike
There’s also a large viewing deck right on the break and Lohis bar and restaurant is ready to serve you an ice-cold beer and a meal as soon as you step out of the surf.
It was our last night in the Maldives and so we went bar-hopping to celebrate the trip and I even showed the locals a thing or two on the dance floor…
I woke up at 4:30 am, half-boozed and depressed. It was dark and I couldn’t sleep anymore. The reality of going home was sinking in and this Maldivian dream I had been living so fully for the last few days was quickly closing out on me, much like the wave that barreled over me at Pasta Point 2 days before.
The surf at Lohis is easily accessed via a slipway. Just watch out for urchins! Photo: Gero Lilleike.
I got out of bed and walked to Lohis to look at the wave in the dark. I saw nothing, but I could hear the wave breaking just beyond the limits of my vision. It was music to my ears. I closed my eyes and listened intently to the sweet sound of Lohis dancing in the dark.
First light came and Lohis was alive. The ocean was calm and clean with a perfect wave peeling before my eyes. My depression instantly evaporated and stoke flowed through me once more.
Lohis is known for producing tasty barrel sections on bigger days, but it’s a super fun and fast wave when it’s smaller too. Photo: Gero Lilleike
I paddled out for the last time and managed to get stuck into a few waves. Another storm was brewing at sea. The surf was short-lived as the wind picked up and the sea turned to chop. We spent the day relaxing in hammocks before packing for the long haul home.
While I was packing, I thought about all the amazing experiences we had in the Maldives. The perfect waves, the crazy-good rides, my barrel at Pasta Point, the incredible sunsets, the stunning accommodation, excellent food, the laughs with friends and all the great people we met along the way.
All these experiences filled me with immense joy and gratitude. This place makes you feel alive and being able to witness the beauty of the Maldives and to ride her swells will surely rank as one of the best surf experiences of my life.
Just as Tony Hussein Hinde’s surf dreams came true in the Maldives all those years back, so too did ours and we have him to thank for that. The GSA would never be the same again…