Winter 2021 passed. Those who follow me on Instagram definitely noticed that I switched my adventure travel storytelling to a more fast consumption medium. Instagram Stories. Thou it was not because of a lack of will to write proper adventure articles but more on life getting to busy in the real life department. Since my last post, a lot has happened in the world and my world at home changed considerably as my mom got diagnosed with cancer and my dad had a stroke. Fun stuff like the blog did not seem to much of a priority anymore, nor did I have the time for it with the “grown up dystopian reality” creeping in hard. So winter passed under lockdown. Still a considerable time spend on snow despite all the hardships :). But I was missing something for a while now. It had been two years since I rode a proper wave on a proper lineup. The surfer part of my sole was biting me hard again. I was getting to the point where I dreamed of empty lineups in Indonesia. Time to find a solution for the itch… Thulusdhoo Maldives…
It had been ages since I surfed. After paddling in the local lake with my Sturder Egg during the third of this summers endless heatwaves, I was deep in thought about lives problems. Moms treatment was not going to great. Dad was also kind of slow and me and my brother pitched in with helping solve life’s basics four our aging parents. Also the whole “wow we are not immoral” had hit our little world out of nowhere with moms diagnosis and the connected life changes.
The part of me that had always yearned for the adventures was also getting restless and suffocated in all this realness. The whole series of lockdowns, travel restrictions and general COVID19 wariness had put a dent into my social life so big it was hard to fill. My friends in Austria, Germany, Italy and all over the world were all there on chat but worlds away. Some I had not seen for over a year, some even longer. My small hometown bubble was a little distraction, but the mindset here is generally not mine. It was fun,…. but it also wasn’t.
I had spent a considerable amount of holiday time off from chaotic work, screeched thin with to little people and to many tasks, taking care of my parents. In all I had about two weeks left. With inoculations done and access to PCR testing, easing flight restrictions and good deals I was ready to go back to … Indonesia. So I wishfully thought. Just when I wanted to book Indo turned into COVID hell and is as of now still completely closed off, unless u have a few thousand dollars around for a visa and endless remote work options.
Then I turned to the Canary Islands. It was the last destination I had surfed.. a quick stint for 10 days back in 2019, when flights were almost free and the world was a different place. It was in April when swell was good there. Now at a low point it seemed like a compromise I had not much choice but to make.
As life would have it then, on an evening while browsing Instagram my buddy Boris posed a GoPro shot of a good wave. Just for fun I asked where he was at. The answer was prompt. The Maldives. Sure I had seen crushing waves form clips of Sultans and Cokes, world renowned barrels of endless joy. But I never actually checked where they were or imagined myself going there. The Maldives, a fancy Barbados like destinations for rich people who love private resort islands, spending thousands getting drunk on endless buffet and booze, honestly were not on my radar. I had seen documentaries about housing problems, trash and the impending doom of rising sea levels for this archipelago paradises, but never considered surfing there.
After quizzing Boris about cost and conditions my mind was already set. Emirates offered a nice and affordable flight (with surfboard included) directly from Vienna to Male over Dubai for 750 EUR. So I would fly to the Maldives, take a speedboat to the little north Athol Capital of Thulusdhoo, park my ass at Batuta Surfview for two weeks and just surf whatever I could. I did not care about the swell, wet season etc.. I did thou know that wet season is the time to be there. This time I would hit the swell window at the peak, but would my rusty surf skills hold up?
Everyone who is somewhat serious about wave surfing knows. Not having proper waves close by, one can prepare only so much. Sure I had a pretty productive winter season. In fact I had not made so many Hight meters skinning or climbing up mountains on foot ever, period. After my weird vertigo incident in 2020 and the shit at home my training routine had been reduced to basically Enduro bike laps on my home hill or fast hikes up some mountain, sweating and puffing like a dragon. Lots of headaches, migraines and all the aches of getting older did not help here at all.
But I was determined to at least do something as to not drop into a lineup like a complete noob. Reading online about the spots my impression was: “This is indo light”. That I thought, I could partly managed, even if I had not been in the water for a while. So I started training. Climate change has had a good effect on windsurfing here close to home. On a manmade lake close to my home wind was blowing adamantly and more often then ever before. So I started with a lot of windsurfing sessions, mixed with just swimming or paddle training on my shorty on the lake for an hour. Sure saltwater is less buoyant then seawater but that would make for more of an advantage in training.
Since I was missing time on actually standing on the board I did a few days of laps at the local wake lift at DOOPLEK. But that would not do alone. After all, the position of weight is completely reversed when surfing a wave. I had seen adds for the recently newly opened real fake Kelly Slater technology wave park in Sion. But with prices at 120 EUR an hour for a few sets of waves and the distance to drive, that was not an option.
Thankfully we live closer to Salzburg and THE RIVER WAVE as an alternative is only 2.5 hours away. So on a Friday, with overtime at work to kill I sat my ass into my car and did a whole day of “being on a wave” just to remember how it felt. After that day I was exhausted for a whole weekend. But there was no more time for another session. Four days later… I was on the plane… Before that one thing thou that I still had to do is get my beloved Matterhorn, my Struder performance shortboard, a Mikalla Jones Egg 6″0 with 35 l of volume, fixed and ready for the coming adventure. Thanks to Taja for the help here :).
COVID TRAVEL IN 2021
In the old world this would not have been a section but a mere sentence saying “I went on the plane”. But with the pandemic still raging travel these days needs a lot of testing, paralegal level of tracing regulations and time. I was lucky that I had been inoculated with two doses of vaccine a month prior, eliminating a headache of additional papers. To get to the Maldives, I would need a PCR test no older then 72 hours, my Vaccination passport, and a filled out digital arrivals form for the Maldives. That one has you fill in everything except for who your grandmother is and when the last time was you had been to the bathroom. On a sunny Saturday in August 2021 I set off to Vienna by car to start my solo adventure into the unknown.
In Europe we all take our papers very seriously. In fact, we take them so seriously that we never check any of them. To my surprise the first check was at the Emirates desk on the validity of all my paperwork. It was more throughout then the Austrian border crossing, or the Vienna airport passport control. I was also a bit pissed to learned that in Slovenia a PCR test is insanely expensive… 93 EUR, compared to 60 EUR at Vienna or 52 EUR in the Maldives.
I must say that the other bodies of control I went trough on my 14 hour transit were as they should be. Checks in Dubai, and upon arrival in Male were all on point. No complications all checked properly. It made me feel a bit more secure, thinking that at least here, people seem to take this thing seriously.
As a side note, my return was completely check free. Only the Maldives had a specific rule that while you were in a guesthouse one had to get tested PCR to be allowed to leave the country. In Austria and Slovenia on the way back I just walked trough customs and passport control as if there never was a pandemic. A pandemic that is again spiraling out of control with us pretending to be back in the lost old world.
A MAGIC LITTLE ISLAND NAMED “TULUSDO? THULUSDHOO…”
If you managed to bear with me up till now here is where it really gets interesting. I had landed and made it out of the airport. I was a bit late and was worried that I would miss the only speedboat left to take me to my island on that day. The only info I had gotten over WhatsApp was that it would dock at “where everyone smokes”. Well when you get out of the Airport the whole boardwalk there is “where everyone smokes”. Welcome to the Indopacific I thought :).
Here I had to employ a specific skill I thought I had lost a long time ago. Ask someone I did not know where something is… It felt weird. In the days of google maps and omnipotent reliance on outside real time data sets… I quickly got an answer. Time of arrival was also sometime after 16.00 hehe… my German punctuality made me nervous, already seeing scenarios of trying to find a place for a night in Male, a place I was told to avoid.
Then a surfer dude, approached me. A nicely browned young Italian whos name I forgot saw me with my Ferrino outfit and backpack and asked if I was also going to Thulusdu? I replied Thulsdoo? Maybe. As it figures we quickly realized that it was the same island and started talking. It felt weird. Talking to strangers with the same goals. Then another dude with a bigger surf bag approached us. It was a Brazilian guy… the best surfer of us three, me defiantly trailing last. His name was Rodrigo and we would become good friends over the coming weeks.
Finally the speedboat arrived. RIVERBOAT II its name said. Crewed by local cool dudes with black sunglasses and a distinct Rasta vibe. We knew now that this was the right boat. As for the name I thought. River… funny in the middle of the ocean one names his business river boat. As the boat speeded in messy swell I was taking it all in. It felt as if a part of me I thought lost had been reawakened.
We arrived at the dock of Thulusdhoo where the guys from our accommodations were already waiting to pick us up. We all stayed at different places but, since the island is like like a kilometer long and half wide it was all only a few minutes walk from one place to the other. I was greeted by my friendly landlord and shown to my room. For 45 EUR a night I had a full double bed with AC and a lavishly big bathroom with hot cold desalinated water. It was awesome. The roof of the little guest house was a giant open space where you could do yoga in the sunrise and sunset.
From my breakfast table I would be looking out at my two home surf spots Cokes, named after the Coca cola bottling plant of Thulusdhoo and Chickens, on the next island, where a chicken farm used to be. The chickens thou left and a fancy resort sprung up. More on the spots in the next post.
I took a stroll around my new home. The Maldives are a Muslim country. This being a local island and me being respectful I made sure not to ware boardshorts that expose the knees. The women of the island were wearing traditional burkas or a bit more colorful progressive once. It was kind of in line with semi conservative Indo. The dudes were pretty regular islanders of the east sea. I soon saw that any type of boardshort would be ok. Most of the locals speak a good English and there were more shops on the island then I expected. I ran over a ton of little eateries that I would try on fun outings over the two weeks.
At the south side of the island. Some kind of expansion project had extended its side. Its artificial barren origins were blatantly obvious, with a few nice white beaches nested in between. They were completely empty. I took a long chill bath to clear my soul of all the stress from the last months. It felt as if it was just flowing away from me. The sun was very strong and I had to be careful not to get too much of a sunburn. Being close to the equator getting a golden tan is almost guaranteed. If you dose it correctly you can avoid looking like a lobster. I also found a little shop run by a girl from Nepal selling all the sugary Milka chocolate and legendary Häagen-Dazs ice-cream in a ton of flavors I could ever want.
At the north west point of the island close to the fish market a long pier was build. This was the place where the locals fished when on shore. It was time for sunset and I sat down and watched the stingrays play with a ton of colorful fish lining up to eat a bit of lure that was being thrown into the water. There must have been about 20 stingrays there at once. A beautiful spectacle for sunset I had also never seen before.
It was time to go to bed. The next day would bring the surf. I was eager. After the long flight and the travel half way across the world my mind felt oddly at ease. I was away from all the trouble and hustle. It was time to live a little again. And the waves were calling out. The swell forecast was insane for the next week 🙂 Finally some good news for a change… Tune in next time for the second of three parts on my little solo non skiing adventure far away from home that in retrospect, seems like it was on a different planet in a different dimension, in a different time…