Think Maldives, and we think of epic surf breaks, dazzling white beaches and turquoise waters. Dinners on the beach, sunset cocktails and honeymoon bliss. A place blessed with amazing marine life and friendly locals, it is on most travellers’ wish list, a must-do for couples, a definite for divers. Spend your days in search of dolphins, whale-sharks or Manta Rays, indulge in spa treatments and dance the night away. Savour the mouth-watering delights served up by award-winning chefs and enjoy evening entertainment in the most romantic settings on earth.
The last thing we think about regarding Maldives, is the wind… with good reason…
With two short monsoons seasons, usually around December/January and again June/July (which is sadly, also the wet monsoon) it experiences very little wind, has limited reliable forecasts and when it does blow, thermal winds ensure that you are still using kites in the larger ranges. It can be extremely frustrating, impossible to plan around and it’s only reliable consistency, is that, at some stage, without fail, it’s going to let you down. Here we learn the value of rescue facilities, the art of quick set-ups and learn to deal with incomplete lessons. We become experts in salvaging drowned foil kites, masters of light-wind flying and are pros at replacing leaky valves (due to high temperatures and humidity). Here, time on the water is affected by boat traffic as well as other water-users, and sessions can be cut short by seaplane traffic which, for obvious reasons, take priority.
Due to these conditions, it’s understandable why the Maldives is not rated as one of the world’s best wind destinations. For those wishing to explore the world and kite exotic locations, we would probably rank as one of the last places to visit.
However, for a small group of kiters who call Maldives home, it is a magical place with special beauty and meaning. Here we learn to embrace those short sessions which are filled with enthusiasm, joy and the collective desire to progress. Also, the sunsets are beautiful and the water is warm. As in life, we have to accept what we cannot change and appreciate what we have, and not focus on what we don’t have. That been said, here follows the top 5 reasons why kite-surfing in the Maldives is so frikkin amazing.
I once had a student who had an epileptic attack during his first lesson, something he failed to mention on his registration form. He spent 3 days in hospital without even the slightest idea of why he was in Cape Town, who he was travelling with or even where he was staying. During his seizure he managed to send a 3m kite into a full downwind, power-zone, kite-loop, which picked him up and launched him into flight that Superman would have been proud of. The landing was not pretty, head first, and he ploughed a 10m long gash in the sand till we reached his quick-release.
Kite crashes and unwanted beach drags are not uncommon when you teach in high winds. This is mainly due to the performance of small kites which respond to any small steering adjustments. They leave you with very little reaction time, and although they have a smaller canopy area, they have the potential of creating huge amounts of power, sometimes unintentionally. This is what makes learning in Maldives so much easier.
The smallest kite in our school is a 9m and most lessons will start with this size, or even bigger such as a 12m. These kites turn through the air slowly which makes for a more comfortable flying experience and lowers the risk of accidents. We use these sizes due to the low winds we experience and this increases our success rate in teaching, and ultimate enjoyment for our students. With the right conditions, it is possible to have a fully confident and certified level 3 student after 8 hours of teaching, with my personal record standing at 6 hours. Of course this depends on the student and the wind conditions but teaching in lower winds (provided there is any wind) is a much more rewarding experience than trying to survive in 25/30 knots of wind with a nervous student, whose safety you are responsible for.
There aren’t any, ever. Most sessions are around 5/6 kites with a busy day seeing around 10 kites, which is rare. Still too crowded? Take a short trip to a deserted, uninhabited island by catamaran, set-up and enjoy the fact that you are the first people to ever kite there, ever. We have one spot near our island which only works once, maybe twice a year. Very few people have had the opportunity or pleasure to kite there and we anxiously wait every year to see if this unique spot will offer us some water time. We discovered it, we named it.
About those 5/6 kiters mentioned earlier. We all know each other, we know each others’ skills. We know which trick is next on our progression wish list. We see and celebrate new achievements together, and we do so with the knowledge that everyone on the water has my back, is looking out for me and is enjoying the experience as a unit or family, sharing the stoke.
Sure, nobody enjoys non-wind days, but when it’s out of your hands you best find other activities that keep you stimulated and entertained. Thankfully nature provides us with those options…
Snorkel with Manta Rays. These gentle giants can be found it great numbers in our waters, depending on area and season. Although smaller than the Oceanic mantas, these reef mantas can be found feeding off microscopic plankton on the surface, and allow us to experience some very close encounters.
Swim with Whale Sharks. Not as easy to find as Manta Rays, which makes the experience that much more special. Thankfully the Maldives have strict regulations regarding these large ocean dwellers and some areas are controlled to limit number of boats and tourists entering.
Dolphin super-pods, reef snorkelling with turtles, catamaran sailing, shark dives, stand-up-paddling, surfing (in certain atolls), and indulgent spa treatments.
If all this is not enough, Kalpitiya in Sri Lanka has great wind and is a short 90 minute flight from us.
That is, if we not too busy fixing leaky valves and washing drowned foil kites from the last session.
Not only do we kite mostly in flat, uncrowded lagoon areas, the water is an average of 28/29 degrees Celcius. Leave the wetsuits at home. No more freezing hands and toes, no more struggling to get into, and out of, a full wetsuit. Warmer waters mean longer sessions (yeah right) and students don’t tire as quickly. Kite-boarding in board-shorts is way better and more comfortable than full 3mm suits and no defrosting needed after a kite.
What about the chance to see dolphins, turtles or eagle rays while out on the water? Done…
No waves to bash students around or lost boards in the shore-break. On top of that, the Maldives climate doesn’t change much through the year so air temperatures will remain between 26-32 degrees. Makes for a hot workout but don’t worry, the drinks are always cold.
The # 1 reason we love kite-boarding Maldives is due to the fact that we don’t get to kite much at all.
This takes the stoke to a whole new level. Every bit of wind we get, we are charged and highly motivated to stick new tricks and to enjoy each gust of wind as if it’s our last, which it may well be.
The camaraderie is high and the session will be discussed and analysed for days. In the evening there is a rush to check the online videos again to check what we did right/wrong, or to check out the options for the next trick. Lighter winds also ensure that every session is a progression session. We are able to advance and try new skills and tricks as the conditions are perfect for this.
The atmosphere in the team when the next wind forecasts come through, will be one of apprehension and excitement, with hopes that this time, the wind will not let us down. As the rest of the resort goes into meltdown due to adverse weather, one small group of people are doing an “inside dance”. We have no long car trips to endure before or after sessions, we don’t need to stop for groceries for dinner, so most days are ended only once the last daylight has faded.
We don’t get to kite as often as some people around the world, but when we do, it’s in warm, crystal clear waters, with people who have been longing and praying for wind, sometimes for weeks. When we wake up and hear those palm trees rustling, we have intense excitement for the day ahead, without fail, this is how we feel, this is stoke. That’s kite-boarding in Maldives.
after days of much anticipation and eagerly watching the forecast, this morning the predicted winds finally arrived, and the ladies couldn’t wait to hit the water. These winds have been absent for around two weeks and finally we can unpack the kites and cruise the crystal clear Maldivian waters. As we usually don’t get too much wind, we are super stoked and ready to go.
We have some kite guests on the island, as well as a visitor from our sister island Hurawalhi, so by the afternoon we can expect quite a few riders.
Our original plan was to go sail Croatia, which has many options for sailors of all levels. The bareboat charter industry is big business and the coast is a favourite destination for full-time cruises as well as short-term getaways. The prices are reasonable and all reviews describe a place of amazing beauty. There can also be wind in Croatia, so kitesurfing could also be a possibility.
We were super excited and started researching and planning the trip, which would have been a 2/3 week stay around May 2020. This would be our short break holiday and could give us an idea of what it’s like to sail solo, and live full-time in a cramped space. Before jumping head first into our venture, we had to first test the waters and confirm if this is what we both really wanted.
The process came to an abrubt halt when we got to visa applications. We are required to apply for visas in person, which is not out of the ordinary, and is considered usual procedure. However, we can not apply longer that 3 months before our intended visit. As we are living full time in Maldives, we would not be able to adhere to these conditions. There is a Croatian consulate in Sri Lanka, which is very close to us, but they cater for Sri Lankans and Croatians only. So that was the end of the Croatia dream, and we needed to find another solution and suitable destination.
This brought us to Turkey. Now we have changed our plans, and have started researching sailing options in Turkey, along the coast around places such as Marmaris and Bodrum, which apparently also has some kitesurf options. Visas are easily obtained and the bareboat charter industry is a healthy business with many affordable options.
Right now, our plan is to gain some extra mileage later this year (2019) back home in Cape Town, and then sail Turkey next year May 2020.
We have made some contact with charter companies and are considering some of their advice, such as the possibly of joining a flotilla, so that we can enjoy safety in numbers while we gain our experience.
That’s the plan in brief.
Now to do as much research as possible, plan plan plan… Looking for suggestions and input from anyone who has sailed this part of the world.
Our travel experiences have changed our vision for our future. There is so much of the world to see and experience, and together we have formulated a plan that could work for both of us.
I use the word “could” as we are not yet sure if this plan will work out, or if it’s something that we will both be happy doing. We will only continue the plan if we are both 100% in it, and I guess we will find out along the way.
We both agree that our current lives are exactly where we need to be right now. We have a steady income, travel twice a year and our apartment back home is being paid for. We still enjoy relatively good working and living conditions, and it would take something special to beat what we have now. Still, we know that we won’t stay here forever, and when we eventually go back home to South Africa, we do not want to end up with the same worries that we had before. With some luck and good planning, when we do return, we will spend our last years telling stories of adventures and misadventures, flipping through photo albums while laughing at good times experienced. Our goal in life would be to get the grand-kids off the tablets and out into the world, into the ocean, up in the mountains and through various cultures.
But we still have a few years left, so what’s the plan..? The one thing that we can agree on, is that we want a life that is not governed by any timetable. We don’t want to move on, see things, do activities or meet people according to any schedule. We want to be able to do these things at our own pace. We also want to live with as little financial commitments as possible, but I guess that’s everyone’s dream, and with our future plans, might be a little far-fetched.
The agreed plan is to sail.And while we sail, we want to kitesurf remote and beautiful parts of the world. To assist financially, we might offer this as a service if and when the need arises.
Now, we don’t have all the answers yet. We don’t even know if staying together in a cramped hotbox is something that our relationship will allow. We don’t really know what sort of challenges await in a life without hot showers, queen-size beds and cold beers. We’ve never made a lasagne in a gas oven, in a limited-size kitchen with no hot water, and a fridge that could suck your batteries dry.
It also helps to read. There are some great books available, written by people who have experienced the highs and lows of living on a sailboat.
Some highly recommended reads include the Quest series, which is available on Amazon Kindle.
You could also check out Get Real, Get Gone…
Now that our first two courses are behind us, we look forward to gaining some miles later this year, September 2019, which will be followed by our next planned adventure, to sail and kitesurf the coast of Turkey. The Turkey blueprint can be found here… We are looking at suggestions, tips and information to assist us in this venture. All input will be much appreciated. The trip and our preparations will be updated regularly.
Flysurfer recently re-launched their inflatable kite, appropriately known as the Stoke. After flying the Speed5 and Soul, appreciating the production quality coupled with first-class service, we decided to order a 9m and a 12m…
Our school now has two new family members and we are pleased to introduce you to “Cloudjumper” (12m) and “Stormfly” (9m)…
Cloudjumper was unpacked, pumped and eager to takes her first steps in Maldivian waters. She did not dissapoint and the awesome wind conditions provided a great sunset session. The kite is amazingly responsive and with the new Force bar it’s a dream combination.
Unfortunately, due to our wind conditions, Stormfly will probably have to stay zipped up and packed away for a while. The shorter flying lines are going to work out great for teaching so looking forward to that, and will keep updates coming in.