All’s swell: Surfing the Maldives

Lee Tulloch discovers a luxury resort with access to spectacular breaks and leisurely pursuits aplenty to keep land-lovers blissfully occupied.

If there’s a surfer in the family, it’s a familiar scenario – when it comes to deciding on a beach holiday, the surfer won’t countenance going any place where there’s not a wave. Trouble is, surfers are terrible snobs about waves. Nirvana, for them, is an unsurfed break that can only be reached by a trek through mosquito-infested jungle populated until recently by headhunters. If the non-surfing partner is after something less barbaric – a nice bed, some fine dining and a bit of spa therapy – a destination to please both may prove elusive. Add kids to the mix and the result can be a compromise of holiday spot.

My idea of beach heaven is the Maldives that low-lying country of roughly 1190 small islands set in clear, pale turquoise water and rimmed by powdery sands and barrier reefs teeming with fish and turtles. There are many superb resorts in the Maldives – and superb surf, too, but little of it breaks anywhere near the resorts due to the reefs.My husband on the other hand, likes nothing better than gliding through a crystal tube on a two-metre wave in the middle of nowhere with few other surfers around. He’d be miserable stuck on a spit of sand knowing there was a pumping wave somewhere ‘out there’.

Fortunately for both of us, there’s a destination that has it all. Six Senses Laamu, the third and newest of the Six Senses resorts in the Maldives, boasts one of the Maldives’ most famous breaks, Yin Yang, just outside its reef, which is accessed by a five-minute boat trip from the jetty. There’s also a decent reef break in season called ‘Backyard’, named by the resort’s surfing Japanese chef Norio Idei, and reached by paddling out from a jetty at the southern tip of the island.

When Yin Yang is ‘going off’, it’s a serious but fickle wave that can push you onto a dangerous reef, and is best negotiated by experienced surfers. It’s so legendary that ‘surfaris’ (boatloads of surfers cruising from break to break) seek it out, but mostly it’s a very local wave, and very remote, lying 150 kilometres north of the equator, and therefore uncrowded, surfed by a few Six Senses staff members and the occasional guest.

Six Senses Laamu has been at near full occupancy since its opening in April 2011. Like other Maldivian resorts, it’s popular with Chinese and Japanese honeymoon couples. But there’s also a large contingent of sophisticated northern Europeans, especially Scandinavians, escaping the cruel winters. They are enticed by the exceptional natural beauty of the Laamu Atoll, the most southerly atoll in the central Maldives.

Then there’s the charming rusticity of the 97 beach and water villas, with their silvered untreated timbers and rough-hewed design aesthetic, and witty details such as ragged ropes serving as door handles; the multitude of eating opportunities, from the rarefied cuisine of Leaf to the casual chic of Chill lounge and bar, where you can swing in hammocks hanging over the lagoon; the impressive wine cellar; and, perhaps most memorable of all, the impeccable spa treatments delivered in beautiful bird’s nest-like pods on the beach or on stilts in the jungle.

This is an excerpt from “All’s Swell” a 10-page travel feature on page 174 of Vogue Living Jan/Feb 2012. Read the rest and access details on a special Vogue Living reader offer for the Six Senses Laamu resort within the issue, on newsstands now.

Producer/text: Lee Tulloch
Photographer: Tony Amos

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