The Maldives have always been on our minds. Why not? It is a tropical paradise. Lucky for us, we got a message from a group in the Maldives called Raalhu Edhuru
who have been doing work with the local kids on different islands. They do a week long camp with local kids and get them surfing and thinking about caring for Mother Nature. They invited us to come out and be a part of it. We knew this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity so we quickly said yes. That began the planning and logistical side of things. After all, traveling 10,000 miles is no easy chore. Finally we all agreed on dates and we booked our tickets. STSF ambassador, Matthew would accompany me on this big adventure and later on, with little to no coercion, Jeff Biege jumped on. With Matthew’s sense of adventure and Jeff’s skill behind the lens , I knew we had the right crew.
Finally the time had come and it was time to go. I flew to Miami and met up with Jeff and Matthew. We boarded our Turkish Airlines flight and we were off to Islanbul, Turkey. To be honest, Turkey made me nervous because we had a bit of a layover there and we wanted to see some of the city. A few days before the trip I had checked the travel warnings and it said to reconsider travel to there.
It said that westerners have been targeted for kidnapping and assassinations. S-K-E-T-C-H-Y! It wouldn’t be the only time we had been to places that said to reconsider travel and based on Turkey’s location…I was reluctant. I’m finding as I get older I like to stay a little more low key. We all decided we would feel out the vibe when we got there and decide then whether or not to venture out.
After our 11 hour flight we arrived in Turkey. Everything was pretty smooth so far except for me getting the visas for October instead of August. Oops. It was easily fixable thank goodness. We headed out in a shuttle to our hotel. Istanbul was super cool and had a bit of a European vibe to it. It felt safe so we ventured out…but not too far:)
Next up was our eight hour flight from Istanbul to Male, Maldives. It was pretty much a breeze. Luckily I slept the majority of both flights. My travel budddies weren’t so lucky. When we got through customs the crew from Raahlu Edhuru were at the airport to meet us. They were super warm and friendly and helped us to the boat ferry to get to our hotel. It was at the ferry where we first caught a glimpse of what the water was like. Our minds were blown!
Driving through the city was insane. It reminded me a lot of Bali with thousands of scooters lining the streets. It was pretty hectic but we were so happy to be on the island at last.
The rest of the day we chilled and slept because our wake up time to catch the ferry the next day was 3:45am. We had to ferry back to the airport to catch a small plane to head over to the project site at Veymandoo, a nearby island. That is where we met the other members of the crew. Everyone was super friendly.
We boarded the plane and were all chatting it up. About the time Dhafy from Raalhu Edhuru said things are going so smoothly I looked out the window and see all of the surfboard bags heading back inside the airport. We realized that they weren’t gonna make it on the flight. We were so bummed! Every single trip we have taken always produces stress around the surfboards. We worry about them letting us on with so many, having to pay extra because they are overweight, wondering if they will even make it to the destination, curious if the airlines will destroy them in transit and the list goes on.
The plane ride over was unreal. We flew over lots of beautiful atolls. It was picture perfect.
After we landed and were all getting our luggage we were stoked until the man with the bags drove away and Jeff didn’t get his. It was a total bummer because that bag had his camera housing and all his clothes and stuff. We were promised the boards and his bag would arrive the next morning. Our fingers were crossed. Luckily they did arrive that next day:)
After some relaxation the whole crew went to surf and it was one of the most beautiful breaks we have ever seen. Every surf sesh on Veymandoo required a 20 minute boat ride to a nearby break.
The next day was our first day with the kids. There were about 30 of them. They were so cute and sweet. They all fell in love with Matthew right away. That day Matthew led the surf instruction and stretching with all the kids. Prior to that we had done a beach cleanup and made a huge pile of trash.
Photos by Dhahau Naseem
The next day with the kids was similar. We spent most of our time with them shredding. That evening we had dinner with our hosts and discussed having a surf contest for the kids the following day. Nothing serious but something to bring the kids together and get them excited to win some prizes. We agreed on a plan and enjoyed our yummy dinner. Most Maldivian meals that we had involved tuna. They catch it then lay it out in the sun to dry. There must be about a thousand ways to do tuna!
It was definitely a staple as well as rice and moringa. For those of you that don’t know, moringa is a tree with green leaves that are a super food. We first came across the tree on a stoke trip in Nicaragua a few years ago. I made sure to eat lots of it! Thanks to our host for keeping our bellies fed with some Maldivian spice!
The next day we announced to the kids we would be doing the surf contest after watching a documentary about plastics in the oceans and doing a proper beach cleanup. They were excited but their faces grew dim as they watched the documentary about how we are killing our planet.
And as I watched at the amount of plastic and trash accumulated on the island I became very overwhelmed and saddened at where we are as a society who absolutely neglects the most important thing we have. I kept asking people what is the solution and no one really knows or has one. I still go back to our time we spent on Tanna in Vanuatu with Nev Hyman. His group, Nev House
, takes plastics and turns it into composite material they construct houses out of that can withstand cyclones. I do keep seeing companies starting to follow suit and making impacts. That stokes me out. But, we have to have enough of these amazing humans doing this to offset what everyone is creating. For sure we must reach the young children and teach them to be mindful of the issue. Hopefully the kids we worked with can make a difference and feel empowered to say something when they see someone making bad choices that affect Mother Nature.
So…the surf contest. Matthew and I got to be judges. It was epic. We got to give prizes for first, second and third in each division as well as fun prizes like longest ride, best wipeout, best style, etc.
At the end of the day for the closing ceremony I got to say a few words and we donated some surfboards to the kids on that island.
Photo by Dhahau Naseem
Of the 12 boards we brought for the kids, four boards will be used on Veymandoo. One board went directly to Shaafi, a local kid who has been progressing rapidly and shows a serious desire to shred. Another board went to the island school and two boards will be kept at the host house. Kids who participated in the program will be allowed to use the boards.