You may have noticed an explosion of content coming from the Maldives recently..
It started with Ex-CT ripper Michael Rodrigues. His posts were racking up thousands of views, especially when @wsl.brasil started sharing them. Then Portugal’s Miguel Blanco began releasing video after video of crystal clear tubes peeling flawlessly through an unusually quiet lineup. Finally, the world champ himself, Italo Ferreira, arrived with an all-star entourage including Jadson Andre and 12 year-old groms who surf better than we ever will. Reposting a shot of himself impossibly high above an open barrel really opened the floodgates and a video of Jaddy getting slotted over a duck-diving Manta Ray racked up over 300k views.
The man behind the lens? Ibrahim Ayaz, better known simply as Ayaz or @liquefy_maldives, who’s capturing some of the best surf content in the world right now after a 3 month hiatus of tourists entering his beloved homeland.
With tourism being the biggest industry in the Maldives, accounting for 28% of its GDP, we caught up with Ayaz to see how this strange time was for the local crew with no tourists entering the country for the first time in 47-years.
Ayaz on his commute!
How are things in the Maldives right now? What is the vibe on the ground?
People are adapting slowly to the new normal but it’s a gradual process and still feels unsettled. Since the border reopened in July, we do have a few tourists coming in everyday with the re-initiation of major airlines and gradual reopening of resorts. In the water, vibes are all time with a lucky few scoring heaps of empty waves right now!
When did the Maldives officially go into lockdown?
March 15th to June 14th 2020.
Was this a preventative measure, or because the Maldives has been badly hit by COVID?
It was more of a preventative measure due to the global pandemic. It was also because of the rise in cases within Malé’ City. COVID-19 has primarily affected our capital so far.
How was the lockdown on Malé?
It was tough on all of us, some more than the others. But it was also a chance for me to keep myself grounded, as well as mentally and physically fit. I also had loads of time to look through my old footage and pictures to work on further.
What about the other islands? Could guys still surf and how was that for you?
Very few islands outside of Malé were locked down/under monitoring and these measures were eased quickly. The surfing community wasn’t affected too much as people were able to continue surfing on the other islands and spots.
I know there are a couple of waves around Malé city, were you able to get in the water at all?
For those who are based in Male’, we weren’t allowed to surf during lockdown. But as measures ease, we are able to surf and cruise around Male’ city again, and access all of the other waves too.
Did any tourists get stuck behind?
Yes. There were a few tourists stuck behind at places like Pasta point, Thulusdhoo, Himmafushi etc. There were also tourists who willingly chose to stay behind at resorts due to the evolving situation in their respective countries.
What is your favourite wave to surf and why?
Far too many to choose from!
What is your favourite wave to shoot and why?
Personally I would say Sultans, Jails, Cokes and Machines. Though I love shooting all different kinds of waves!
A heavy left somewhere in the ‘Dives…
Have you had many opportunities to surf and shoot the other regions of the Maldives? (Central Atolls, Southern Atolls) How do they compare to the Malé Atolls?
Yes I have. I would say in the central atolls most of the waves are easier and uncrowded. Down south the waves could be be a bit heavy at average size, so it’s fun to shoot and surf. Male atoll would be very consistent throughout the season with breaks close-by and can get a little crowded too. But not right now of course.
With perfect and consistent waves on your doorstep roughly 8 months each year, there must be some local shredders! Who are the standout local surfers?
Yes, there are many! Ahmmadey, Smiley, Hoobx, Kuda Isse, Ibu, Anoof, Jatte, Ayya, Dhooni to name a few.
What changes have you noticed regarding surfing in the Maldives over the last 10 years? How do you feel about it?
Sadly, lot’s of great surf breaks throughout the Maldives have been destroyed by the Government in the name of ‘development’, and every year more waves are privatised for tourists. It’s sad to witness our natural resources being destroyed in all of these different ways. On a positive note however, there are more tourists travelling here every year to surf, which is of course good for local businesses and the economy.
Italo spending more time airborne than on the wave…
Thanks so much for the interview Ayaz. We look forward to seeing more content from you soon and catching up next time we’re over!
For your slice of uncrowded perfection, check out our upcoming Maldives surf coaching trips!