Riding on a wave of luxury

Andrew Bock goes five-star surfing in the Maldives where a personal surf caddy will paddle you to the waves.

I am a very long way from beer and the back of a station wagon in a beach car park down the coast. On my first morning in the Maldives, a resort buggy collects my surfboard and me from a five-star, over-water bungalow with 360-degree coral atoll views.

At the poolside restaurant I have a light, pre-surf breakfast of 13 fresh tropical fruits and compotes, granolas, two yoghurts and an espresso before strolling to the surf centre.

The resort surf guide, Johnny Dekeghel, escorts me to the surf boat and explains the nearby breaks while we motor 20 minutes to a wave called Sultans. He paddles me to the take-off spot and, at the end of a fine surf, takes my surfboard from the water like a golf caddy and racks it on the boat.

Each morning, I check out the surf from a four-poster bed and shower on a private balcony suspended over the lagoon. I swim at sunset, learn to ride a power ski, chat with the resort's marine biologist, dine out and savour the resort's architecture and interior design.

The Four Seasons Kuda Huraa in the Maldives is one of a growing number of five-star resorts around the world hiring surf guides and selling surf packages to a new generation of cashed-up surfers chasing perfect waves in warm water. The cerulescent sea in the Maldives is 28 degrees. It's like swimming in silk.

There are no mosquitoes or diseases. The snorkelling is incredible and there are quality waves everywhere.

The Maldives is not a cheap destination and tourists are channelled through 63 four- and five-star resorts with rooms costing $400 to $1200 a night. New resorts will soon be built on another 50 of the 1190 islands in the Maldives. The Sultans was just a warm-up.

I'm preparing for a 13-day surf cruise on a 30-metre motor yacht through the remote southern atolls. Luxury motor yachts and sea planes are the new panel vans for surfers here. Some members of the international surfocracy arrive in their own jets, Dekeghel says.

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I spend a night at Chaaya Island Dhonveli, one of two resorts with exclusive access to its own surf break. The resort limits the number of surfing guests to 30 to ensure its waves remain uncrowded. Not long ago, a group was asked if they would allow world champion Kelly Slater to come and surf for two days. The guests thought about saying no for a while.

Surfing in the Maldives was established at this resort by an Australian, Tony Hussein Hinde. He was shipwrecked in the Maldives in 1973, discovered the surf, stayed here and kept it secret for 15 years. He started Atoll Adventures and the first organised surf tours in 1992. Earlier this year, Hinde had a heart attack and died at the end of a ride at his beloved break, Pasta Point, at Dhonveli.

I walk the length of the resort, surfboard under arm, around Pasta Point, and my jaw drops. The surf is two metres and wave after hollow wave barrels down the coral reef with just four guys out.

The full-time surf guide, Dara, gestures at the wave casually. "Here it is. You can see. It's perrr-fect. Tide is perfect. Wind is perfect. Let's go." Dara paddles me out and then comes in to take some photos for my souvenir album.

The next day I take a domestic flight over the atolls to meet the motor yacht, the M.Y. Teate. Like a growing number of motor yachts in the tropics, it operates as a dive boat half the year and a surf boat from March to October.

It has four opulent decks for privacy, eight double cabins with en suites and teak and polished mahogany walls, floors and fittings. There is an entertainment system, an on-board PADI dive instructor and equipment, six staff, a chef and two boats to ferry surfers to the breaks.

Life is better after an uncrowded surf in the morning. It's even better after a cool shower on the water deck and a full breakfast served on the upper deck while a crew member cuts up freshly caught tuna for dinner.

We have two nice surfs at a break in Laamu Atoll, then decide to cross the open ocean to Gaaf Atoll, a few kilometres north of the equator.

The next two days we enjoy mellow surfs with local children who have beaming smiles. In clear water we glide over a patchwork reef and schools of bright-blue fish.

The next day, the surf drops and the wind turns onshore and the surfers all turn to philosophy and debate. We surf small waves with potential but zigzag across the atoll looking for bigger waves and winds and argue about which way to motor and how much fuel we can spend.

The surfers on board have come from Italy, Hawaii, San Francisco, Germany and Australia. They are managers, consultants and lawyers who know how to ride the waves of society as well as those in the ocean.

Some have already booked surf trips to Mexico, Madagascar or Indonesia.

I spend my last two days at Hudhuran Fushi, a four-star resort with beautifully established gardens and trees that shade avenue walks to the surf-boat jetty and its own left-hand point break.

There are 65 surfers staying here, and surfers and their partners or families can account for a quarter of guests.

There are couples on honeymoon and dads shouting sons a surfing birthday present. World Surfaris surf guide Richard Kotch says partners and families love it.

"They get to indulge at the resort, or the spa, or snorkel, dive and sail while the surfer goes surfing."

Andrew Bock travelled courtesy of M.Y. Teate, Four Seasons Kuda Huraa, Adaaran Select Hudhuran Fushi and Chaaya Island Dhonveli resorts.

FAST FACTS

Getting there

Male is the international gateway to the Maldives. Malaysia Airlines has a fare of $937, with a change of aircraft in Kuala Lumpur. Singapore Airlines costs $1309 and has a change of aircraft in Singapore. Fares are low-season return from Melbourne and Sydney and do not include tax.

Staying there

* Four Seasons Kuda Huraa Water has bungalows from $1024 a night. See http://www.fourseasons.com/maldiveskh.

* Chaaya Island Dhonveli has twin-share, seven-day surf packages from $2730 or $3955 with air fares ex east coast Australia. See http://www.atolltravel.com.

* Adaaran Select Hudhuran Fushi has twin-share bungalows from $290 a night plus $75 a day for surf guide and boat. See http://www.hudhuranfushimaldives.com.

Surfing there

The Maldives surf season is March to October, with peak swells in June, July and August but often more reliable weather in April, May, September and October. Even gentle surf in the Maldives breaks on coral reefs. It is not for beginners. M.Y. Teate 11-day surf charters start at $3245 a person for groups of 10. See www.lineupexplorers.com.

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