Contrary to surfers’ beliefs, waves are not at the forefront of non-surfers’ thoughts. There are a million examples of amazing waves being ruined by development, and there are a million examples of surfers fighting to keep their waves pristine. And right now in the Maldives, people are being thrown in jail for it.
In Malé City, the capital of the Maldives, a bridge is under construction. It aims to connect the city with Hulhulé airport, and local surfers are convinced that it will destroy at least four really, really good waves.
“The problem we’re facing is the fact that there’s a bridge being built right on top of our home break in Malé,” wrote Ayko Aiham in an email. “We’ll probably be losing a lot of sections of our world class home break due to the huge pillars of the bridge that would connect Malé to Hulhule International Airport.”
According to the Ministry of Housing, the bridge won’t change anything–a sentiment that doesn’t seem likely, given the fact that massive pillars supporting the bridge sit just a few feet from the main wave in Malé. And that’s not the only issue: “There are also plans for an industrial zone right on top of our hidden secret wave that only the locals know called Rats,” Aiham continued. Rats is a shallow, hollow left-hand break. “Due to the sea wall being built around Malé, the impact zone of Rats sits just a few feet away from concrete tetrapods.”
The main break in Malé consists of three completely different waves, each of which, according to Aiham, can give you the best ride of your life. “There are the long rights and barrels of Second Reef, the steep, intense drops of Dhekiru, and the hell barrels of Padan and Backdoor,” he explained. “Second reef and Dhekiru almost sit at the same place, but is often called Dhekiru when it gets more of a wedge type and breaks as a twin peak.”
The Maldives Surfing Association is leading the charge against the development. They’re not, however, trying to stop the construction. Instead, all they want is proof that it won’t destroy the waves, as the government is promising. “The surfers are worried that the government has not provided reassuring documents that show that the waves of Raalhugandu will not be affected negatively, even though they say that will be the case,” the MSA wrote on Facebook. “Word of mouth is not enough. We need credible evidence.”
The MSA wants to see the waves protected under law. “These waves are a national heritage,” they continued. “The surf breaks in Maldives are some of the best in the world. They are natural resources that should be protected under Maldivian law. Once again, we stress the point, the surfers in Malé are NOT TRYING TO STOP THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE BRIDGE. They are concerned about the possible destruction of their surf break. They are asking the government to work with them to find a way to ensure the sustainability of surfing at Raalhugandu.”
According to Indosurflife.com, authorities have banned surfing at a few of the spots. Two surfers, both involved with the Maldives Surfing Association, were arrested after surfing one of the main breaks. AJ, the president of the MSA, was reportedly one of the men. A photo shows him being taken away by officers with the caption “This is AJ. He is not a thug. He’s a guy trying to do his job as the president of MSA.”
The bridge will reportedly cost 300 million dollars and will take over two years, if completed. “We can work together to get some international pressure calling out to save our home break where 90% of surfers surf in the Maldives,” wrote Aiham. “We’re a small community with a sport that is barely recognized by the government, yet it has brought in more medals from international surf competitions including gold medals than any other sport Maldivians are involved in. We really don’t want our home to be destroyed.”
To find out more and to voice your concern, check out the Maldives Surfing Association on Facebook.