The Inertia Social Media Editor
Maldives. Photo: John Seaton Callahan

You and your buddies might never get to surf here. Photo: John Seaton Callahan

The Inertia

Another world-class surf destination is under threat. This time, it is not Trestles. It is Thanburudhoo in the Maldive Islands, and the threat is privatization. A bid to develop an island resort, with the backing of the Maldive National Defense Force, would cut the number of public surf breaks in half, drastically affecting surf charter operations and local businesses. As one of the main surfing islands in the North Male Atoll, its waves are an economic boon due to surf tourism in the area. Wave access would be denied to anyone not staying on Thanburudhoo, which would cause a decline in local business, as tourists are always taken ashore once they reach the island to sightsee, explore, and generally stimulate the local economy.

Just this week, authorities started cracking down on protestors against the privatization. Three Australian surfers, filmmakers and surf guides were arrested and subsequently questioned for nine hours. Authorities followed and filmed the group while they shot a documentary to raise awareness about surf privatization. Initially, the police thought they were orchestrating an anti-government protest as the message of their documentary, which could be why the police thoroughly searched their cameras, watched all the footage and investigated their whereabouts in the Maldives.

David Beasley, a surf guide, says the crew is interviewing local Maldivian surfers and western surfers in the area to get their thoughts on the privatization of the surf breaks. While this method of informing the masses is allowed, the island authorities are not putting up with foreign visitors’ protests. It is illegal for them to participate in any protest that should occur.

Ahmed Aznil, leader of the “Save Thamburudhoo” campaign (also spelled “Thanburudhoo”), said in an interview with Radio Australia, “It is not only Thanburudhoo… an island that has not been touched by man on the whole atoll. So as Maldivians, these islands are our identity. If they keep building places, we will lose our identity. In the future, this could be very bad for business. I think that the resort owners will realize when surf tourism goes down that this is not going to work.”

There is good news for those opposed to the project’s progression, however: the Maldivian Presidential election is being held on September 7th. Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government initiated the project’s proposal in 2011, and with Nasheed out of office, chances of the requisite money coming through are diminished. After 18 months, there are no significant contributions from investors, leading locals to believe the project may not go through.

Fingers are tightly crossed in the surfing world as the impending election in the Maldives could help decide the future of some of the world’s best surf breaks and their local communities.

Editor’s Note: The Maldivian Police Service has yet to comment on the situation.

Keep up with the “Save Thamburudhoo” campaign on Facebook.


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