I will go into why we chose Six Senses Laamu for my wife’s 30th birthday celebration destination in the next post, this one is all about the vibe, operations and service that Tropic Surf provided as our holiday coordinator.
Go to tropicsurf.com and it becomes pretty clear that this level of surf travel is aimed at a certain type of consumer. Tropic Surf are not out to cater for your back packing surf rat living purely off stoke and tinned food, they are not after the first timer boat trip of schoolies either. Tropic Surf survives on catering for the surfer who is living comfortably, has a ‘money can’t buy’ list of surfing destinations and is committed to a high standard of service, Tropic Surf even have ‘Art of Luxury Surfing’ in their tag line!
Tropic Surf came into play for my wife and I, not because we are the typical Tropic Surf customer but because of the destination we were travelling to. We had stayed at the Six Senses resort in 2015 for our Honeymoon, this was pre Tropic Surf taking over the surf zone so we figured we might as well get a quote from them for the trip.
We booked our own flights for the Melbourne/Singapore, Singapore/Male legs, but needed transfers from Male to Haddhunmathi Atoll and then a boat from Kadhdhoo airport to the Six Senses. Six Senses can take care of the internal transfers but if you are engaging with a surf travel operator they will most likely offer you a travel, accom, food and bev package to save you the headache.
A couple of key things to note here, everyone thinks the Maldives is crazy expensive and hard to get to. If you are crafty with your home location flights to either Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Colombo and chose your connection to Male wisely, you can definitely save a dollar here. Resort locations close to Male airport are sometimes cheaper than places like Six Senses for multiple reasons, level of accommodation, location, brand etc., but once again, if you know what you want from your trip you can be clever and pick up some good rates. BUT if you are set on a destination like Six Senses, I would do some research online about what type of room you require, what type of season you want to be there in and then contact Tropic Surf, The Perfect Wave, Luex, your local travel agent etc. and ask them all for the best deal.
We did check with all of the surf travel agents about this trip but Tropic Surf came back with a slightly better offer than the competitors. Most of the offers you receive will be quite similar as it doesn’t really feel like one agent has it over the next when booking a trip like this. Go with what works best for you!
The 2015 trip to Six Senses I brought 2 boards with me, a standard shorty and a small step up, but now that Tropic Surf have set up their own shack, you can travel board less. They have a full range of Firewire boards from fast twins, flowing logs and standard short boards, there will be a board there for you for any condition. The only reason you would take a board is if you are a seriously good surfer who has spent some time committing to sections that break over knee to waist deep water. If you are travelling to Six Senses for a more of a holiday trip with the added bonus of waves then pack light and forget the board bags but if you know there is going to be swell and you are really going to commit to Yin Yang’s when it is on, then bring your best high performance boards and skills cause you are going to need it.
Now for the fun part. As I stepped off the 25 minute boat trip from Kadhdhoo airport and into the Six Senses paradise I was greeted by the island surf guide Alex. Alex was giving me the low down on the previous swell events and what potential there was in the upcoming window. I was assured there would be waves and told that he would send a message to our room giving me the heads up on when we can score. The first day had passed in paradise and I had fully tuned into island life when the phone rang. It was Alex, “2pm tomorrow, meet at the boardroom, your guide will be Rachael, have fun!”. Just like that I was daydreaming of what my time at Yin Yangs would be like again.
The first time I surfed Yin Yang’s in 2015, I was taken off the beach in a Zodiac by a couple of local crew who worked for Six Senses, thrown into a fairly solid swell with a dropping tide and left to my own devices. The end result was ok, some waves made, lots not, plenty of time paddling against a strong sweep that was trying to drag me off the reef and into the Indian ocean and only slight amounts of skin left on the reef. I eventually go the hang of the joint from that first trip where I spent 4 good sessions out there.
Now that Tropic Surf run the show, it was interesting to feel the different vibe of the travel to and from the wave. As soon as I arrived at The Boardroom, I was greeted by a friendly and relaxed Rachel McKendrick who gives me a full update on the conditions, shows me the range of Firewire and gets me to sign a standard waiver. Just like that I am on the donhi, with 2 logs, 2 short boards with plenty of volume, a fish, Rachael, boat crew and my English surfing buddy for the arvo. On the mellow trip out to Yin Yang’s, Rachael starts to reel off some key features of the reef, where to sit when a set comes, what the inside section is like and what to do when you are caught on the reef. The dhoni's motor is cut, I launch over the side and race to the peak of what looks like a really fun shoulder high playful right. I hear Rachael’s voice in my mind as all of a sudden I am too deep for the take off and have to wear a couple on head “don’t paddle for the horizon when a set comes, just turn and go” so that’s what I do, first wave back at Yin Yang’s on a board I have never surfed, I turn, paddle, attempt a back hand grab rail drop down the face but the rail catches and I am thrown into the clearest water i have ever laid eyes on. I stand up on the reef and realise I am in knee deep water and have no chance of duck diving then next cavern that’s about to detonate a meter in front of me and once again I have Rachael’s voice in my head “if you are caught on the inside, just try and let the wave take you over the reef and eventually you will be dragged into deeper water” so I let the wave break in front of me, ditch the board and attempt a super uncoordinated foam climb bodysurf thing and let the force of the water drag me back over the reef. Yes this feels a unnatural but once I make it over the flat part of the reef, I am eventually spat out into the channel just as Rachael said I would.
We surfed Yin Yangs that day for an hour until the English bloke couldn’t take the paddle battle any longer, poor guy was stuck out the back of the reef trying to fight a major sweep. We moved over to Jetty C were a super fun, late arvo, dead offshore log session was on order with only 3 of us out.
After that day I wasn’t sure if I would get another chance at Yin Yangs as both Rachael and Alex had said the winds were looking bad for the rest of the trip. So I made the most of my island time by relaxing with my wife and exploring the beaches and reefs with my daughter until the call came through. It was Alex again, “tomorrow, 1:40pm be at the Board Room, there is a slight chance!”
This time Alex was the guide and my English intermediate was replaced by a Merewether boardrider. From memory this blokes name was Michael and came with his own custom Stacey single fin. I chose a fairly fast looking Firewire and off we went. Now the mellow vibe from the previous run to Yin Yangs was replaced with a slight nervousness in the pit of my stomach. I could see the outside section was causing some damage and the inside was really starting to gurgle. I listened to Alex give his run down of the reef but I only had one thought in my mind. ‘Get one straight away’ We all jumped overboard and I gunned straight for the inside of the reef whilst Michael and Alex went for the top. As soon as I was in position a wide one started to bear down on me. I called myself in, paddled hard, grabbed rail, opened up my right shoulder and looked for the channel, the only issue was there was no channel. Instead of a safe exit, I just kept seeing the wave grow and the lip extend, I held on, tried to pump but got clamped and was dealt a fairly easy hold down. If that was the worst of it then I was in luck, I almost sprint paddled back into the spot and proceeded to take every wave that was presented to me. Alex and Michael were charging out the back but couldn’t get the middle section to connect to my inside runners. After what felt like hours (it definitely wasn’t) Alex made the call to head over to Jetty C to catch the arvo glass off. A quick re fresh and debrief on the dhoni from Yin Yangs to Jetty C and just like that we were all over board, racing to the line-up which consisted of a super mellow take off into a playful left that got better as the tide dropped. I couldn’t tell you how many waves where surfed or what happened in that session but one thing is for sure I wanted to cry. I had no other emotion left. I had laughed so much from disbelief at how good the waves were, I was fully amped when I saw Alex bust his fins right through the lip with style and power, I was surprised at how close a turtle came by the take-off spot, I was humbled by how good the local groms surfed when they came in towards the end of our session and last but not least how thankful I was for being able to live in that moment!
So how does Tropic Surf rate as a tour provider?
The boards at Six Senses are in good shape and there is enough variety to get you in the water no matter the conditions. Our travel arrangements, itinerary and communication leading into the trip was a professional standard but delivered in a relaxed tone. Paying for the whole trip in USD totally sucks but is par for the course in this neck of the woods. I’m not really sure what I could say to improve the trip from a Tropic Surf point of view, give me a free t shirt? I don't really know ha ha. Where Tropic Surf completely exceeded my expectations is in their employment of solid surf guides. I learnt a lot from Alex and Rachael in regards to local swell directions, reef intricacies and technical tips that I have taken and use my local. We came to the Maldives out of the major swell season, Alex and Rachael were totally across this and made every effort to make sure I got into some waves. They didn’t over hype swells and were realistic on what the conditions would provide and that is something that is very rare these days.
If you are thinking of heading to the tropical paradise of the Maldives and your main focus is family/occasion celebration with the option of waves then definitely have a look at Tropic Surf as your tour provider. Tell em Mack sent you and hopefully I get some type of discounted trip to Fiji kick back from them.
Six Senses Maldives review coming next week!