The government has terminated a contract to develop a boutique surf resort on the island of Thamburudhoo in Kaafu atoll, and pledged to keep the island open to the public as a “surf heritage site.”
The tourism ministry cited slow development in canceling the contract with Singapore-based Telos Investment.
“This will allow local surfers, surfers from around the world and organisers of surf competition to use the island in the best possible way,” the ministry said.
Thamburudhoo, 30 minutes away from the capital, is owned by the Maldives National Defence Force’s (MNDF) Welfare Company. It was leased to Telos in August 2012.
The island is famous for its two unique surf spots, ‘Sultans’ and ‘Honkey’s.’ The Maldivian Surfers Association (MSA) launched a campaign against ‘surf exclusivity’ at the time, warning that developing a surf resort on the island will halve the number of breaks open to local surfers and particularly impact safari operators due to the limited access.
Local surfers have welcomed “the end of surf exclusivity,” but Ahmed Fauzan ‘Karo’ told The Maldives Independent he believes the move is aimed at placating local surfers ahead of a bridge project that may destroy waves at Malé’s Raalhugandu.
“It’s great that we’ve got Thamburudhoo back, but I think is a compensation to divert us from talking about the government taking six surf points for one project, calling it ‘development,’” he said.
The bridge will stretch from Malé’s southeast corner at the Raalhugandu surf point to the end of the airport runway at Hulhulé.
Over 90 percent of Maldives’ surf athletes practice at Raalhugandu and several local and international surfing competitions have been held at the area.
“For the last 20 years, I walk out of my home every day, go out to raalhugandu and surf. This is what I love doing, just like 150 other surfers in Malé atoll. What are we supposed to do now?” Karo asked.
Surfing is a sport that generates a significant level of income, he continued, but has been neglected by the authorities.
“The government manifesto is no longer available on the internet to check, but I believe a policy should go further than this,” he said.
The surfers association and other stakeholders should be consulted before a policy is formulated, he added.
“We are living like pigeons in a cage; Maldivians do not have any access to natural islands to go to for picnics, but you can see even now, when you go to a beautiful island, there will be a guest relaxing at the beach saying hi to you, we should be able to enjoy our own land, without begging for it,” Karo said.