The Perils of Privatization

An update on the proposed privatization of lineups in the Maldives

| posted on October 21, 2013
The world-class waves at stake in the Maldives. Photo courtesy of Aba Asim/Save Thamburudhoo

The world-class waves at stake in the Maldives. Photo courtesy of Aba Asim/Save Thamburudhoo

Last year, we reported that an investment company based in Singapore was looking to purchase the Maldivian island of Thamburudhoo with plans to build a boutique surf resort and privatize two of the islands’ premiere waves. In the wake of the news, Maldivian surfers were understandably outraged and an online petition to ban exclusivity in the lineups began circulating. Recently, we spoke to Australian expat Dave Beasley, who works as an advocate to keep the islands’ lineups open to the public, for an update on the situation.

Can you describe the current state of affairs in the Maldives?

An investment company has offered $5 million for a 50-year lease of Thamburudhoo island, which hosts two world-class surf breaks, Sultans and Honkies. These are two of the Maldives’ most consistent breaks. The money is being paid to the Maldivian military, as they own the island. At this present point, no construction has taken place due to the fact that the investor is relying on foreign money to start construction. The majority of Maldivians that I have spoken to are opposed to this resort and the privatization of the surrounding reef.

And you’re currently working on a film project to spread awareness of the issue?

The film project was designed to create awareness of the problems facing Thamburudhoo. We’ve interviewed local surfers, business owners, foreign surfers, and the Maldivian Surfing Association (MSA) and have aimed to gather a broad range of opinions of the issue at hand and to present a non-biased view. 

I understand that you were recently held and questioned by the Maldivian government. What happened there?

We arrived in Male for an interview with Live Abroad Maldives (LAM) to organize an awareness rally with fellow charter boats and were arrested after leaving the meeting. It was assumed by the police that we were in the process of organizing a protest including locals and foreign supporters. We were detained for a period of eight hours at the Male police station where police interrogated us before being released without charge.

How are the locals reacting to the prospect of more privatized lineups?

The locals connected to surf tourism are extremely disappointed by the idea of privatization as it affects approximately 50 percent of their income, which is generated from souvenirs and photography. The local surfers are also disappointed as they will be required to obtain a permit to surf the breaks they have been surfing their whole lives.

How would privatized lineups change the lives of Maldivian surfers and workers who rely on open access to waves?

The local surfers would be affected by the requirements of obtaining permits to surf their own waves. The locals would also be affected by the discontinuation of the surf-charter boats in the North Male Atolls. There are currently seven accessible surf breaks in the North Male Atolls, of which two are already privatized. If two more surf breaks were privatized, the surf-charter industry would disappear, as there would only be three public surf-breaks.

Tell me about your experience living and working in the Maldives.

Every year I spend two to three months a year surfing, working, and traveling throughout the Maldives. I’ve developed many lifelong friendships with locals and am really familiar with their customs and ways of living. I have experienced the most memorable times of my life in the Maldives surfing, diving, fishing, and simply hanging out with the locals playing soccer or chatting in a hammock. I strongly believe that others should be able to have the experiences I have.

What’s the status of the government? I understand that there was some turmoil in the latest election.

The potential president, Mohamed Nasheed, has stated that it’s his intention to refund the $5 million for the 50-year lease of Thamburudhoo Island and wants to keep the island open to the public. However, there’s currently an election taking place that was scheduled to be completed on the 28th of September. As it stands right now, there is a recount being conducted with no set date assigned for finalization.

For those of us that want to help, what can we do?

We have created a Facebook page called Save Thamburudhoo that we suggest you visit and like the page. Here we keep you updated with the status of the government election and the progress of our campaign. The greatest help is building awareness.

  • bill555

    i’m all for the privatization of breaks. you travel half way around the world, use your paltry (US) two week vakay and drop $4-5k on a surf trip and end up paddling out to a dream break w/ 30-40 others hassling for a wave.

    it’s way too crowded out there and this will allow those willing to pay to get what they actually paid for… like the old Tav/Namotu days…

    • Stu Azole

      Haha, Bill, I’m with you. The Maldivian people are to blame here for having such a cr@ppy government to begin with. I’ll get concerned with people from the Maldives are worried about my home break too.

    • gh

      Hey Bill, What if it was your local they were taking over. Still ok…Think not.

    • SAYNO

      But your taking away a locals wave just because he/she cant afford it. Surfing the best waves isnt about having the most money. If your worried about 30 to 40 other people dont go there. It americans like you that make the world hate our country.

      • Kalani

        It’s not about having the most money, it’s about getting what you pay for, simple as that. you pay $200/nt for a city hotel room, you expect more than when you pay $50 at a roadside motel.

        Pasta Point and Lohi’s is already exclusive. So, if you’re willing, you pay their price. I’d definitely pay extra if Kandui’s had exclusive rights to Rifles.

        any privatization would apply just to tourists anyway, certainly not the local population. you obviously haven’t traveled much. Third world countries love americans since we bring money into their economy. I couldn’t care less that the Euros and Middle East dislike the US.

        • Sam

          They have 2 resorts at Rifles Kandui Resort and Kandui Villas so its already a crowded line up when its good up there in the Mentawai,s so which one would have exclusive rights in a situation like this Kalani.

          • bill555

            Resort, obviously. They were there first AND Ray (one of the owners) has his house directly across from it. Villas would get exclusive rights to NoKandui aka Kandui lefts. Resort would also get rights to 4 Bobs though, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind letting the boats have access to that one.

        • Cas

          You forgot Asia and the Pacific, oh and Canada, oh yeah so does south and central america.. hmm so who was it that likes the US?

          • Kalani

            You obviously haven’t traveled much…SE Asia, Japan, Asian Subcontinent, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Peru, etc… they love Americans. We bring $$$ to their economy. Canada? Ha…. Everyone knows that’s a love/hate thing. The citizens hate the US but their economy NEEDS us…

    • BiLL 555 aint got a clue

      Yea im gonna come buy your local break and charge you parking fees and a monthly permit.

      • bill555

        that would be ideal. come over and buy Bowls. and while you’re at it, buy Threes and the non contest country breaks like Lani’s, Jocko’s, PPoint, Backyards and VLand…that would cover nearly every direction of swell. Multi-break annual pass! Day passes for the tourist wannabes at double the local’s price. SUPs and longboarders are limited to one hour per day and only when it’s 2ft or below. if you’re green or blue (run) level, i.e. can’t make a late drop, can’t ride the barrel, same thing, 2ft or below.
        I’d much rather spend my money at home and save all the travel time.

        • kalaniix

          then PLEASE stay at home. easy as that.

        • a surfer

          capitalist dick

    • mr.sip

      That’s so wrong man. Its for all of us. Not only for the people who has money.

    • hose

      You fuckin IDIOT

    • Michael S

      Greed is good!

      It’s the future, enjoy free waves while you can.

    • kees surf

      it so hard to understand that the 30-40 pp in the water tey will play it any way. So now you will pay be be in the line up.

  • wjh563

    Surfers worldwide come together through crowd funding to make a different offer.

  • Tony B

    Resorts bring jobs and money to local economies. Not such a bad thing when you live on an island. I would not support taking away the only surf for miles but having an exclusive surf spot for travelers would be a big draw.

  • David Scott

    Of more concern is the fact so many surfers want to spend money in a country with such an appalling record of human rights abuses. For example: in February 2013, the judiciary sentenced a fifteen-year-old girl to 100 lashes and house arrest for 8 months in Vilimale’s orphanage for engaging in premarital sex. The international media caught the story when her fornication case came alongside her rape case. Charges were brought against her in 2012 after police investigated accusations that her stepfather had raped her and killed their baby….. The Maldives also ranks high on the list of governments that restrict religious freedom. Spend your money elsewhere!

    • 1% – intelligence

      seriously! surfers are such selfish shitheads in general.

      • Tom Schick

        Wrong! Surfing in countries have nothing to do with supporting their government or their religious views. Plus those stats only show the bad things about this country. What about all the good people? Should we not support them? Surfers are some of the most caring, understanding and involved people in this world. Have a nice day gents.

      • surf or die

        u r a shithead .. u hav know guts when it comes to doing things dangerous … locals who think we r just wasting our life is just fools
        … go fuck ur self shit head .. surfing is the best sport there is .. better than football and basket and all those other land sports..! :@

  • Rocal Rergend

    bill555, if you cant go out and get your own waves, you are probably not good enough to be out there anyway. The world is a big enough place to find uncrowded surf.. Im guessing you didn’t grow up by the ocean

  • Gavin

    Strongly against privatization- some things in life should be free such as the wind and waves! One of my favorite things to do is explore and discover new wave spots. It sucks to think corporations can buy waves and thereby curb one’s travel adventure.
    Bill555, like a lot of Americans, you’re assuming you have the upper hand and have ‘the money’ or at least enough. What if you don’t?

    • Kalani

      If you didn’t have the $, then you wouldn’t be going to places like the Maldives, Ments, Fiji where everyone else that’s going is spending big bucks. You seem to have missed the point like so many others that responded to Bill555

  • pedro

    Are all of you crazy and missing the point here?! $5 million to lease this island for 50 years? sign me up! that is the cost of the gas for my 90 foot yacht that will take me there.

  • A local Maldivian

    To all who are advocating against privatisation need to realise that this is the Maldives not Bali, privatisation and limited surfer numbers is the only sustainable form of running surfing tours. With out regulation this place is turning into the second Bali, Also interesting to note that Mr Beasly promoter a certain World Surfaris has infact signed on to run lohi’s with limited numbers from 2014 onwards. Interesting to note the double standards shown by the people protesting against the privatising of waves when they get half a chance to do the same it is no different. Thambardhoo island is an asset that belongs to the government why should the government not be able to get a return in form of land tax’s and GST from the island to help the country ?? Surfing has changed a lot it is something that needs to be regulated and has to be sustainable. There are too many surfers in the world and its only going to increase. If you want to come and surf with 50 other punters and get hassled there are a lot of cheap options available like Bali, if you want to come somewhere and get waves and know you are not going to get hassled in the water then come and stay at a sustainable surf operation here in the Maldives. Sustainability and exclusivity are one and the same and they will remain that way here in the Maldives. We want to make this an enjoyable experience for surfers that wish to come here.

  • zeno malan

    maybe just a fee per wave cost – that way everyone has to pay for what they catch. I’ve been to an Indo resort and the waves were crowded on occasion. I want the waves to myself so I can have the pick of each set. guess I’ll have to live in the past back in the 70’s when I had Costa Rica all to myself – usually. Now it is a zoo.

  • Vince Mokaloka

    I’m with Bill here. Don’t like privatization? Then take your money elsewhere…oh
    wait, you don’t have money? Sucks to be you. There are lots of us rippers who
    also have six-figure incomes. I’ll gladly pay for uncrowded perfection. Hey
    dipshits- I’m a better surfer than you AND richer than you. Now STFU and finish
    flipping my burger.

    • bill555

      Hey Vince, was that you at Gas Chambers on Sunday yelling at the SUP’ers? Check out Rocal Rergend’s post…ha. He thinks he’s going to paddle to the top of the peak at VLand or Bowls and get a set wave off of us. too funny.

  • Bronsarno

    I think it’s ok, but only if they allow for the local natives to come and go as they please and if it creates jobs for them?
    Lock it down and charge the foreigners!!!

  • Raton

    NO ONE owns the ocean….like Cloudbreak finally returned from captivity, Pasta and Lohi’s need to be free, and Sultans/Honky’s needs to STAY free.. $5 million for 50 years is kind of a joke. There are some people who have made many times that in business, and could sport the full 5 large. Could you imagine hogging Sultan’s and Honky’s to only you and your friends for 50 years? I guess you wouldn’t get those dhonis with 19 aggro “bros” (those that travel in packs of 10+), windmilling into the line up to join you and your two buddies, so that’d be a plus….

  • David

    just got back last week from a stay at lohis… did a boat trip to sultans one morning… both waves were sick as fuk… it was nice at lohis not having much of a crown to deal with… sultans was a bit of a kook fest… both mental waves tho… i was willing to pay the price to get over there and it was definitely nice not having a ton of people in the lineup at lohis… but i reckon i’m against privatization… in my view the reef is a part of the ocean and not really subject to exclusive ownership by anyone but mother nature.

  • tony (ty) carson big island

    No one, should ever have to pay anyone, to ride a wave. I can’t think of a much more soulless experience, oh, ok, here’s your money, now I get “your permission” to surf a wave in the God given free ocean. I can kind of see how this might appeal to the influx of newbee yuppie wannabee surfers types. Real surfers everywhere should “boycott” these pay to play schemes. Ride free…

    • Kalani

      Unfortunately tony, the world has changed and surf trips are pay to play (at the exotic spots). If the surf companies, fitness/adventure/outdoor magazines hadn’t commercialized surfing, we wouldn’t have so many wannabe surfer types going on surf trips, clogging the lineups. If it was 8ft plus at all the prime spots, they wouldn’t be so infested. BUT, that’s not reality. It’s free to surf in 99%(?) of the world…ideally, the wannabes surf the lesser known free spots.

  • ykdf

    no, vince, u r not better than me. lol.