First Session: Maldives, How a Run Aground Boat Sparked One of The Greatest Surfing Discoveries

Matt Rode

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Updated 159d ago

There are thousands of quality waves in the world, each with its own unique story and interesting characters. The simple act of discovering a world-class wave is enough to earn a surfer instant respect, and many pioneers have become an integral part of our collective culture. And discovering multiple world-class waves? Well, that results in a lifetime of legend status—even if you happened to discover them by accident.

Very few people can claim to have discovered more quality setups than Tony Hussein Hinde, yet the pioneer of Maldivian surfing didn’t exactly set out to find new waves. In fact, he may not have even known that the Maldives existed.

Imagine this at the time. Tony surfed here for 10 years in empty paradise.

Imagine this at the time. Tony surfed here for 10 years in empty paradise.

Having grown up surfing in Sydney in the 1960s and 1970s, Tony Hinde eventually made his way out west to work in the mines, where he saved up money and chased waves during his time off. In December of 1973, he was on a surf trip to Sri Lanka and ended up hitching a ride to Reunion Island with his friend Mark Scanlon, the two men joining the crew of a private yacht.

But the boat ended up running aground in North Male. When the two men woke up the next morning, they found themselves in a pristine, isolate, virtually unknown archipelago—one that very clearly had surf potential.

After spending a few months repairing the Whitewings, the two men found that the season was changing—and with it came the consistent, groomed south swells that the Maldives have become famous for. Rather than leaving, Hinde decided to stay and explore the surf potential of the archipelago—and what he found would end up changing surfing forever.

Tony's story is available through Garage's website, too.

A full two decades after crashing into the Maldives, Hinde was happily based on Male. He had married a local woman, learned the local language, and even converted to Islam (adding “Hussein” to his name). He had also explored the entire island nation, pioneering and naming virtually all of the waves in the North and South Male Atolls, including a perfect left-hander on Thaburudhoo Island that he called Honky’s (Hinde’s local nickname). At the same time, he had worked hard to keep his discovery quiet, as he feared the burgeoning surf travel industry would find out about his paradise outpost and end up ruining it.

In 1989, Hinde could see the writing on the wall. Word was spreading about the surf potential in the Maldives, and he decided that the best way to protect his discovery was to start his own surf tour business before anyone else showed up with the same idea. He established Atoll Adventures PVT LTD and began running tours through Thari Resort, which enjoyed exclusive rights to Pasta Point, one of the country’s best waves.

Over the years, a number of competing tour operators moved into the Maldives, and by the early 2000s the country’s atolls had become one of the world’s premier destinations for five-star surf tourism. Despite the influx of boats and camps throughout the country, which likely would have left a bitter taste in Hinde’s mouth, he continued to serve as the godfather of Maldivian surf, running Atoll Adventures with the help of his wife Zulfa.

Nowadays? Still paradise.

In 2008, Tony Hussein Hinde was surfing his beloved Pasta Point when he suffered a heart attack and failed to resurface after a wave. He was paddled to the beach, where the resort’s doctor was unable to revive him.

Last rites were performed on the 55-year-old, then his body was transported to the south coast of New South Wales, where he was buried next to his wife Zulfa, who had succumbed to cancer earlier that year. Meanwhile, back in the Maldives, the swells continued to pour in for hundreds of visiting surfers who were busy racing down the tapered walls of Pasta Point, Honky’s, and dozens of other perfect waves, blissfully unaware that the man who had discovered it all had been lost forever.

Cover shot uploaded to MSW by Raalhu Sammu.