Ask any travelling surfer what is the most integral part of a successful Maldives surf charter and they will almost certainly answer – the competence and quality of the surf guide is priority No 1.
Brian James is the surf guide on Carpe Diem and Carpe Vita. Brian has been surfing for over 40 years and has clocked up 12 years of experience surf guiding in the Maldives. Brian calls The Maldives home for most of the year. He is a partner in Cokes Surf Camp and is also pretty handy with both his still and video camera.
At the completion of the 2013 Maldives surf season, Brian stayed in Sydney during late November with The Perfect Wave’s CEO Jamie Gray to review the 2013 season and plan ahead for season 2014. With so many changes regarding exclusivity ahead of next years surf season, we figured who better to check in with for a brief catch up chat than Brian?Interview by Ben Horvath
The Perfect Wave (TPW) – When and where did you start surfing Brian?
1960 I caught my first wave on a clubbies ply wood fifteen footer. I was hooked on surfing from that point. I was at Bargara beach near my home town Bundaberg.
TPW – What is your favorite break globally?
“Tucky Joe’s” in South Male Atoll, Maldives is a truly world class left. When it is on, it is as good as it gets for me.
TPW – What did you do before you got into the surf travel operator gig?
I spent too long in the Ragtrade, 30 years, starting in menswear and then surfwear and surf shops.
TPW – What prompted you to get into surf travel and what year was that?
After a surfing holiday in the Maldives, I leased the Hamathi safari in season 2002. Retailing surf wear was hard yards on the Gold Coast and I discovered I could sell surf trips rather than t-shirts through my Surfxcess shop at Burleigh Heads. I produced a short video of the surf and the Maldives experience and played it on our 61” big screen TV instore. The trips sold, life changing for me.
TPW – Who would you say is your biggest influence in surfing over the years?
When I started, there were no surfing super stars. We admired Midget, Nat and Bob McTavish from afar, but the crew who influenced me were my peers who always kept you in check, in and out of the water. I was lucky to meet Bob McTavish on a safari in the Maldives recently and if anybody needs a role model, they would need to look no further than Bob.
TPW – How would you rate the 2013 Maldives surf season wave wise? Highlights, standout swells, sessions or weeks?
2013 was as good a season as I have had in the Maldives. There were numerous swells of good size and generally good weather. Light winds are the key to getting the really good days. March to October, there is swell so with light wind, it’s always from the west, we get the good. September was a highlight with epic conditions that lasted for the month.
TPW – How were the crowds?
More people from all over the world are coming to the Maldives. Naturally, there are more surfers in the line-up. If you time your sessions to avoid the busy times, most days you can get a session with just you and your mates. You can also take a safari with an experienced guide to more remote areas where you will find surf points to enjoy with just your crew in the line-up.
TPW – There’s been a lot of changes to the status quo in recent months regarding exclusivity of certain breaks next year. Talk us through the critical changes and what you will be doing?
There is a “surf point grab” by the resorts to make their house reef surf points exclusive to only the guests staying at their resorts. I think the precedent has been set by “Lohi’s” and “Pasta Point”, and can only make all other Resorts and Villages look to making their surf points exclusive in the same way.
TPW – What are your personal thoughts regarding surf spot exclusivity?
I personally think it is wrong and hope the changes take place to make the waves free for all to surf, like any other country in the world.
TPW – What do you think is the ideal scenario for the future of surf travel in The Maldives from a surfer on holidays perspective?
The Government in Maldives has been in political turmoil for the last two years and has given no priority to surf travel needs in their country. They need to have a better understanding of the surf travel industry. They could have a safari boat surf license to limit the number of surf safari boats operating in different locations. An educated surf guide program to pass on surfing protocol to all guests who they are responsible to look after would also be a good thing.
TPW – Did you know Tony “Hussein” Hinde?
I met Tony on two occasions at Pasta Point. He was very fortunate to have surfed the Maldives in the days before crowding and definitely set up a great surf program at Pasta Point.
TPW – I guess you have surfed most known breaks and a bunch of unknown breaks in The Maldives? What are your favourites and how do you rate the region in general as a surfing haven?
Chickens and Cokes are the two best surf points in North Male Atoll. Both points have long barreling waves. Tucky Joe’s and Kandooma rate highly in South Male Atoll. There are many other great surf points in the more remote areas of Central and Outer Atolls. The reefs are not too shallow or sharp, so Maldives is a great destination for all surfers, not just the pros.
TPW – When do you kick off again in 2014?
28th February we start our first safari in the Outer Atolls. A remote area with many great surfing points and insane fishing.
TPW – What do you do with your time on your break?
My home is in Japan with my wife Chiharu and our little boy Joji. We are only thirty minutes from our house to many snow parks so when the weather is good we hit the slopes.
Book a trip to Maldives with The Perfect Wave and go into the draw to win your spot for free (1 spot on the boat or 1 room at the resort).