Nathan Kemp is the Surf Development Director at Niyama. Nathan is 31 years old and grew up and learned to surf in Southern California. Nathan moved to Niyama after gaining experience managing a surf resort in Northern Sumatra, Indonesia.
Perfect Wave’s Ben Horvath caught up with Nathan recently with a view to learning more about Niyama so readers too can learn more about the Niyama experience.
Ben: Nathan you have just spent your first full season at Niyama Resort in the Maldives. How was it?
Nathan: Niyama and the Maldives is awesome! The waves are great, very fun, yet still critical and serious at times, and the setting is absolutely stunning. Niyama is an awesome place to work, and I couldn’t ask for more with Vodi, our private wave being right on our doorstep and accessible by simply paddling out!
What would you say surf guests can expect wave wise in a typical week at the resort?
Vodi picks up a lot of swell as we face SW, which is one of our huge benefits, so usually one can always get something – even at the worst of times – with the right attitude and some patience. I arrived in the “off-season” and had a blast longboarding, and even had many days with small but fun shortboard waves. In January and Feb we even had some days with overhead swell! In the main season, it’s rarely been un-surfable because of a lack of swell, in fact I can’t even remember when this season it was completely flat.
We are in the Central Atolls, specifically at the southern end of the Dhaalu atoll.
What waves are accessible daily? Is there something for everyone?
Vodi is always accessible and free to surf and only requires a quick paddle out. Also, it works on all tides so, it’s easy to find windows to surf alone. Our surf guides give a report in the morning with a video (but one can also check our surf camera on the in-room tv). The guides also do a check of Kasabu, and a couple other waves in the area that I won’t name, send a video report to the surfers on the island, and then we offer sign ups to go to one of those locations based on their report. At size, Vodi is an advanced wave.
When it gets smaller, it can accommodate those that are intermediates, but still have knowledge of a line – up, how to duck dive, and won’t panic if a set catches them inside. Kasabu, across the channel, is a very long and very fun wave, which is a bit friendlier. It’s perfect for turns and even offers an occasional barrel on the inside section. It’s a 90 degree corner of reef, which means the wave wraps in on itself so it’s really easy to predict and see the sections coming at you. We have a couple other waves that are very advanced, right hand barrels and very epic.
How do guests get to the resort?
Guests can come to Niyama by either sea plane, or a domestic flight, with both options being serviced by Manta Air. The sea plane is a unique experience that gives a great view of the impressive geography of the Maldives as the planes fly much lower than domestic flights. If one flies commercially, it is a quick 5 minute boat ride from our neighbouring island to get to Niyama – be sure to check out Kasabu during your boat ride!
Please tell us a little about what else can be expected say for non-surfing partners and children?
We have an awesome kids club that takes kids from 0-12 years old (0-2 is chargeable), and takes the kids on all kinds of adventures and activities so no one has to feel guilty about surfing too much, or trying to get some alone time with that special someone. Usually parents are shocked that the kids want to spend more time at the Kid’s club than with them!
We are also a very active island to vary it up from just surfing! We offer diving, a full range of watersports, an outdoor tennis court, an indoor and outdoor gym with varying classes each day such as pilates, yoga, TRX, Zumba, and much more. Our ACTIVE center has all kinds of indoor activities – table tennis, air hockey, pool, indoor cinema, video games, a virtual game simulator, and all kinds of board games to keep you entertained on a lay day or in-between surfs. Our staff there also specialize in other activities such as a private movie under the stars for your whole party.
For those looking to relax, we have a full range spa and salon, which faces the blue lagoon waters for ultimate relaxation. We also often feature guest practitioners at the spa who specialize in Ayurvedic medicines, sound bowl healing, acupuncture, other Eastern medicines/practices, or sports physio therapy. Lastly, we offer IV Vitamin therapy for those looking to recover from long travel, a big night, or to just feel a boost from specific targeted vitamins.
Lastly, and probably my favourite feature, are the dining options at Niyama. The food is incredible! We have 7 restaurants and 5 bars, each with a very unique concept and setting. Nest is Asian cuisine amongst the treetops, Edge is fine dining set a ½ kilometre out to sea, Subsix is an underwater venue 6 meters below the ocean’s surface, which sometimes has meals, wine tastings, and glow parties, and Tribal is a the only signature afro-latin fusion restaurant in the Maldives, is set on the beach, and offers really delicious dry aged steaks amongst other tasty dishes! We also have a deli for quick bites, 2 buffets with varying themed nights, in villa dining, and private destination dining on the beach and under the stars for those extra special moments. Also, we often invite Michelin star chefs from different backgrounds to the island to put on special dinners with different concepts.
All in all, Niyama is a great place to be extremely active, or to simply relax and soak up the Maldivian colours of the island, beach, and ocean.
What about crowds and consistency? Is the left out front uncrowded? What months are best would you say?
Because we face south west, we get a lot more swell than the SE facing breaks in the Maldives, making us very consistent. Vodi also breaks on all tides and is a private wave, so no one has to worry about 2-3 surf boats rocking up and dumping 30 surfers in the water, nor everyone trying to surf at the same time a day. Each month between March-October one can score, but it depends largely on mother nature. Even during last off season, during January and February, we had some overhead waves at times!
What’s a worst case scenario wave wise in season? Are there accessible set ups in all wind directions?
If the south wind blows, that’s the worst wind direction, however, I have my eyes on a couple setups I haven’t been to yet that would be perfectly off shore in a south wind, so I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
Usually if the wind blows hard, it’s from the SW, which because Kasabu, the right across the channel, is a full 90 degree corner of reef, the inside section there is still clean, and in my opinion is the best section. There is also Inside Mikados in the next atoll south that is off shore in a sw wind, so that’s an option for those willing to spend the time to get there, but usually people are happy to use those days as lay days to spend time with the family, go to the spa, and do something other than surf. If you also enjoy airs, then a S or SW wind is perfect for Vodi. Those other waves I mentioned earlier are also decent in a SW wind depending on the wind’s strength.
I heard Taj Burrows came up early this season and loved it?
Yes, Taj came to Niyama for his honeymoon with his lovely wife Rebecca and his lovely daughter. They all had such a good time and it was great to meet Taj and his family! They really love life and know how to have a good time. Hopefully they will come back soon! We also had Josh Kerr here this year, along with our collaboration with Perfect Wave to bring Sofia Mulanovich here.
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