Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy opens, competition to begin Friday

Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy opened Tuesday as surfers gear up for the competition to get underway later this week when weather conditions improve.

Maldives environment minister Toriq Ibrahim graced the opening ceremony held at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa. With conditions on the opening days of the event window not quite making the grade for competition to get underway, some surf champions headed out to the waves while some relaxed at The Island Spa.

The forecast, however, looks promising for a start this Friday.

“Right now we are in between swells, and last week’s waves are continuing to diminish,” Event coordinator and founder of Tropicsurf Ross Phillips, who has been surfing in the Maldives for around two decades, was quoted in a statement issued by Four Seasons Resorts Maldives, as saying.

“We also have quite strong monsoonal trade winds which are making the small waves tough to surf. On Friday we have a bit of a bump in swell and winds look to drop off, so we will wait until then to get the event underway in the best conditions of the window.”

As the competition gears up for its start on Friday at the perfect right-hand reef break at Sultans Point, six invitees are settling in on the idyllic island paradise of Kuda Huraa.

Having taken out the 2016 event, former WSL Championship Tour (CT) superstar Taj Burrow has made it back to the Four Seasons to defend his title. The Australian has put in some time surfing these parts since last year and has not lost much of the competitive spark that saw him make it to world no. 2 on several occasions throughout his career — meaning he will be the one to watch when competition gets underway.

“I’ve been counting down the days for this event since I left here last year,” Burrow said.

“Everything about it is amazing; the friends, the waves, the experience here at the Four Seasons, it’s all incredible. I’ve had a few days to reacquaint myself with my twin-fin and single fin boards, but will definitely have to keep practising before the competition starts.”

Best known for her big wave exploits, Brazilian Maya Gabeira comes into the event as the lone female competitor. On her first visit to the Maldives, Gabeira is not sure if she is more excited to be surfing in paradise or coming up against some of her heroes.

“This is my first time to the Maldives and my mind has been blown,” Gabeira said.

“I’ve never surfed a single fin or twin-fin until now, so it’s been cool to have that experience. I can’t wait for the competition to get underway, so I can share the lineup with some of my heroes. It’s going to be an amazing experience.”

Maya Gabeira getting acquainted with her new single fin in the lead up to the 2017 Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy. PHOTO/ SEAN SCOTT

Local competitor Ismail ‘Kuda Issey’ Miglal is by far the most experienced surfer at Sultans, and is relishing the opportunity to share the lineup with some of the world’s best. With the forecast for the event window looking to dish up some tricky conditions, Kuda Issey’s local knowledge will no doubt play heavily to his advantage.

“It’s a real honour to surf in this event with some of my favourite surfers,” Kuda Issey said.

“I love surfing on different boards, so I feel like the format suits me. I can’t wait to surf against the pros. Taj is my favourite surfer of all time. It will be amazing to share the lineup with him.”

World Champion CJ Hobgood has made one previous trip to the Maldives and is thrilled to be back. The hard charging goofy footer is stoked to have the opportunity to continue his competitive career in a more relaxed environment while surfing different boards.

“This sort of feels like a dream at the moment. I felt like everything was slowing down after retiring from the tour, and then I get to come to a contest like this here in paradise with my wife. It’s almost too good to be true, Hobgood, who was crowned World Champion in 2001, said.

“I was never one for experimenting with different boards, so I’m still getting the hang of the twin and single fins. But they definitely feel nice when you find that sweet spot. I’m having such a blast here.”

Returning to the Four Seasons in 2017 is former world no. 2 Rob Machado. The ‘cruisey’ Californian has style in spades and serious ability on crafts of all shapes and sizes, making him a perfect fit for the multi-discipline format of the Surfing Champions Trophy. Machado will be surfing the event on a quiver of boards he shaped himself, a first time at the Surfing Champions Trophy.

Another competitor that will be surfing on Machado’s shapes is former CT surfer and WSL commentator Ross Williams. These days, Williams is utilising his exceptionally sharp competitive mind under the guise of coach to 2016 WSL Champion John John Florence. This week he will pull on that skill-set with the competition jersey on for the first time in a long time.

Former CT stars Rob Machado and Ross Williams talking boards before a free surf session in the lead up to the 2017 Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy. PHOTO/ SEAN SCOTT

The Surfing Champions Trophy determines heat times based on age and tests skill across three divisions: single-fin, twin-fin and thruster. Places are by invitation-only to six world champions in a battle for inner-circle kudos and a USD25,000 prize pot.

Returning to the annual event is Four Seasons Explorer, the Maldives’ ultimate surf vessel. Following a full interior refurbishment, the 39-metre catamaran is proudly showcasing sleek new finishes and stylish soft furnishings across all three decks while hosting the contest.

Fans can get up close to all of the action with onboard VIP passes, then continue the “surf tour” experience with shoulder-rubbing events back at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa — the homeport for the event’s competitors, judges and Tropicsurf partners.

Combining innovation, wellness and conservation, Four Seasons Resort Maldives Landaa Giraavaru is a 44-acre, 103-villa wonderland in the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve — a 30-minute seaplane flight from the main Velana International Airport.

Its sister property, Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa lies to the south: an enchanting garden island complete with Island Spa sea sanctuary and Tropicsurf coaches and guides. It features 96 thatched beach and water accommodations constructed by local craftsmen using indigenous materials and techniques to reflect a true sense of the Maldives.

The luxury catamaran Four Seasons Explorer connects the two properties via three, four and seven-night cruises, plus private leisure, surf and manta ray charters.

The latest addition to the Maldives collection, Four Seasons Private Island Maldives at Voavah, Baa Atoll opened in December as the group’s first exclusive-use private island: off limits to everyone else, limitless to the guests.

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