Prep Time: Six months
Time Off Work: Two weeks
When to Go: May–October
While Indonesia may still draw the masses, surfers in the know are flocking to a 500-mile-long string of minuscule islands adrift in the Indian Ocean called the Maldives, where waves boast comparable reef-break perfection, but with a far more user-friendly shape. We probably wouldn't be singing the Maldives' praises if it weren't for the dumb-luck discovery of a shipwrecked Aussie surfer back in the '70s. More than 30 years ago Tony Hinde, who later opened Tari Village surf resort, was sailing with friends from Sri Lanka to South Africa when they ran aground on a reef in the Maldives' North Male Atolls. Hinde quickly got a taste of the region's flawless surf and soon made the Maldives his home. "I found islands with friendly people and perfect waves, surfable at all tides, with offshore winds that blew all day long," Hinde says. "Shit, I'm a surfer, how could I leave?" The best way to sample the aquarium-clear swell is aboard a chartered boat, and the very best vessel on offer is the Ocean Dancer, a 115-foot luxury yacht with private staterooms, an onboard masseuse, a personal chef, and surf guides. By night the boat plies the North Male Atolls in search of surf so that in the morning you're perfectly positioned to make surgical strikes on world-class breaks like Sultans, Jailbreaks, or Ninjas, which average three to eight feet high. When you're ready for a rest, summon the 40-hp dinghy to chauffeur you back to the yacht for lunch on the sundeck. You won't touch dry land for seven days – unless you want to.
Start Today: Swim. Paddling out in rough surf can be so tiring it'll leave you without enough juice to actually catch a wave. Four months prior to your trip, prepare for marathon surf sessions with three pool workouts per week, if you can't actually get to the ocean. Try to build up to 60-minute swims, incorporating a few 25-yard sprints into slow and steady lap workouts. Take a lesson. This is not a trip for first-time surfers. Before you attempt a reef, get comfortable with a beach break somewhere like Costa Rica or Baja, Mexico, where waves are often less steep, thus giving you more time to paddle in, and far more margin for error.
Don't Leave Home Without: A rash guard. Sun in the Maldives is brutal, but the waves are so good you won't want to quit. The O'Neill Skins Crew long-sleeved rash guard is lightweight and UV-protective, and has a loop at the hemline to prevent ride-up ($42, rei.com).
More Info: Ocean Dancer's packages include meals and a shared or single cabin. Check out wavehunters.com for detailed information on Maldives surfing. From the East Coast try American or Emirates, which fly to Male in the Maldives via Dubai or London (emirates.com); from the West Coast, fly Singapore Air from Los Angeles, connecting through Singapore (singaporeair.com).
MJ Insider: At times there will be other surf charter boats prowling the same spots; to avoid crowds, surf during lunchtime. From about 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. you'll have the waves to yourself. If you can bring only one board to the Maldives, the seven-foot Channel Islands M13 should be your stick. It paddles like a longboard, surfs like a shortboard, and can handle everything from knee-high slop to double overhead waves (cisurfboards.com).