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Research and Development in the Maldives

Updated: Feb 9

Our time on the OMX boat, island hopping in the Maldives, was a success to say the least. A solid team (“the talent” as Mads nicknamed us), made up of Ocean Mountain Explorers owner Jem, Cord head shaper Markie, team rider Lucy, photographer Maddie and friends Alex and Leonore, took to the water for a fortnight, scoring world-class waves under blazing sunshine in crystal clear waters, and all with hardly anyone around. In the words of Markie, “it was f*cking pumping”.

“There was hardly a day that wasn’t overhead,” said Markie, “We took out 11 specifically shaped boards, and lucked out with three different swells over the few weeks we were out on the water.”

Sunset surf session in the Maldives

When our friend Jem at OMX asked us if we’d like to join him out in the Maldives for a research and development trip, we didn’t have to think twice. Flying from London to Doha, then on to Malé, takes around 12-14 hours. The harbour is easily accessible, straight opposite the airport, and our feet barely had time to touch the ground before we were cruising south across turquoise ocean, moving from island to island and empty break to empty break. OA3, the boat, sleeps 8 easily, and is fully staffed by a knowledgeable skipper, helpful deckhand and talented chef for every voyage.

“Palm trees line the horizon and the clouds shift and change with the breeze. Because of the heat you're outside from the moment you wake up until it gets dark. Your days feel so full and well lived.” Photographer Maddie captured the trip on camera, shooting both photo and film. “The waves break in pretty much the same place every time. There’s often a channel that you can float around in. It’s warm, the water’s crystal clear. The ‘talent’ (my collective name for the group!) were absolutely ripping. It’s a magical combo for water shooting.”

Markie, speaking about Maddie said, “Even though Mads was grafting hard the entire trip, she had one magic session on this long right hander.”

Maldives freediving

Nearly everyone had a new quiver shaped for the trip. We made Lucy 4 boards, including a personalised variation on Noah Lane’s Arc model and a 5’7 twin fin designed in collaboration with Lucy, that will be launching soon. “I was blown away by how well Lucy was surfing,” said Markie, “she was ripping. Really pushing herself. Fully charging.”

Lucy has been on the Cord team for a while, and is an integral voice during the design process of new boards. Her ability and style has been consistently going from strength to strength, and she really put our boards through their paces during the trip. “We had so many super fun waves, but I think the one that stands out for me would be when a chunky swell hit a few days into our trip. We were anchored at a spot called Yin Yangs. It's a hollow wave that breaks in about chest deep water. Needless to say, the thought of getting cheese-grated up the coral reef was a little daunting. I paddled back out past a body boarder getting the most incredible, square barrel and that was a turning point for me. I wanted to find one of those. After about an hour of getting a few waves, building up some confidence and waiting for the right one, I finally got it.

There is definitely something to be said for working though a fear and coming out the other side of it. It has to be one of the most rewarding feelings. In total I think I spent 9 hours in the water that day… I was hooked on finding more!”

Empty waves in far away warm islands

Lucy’s partner and our friend Alex was there too, flying along on a 5’5 Overdrive step-deck twinny, that’s yet to launch. “Our time dancing through the Maldivian archipelago was filled with fishing, shooting stars, sipping gin on the bow and surfing an array of warm empty waves. Markie’s boards slotted seamlessly into the lineup. Does it get any better? ”

Markie himself took 5 Cord boards; a 5’3 Overdrive, a 5’6 Flying-V, a 5’8 Humbucker, a 5’11 Seabomb and a 5’9 Swordfish, which he ended up leaving with deckhand Matt as a tip. “He actually just text me saying he’d had the best surf of his life on it. We’d had a blast; Matt, Alex and I would sneak off to fish and drink beers in between surfs.”

Markie Lascelles surfing in the Maldives

Owner of the boat Jem was treated to 2 of our boards; a 6’8 Sunseeker and a 5’10 Overdrive. The best thing about the Maldives, besides the epic waves and stunning weather, is that whilst the surf is high performance, it’s also really accessible for everyone. This allowed us to test a variety of boards on a range of waves over the few weeks that we were there; shortboards, twinnies, grovellers and mid-lengths.

Whilst research and development of new models was our main focus, we also wanted to collect as much content as possible. The jaw-dropping scenery, pumping surf and level of riding talent onboard made it the perfect opportunity to gather a library of images that truly showcased both the boat trip and the boards. We took in-water photographer and videographer Maddie along for the ride, as she’s been shooting with Lucy for a while, and the pair are pioneering women working together in surfing. “The Maldives is a land in which time seems to warp and stretch,” explained Maddie dreamily, “Before you’ve even sat down for breakfast you’ll have had a long surf, gliding across the waves above shimmering reefs. There’ll have been a dolphin or two, perhaps a turtle for good measure. You’ll have played some cards, drunk a coffee, taken in the view and maybe even read half of that book that was meant to last the whole trip. All of this by the time you’d have hit ‘snooze’ back in the UK. With no watch on your wrist and no itinerary, you can let the moments, rather than the minutes, define your day.”

The Ocean Mountain Explorer Cat

Markie stayed on for another week, after the rest of the team had left. “I can’t believe how good it was. We had 3 swells in 3 weeks. I don’t know where else you can go to get perfect over-head tubes all to yourself in bright, boiling sunshine. It was funny, there were a few other boats around, but we found this peak to ourselves around the back of a little island. During the last surf of the last day of the trip I was scoring stand-up barrels with no one else in the water.”

Speed blur tube in the tropics

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