Aside from the first week, May has been a month to forget in the North Male region of the Maldives, so instead of trying to talk it up, we decided to have a quick chat with Richard Kotch – long time Lohis Surf Guide, turned manager of the HudhuranFushi/Lohis Surf Program to get a bit of an insight into Life at Lohis!
WS: Hi Rich, you are now in your tenth season at Lohis, what keeps you going back mate?
RK: Usually I’d say the great waves and good vibes, but if you looked out of the window today you’d think I was tripping haha! Usually this place is magic, with fun waves almost every day, and a really cruisey, low key vibe. Sure we don’t get the crazy barrels of Tahiti or Fiji, but we also don’t get the associated hype and ego either, so the atmosphere in the water is real mellow.
This job has evolved for me, I used to come here as a guide for World Surfaris and see it as a good way to ride some nice waves and experience a different side of surf travel (after many years in Indo) but now, taking on more of a managerial role and being here with my wife and baby, I see it as our way of life.
WS: You are quite active on Instagram @richard_kotch You paint a very pretty picture of #LifeAtLohis in fact it appears that you are living the dream, so I have to ask what’s a typical day for you?
RK: Haha, it’s funny you should ask that – “Living the dream” is our mantra whenever things get really rough, it’s a great line! I should use it on Insta! A typical day would be up early for coffee and urgent emails, then take Curren (our baby) up to check the surf with our Surf guides, Hoobs, and Issey and Ali our photographer. Ali and I will discuss the best options for shooting the day and Hoobs and Issey will plan where the boats will go. Then, if the surf is really good I will try to get in the water ASAP, either to surf or shoot water shots. If it’s just average I will have another coffee with the guests on the deck, try to meet any new guests and make sure guys know what to expect with the conditions on the day, then maybe have a chat with Mr Earnest (the General Manager) on the deck at Lohis. He has been the driving force behind many of the improvements here and he really enjoys his morning surf check! Then a quick breakfast at Lohis before shooting some more photos, answering more emails, dealing with all manner of weird and wonderful requests, meeting more new guests, playing with baby etc before lunch at Lohis. If the waves are good I eat really light and either Amy or I will try to make the most of the empty line-up while the guests all go back for seconds at the buffet. After lunch I try to have 20 mins to chill before more emails and phone calls – my phone often rings at least 50 times a day so I really hope that mobiles are not as harmful as I think they are! Amy does all our paperwork (she’s amazing at it) but I answer all the surf related emails and calls. At some point we try to take Curren to the beach, before heading back to Lohis. The late afternoon at Lohis is a great time to shoot so often Ali and I will both be on the tools making the most of the light, then we both try to surf for 20 mins or so right on dark when the guests have come in for sunset beers. Evenings at Lohis are my favorite time of day, the guests are frothing after a good day of waves, the beers are flowing and the vibe is so nice to be around – it’s not a crazy ‘lets get hammered’ vibe, just more of a chilled out ‘lets have three or four drinks and watch the sunset’ vibe!
WS: Sounds full on! So what’s the best thing about working in the Maldives
RK: I guess the way that we can all live here together, surrounded by friendly locals and happy guests, riding some good waves and raising our baby on this beautiful island.
WS: What about the worst? Is there one?
RK: I think that most people who come here on a holiday find it hard to understand that there are some huge sacrifices involved with living this sort of lifestyle, whether it’s here or in Indo somewhere, so we get a lot of “this isn’t a job” type comments…usually we just respond with a big smile and a “Living the dream” Of course they don’t see the endless emails and paperwork that we handle behind the scenes. I know that we have landed on our feet out here, but I have also seen all the guys who have come and gone from jobs like this because they just couldn’t cope with the sacrifices involved.
WS: What are the main changes you’ve seen at Hudhus over the years?
RK: It was good to see Lohis move from unorganized chaos – with over a hundred surfers on the island some weeks, to a well-managed surf spot that fulfils the expectations of our guests and the locals.
WS: You have travelled a fair bit, places like P-PASS, Mentawais and all over Indo…How do you rate the Maldives as a global surf destination?
RK: I rate it highly, usually! Look, it’s not Indo or Tahiti, it’s just not that powerful, but it’s a legitimate destination for really perfect waves…but yes, if you want to stand tall in double overhead pits every day it’s probably not for you. If you want to surf fun waves in a beautiful environment then we will see you soon!
WS: Do you have a favorite month?
RK: July and August are great…both have pretty much non-stop swell and great conditions. I guess August is the most reliable (the Billabong girls came for a week last July and got a bit skunked but the weeks before and after their trip were all-time!) but August is a sure thing for waves every day and an A+ swell every week.
WS Any notable guests?
RK: Sure! We think of everyone who visits as a special guest! The guys from WA who come for a month every year, they are older guys but so into their surfing, they just turn up, settle in and get straight into the vibe of the place, in fact they really help create the good vibes on the Lohis deck (big shout out to Dougie and little Dougie ) Also Geoff O’Connell and his crew of legends who are just so stoked to be here and ride a few waves and stoke out the boys…good friend of World Surfaris Troy Smith who is hooking the boys up with his hand shaped Fishes…the list could go on and on. Of course we have pro’s come through every year. Just recently we had Owen and Wilko here. Billabong Girls came in late March (absolutely scored) last year we had the Volcom boys (they have come 3 or 4 times) and the Billabong Girls again, Jessie Mendes and Tatiana and quite a few other pro guys just coming for a chilled out surf trip. All the pro’s are unanimous in their praise of Lohis as a wave, the island, and the way that the area is managed to ensure a pleasant atmosphere to surf in. The wave is more sheltered from the wind than the other lefts in the area so they know that they are either going to be blowing up and doing the biggest turns, or they will be getting shacked. Life is good!
WS: What’s your best memory?
RK: Meeting my wife Amy in the water at Jails.
WS: Good answer! Does one wave stand out over all these years?
RK: I got a really good one at Sultans on my single fin, it was my second surf after being out of the water for 6 months with a bad injury so that was a special wave, a nice ‘welcome back’ Then the day after we scored the best jails I’ve ever seen with just four Saffa’s in the water!
WS: If someone is packing a 3 board quiver what boards should they bring?
RK: Pack your everyday board that you love to ride at home, plus a step-up and a groveller. Then throw in some swim fins and a mask and you are sorted! Easy! See you soon!