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Ronny Long

Interview with a legendary surf guide

If you have ever been on a surf trip overseas, there's a very good chance the place you stayed had someone in charge of your surfing itinerary. The surf guide plays a pivotal role in your surf trip and they often make the tough decisions on behalf of the group in an attempt to maximise time in the water surfing waves of the highest quality instead of missing out because you don't know your ass from your elbow! 

If you have ever been on a surf trip to the Maldives, there's a very good chance your surf guide played a pivotal role in making key decision on where and when to surf to help maximise your time in the water surfing high quality waves.

Peter ‘Stumpy’ Wallace has been a stalwart surf guide in the Maldives since 2007 when he led surf charter expeditions on the HandhuFalhi around the many atolls we have all come to love.

Stoked writer Ronny Long sat down for a bit of a chat with Stumpy to talk about his experience in the Outer Atolls and some of the things the public should look for in a good surf guide.

STOKED: Stumpy, thanks for joining me. How long have you been a surf guide in the Maldives? Why do you keep coming back?

STUMPY: Over a decade. I was on the first trips to ever venture to the Southern Atolls. It’s a beautiful part of the world, why wouldn’t I come back.

STOKED: What kind of waves do you like surfing?

STOKED: Anything these days, the Sunshine Coast of Queensland where I’m based can be a bit slow at times so whenever I can get back to the Maldives, I’m usually over the moon.

STOKED: Tell us a bit about your experience as a surf guide. Have you got any tips for people who want to get into it or people who are about to book a surf trip and don’t know what to look for?

STUMPY: I have been tour guiding and shaping boards for as long as I can remember. Regular trips to Fraser Island gave me the skills to communicate well with tour operators and guests which I used daily as a surf guide in the Maldives. I think communication is easily the best and most important skill to develop for those who want to get into it. Experience in all area’s and time at sea is the other and probably more beneficial for the guys booking a trip. There is no substitute for experience when you are helping guys score the waves of their lives. Understanding local weather patterns can only be developed by spending time in the area’s you are guiding.

STOKED: The Outer Atolls is a regular stop on your guiding calendar, what makes this area so special?

STUMPY: It’s a combination of uncrowded waves and how remote it is. Consistent Southerly swells mean the waves are a little more powerful and it’s a great spot to visit for the entire season. The crowd factor is also limited due to the minimal resorts or land camps that exist down there as well as the difficulties and cost involved with stocking a boat for the season. There’s nowhere else in the Maldives I’d be. Love it!

STOKED: The Outer Atolls have a reputation for only being a good option early and later in the season. Why is that?

STUMPY: This is a fair comment…but due to the consistent southerly direction swells it pumps all season down there and with an experienced guide you can navigate your way around the breaks to find one that is offshore in the prevailing trade winds. It’s a great option because it is highly likely you will be one of, if not the only surf charter down there, so even if you might be surfing the odd wind affected wave, there will be no one else on it.

STOKED: Why should people travel to the Outer Atolls during the mid season?

STUMPY: There’s no denying that it can be windy, but there is a working break for every wind direction. The crowd factor is minimal and the waves can be a little steeper and faster, making it perfect for people who have maybe done the Male and Central Atolls before and want to try a different area. I have also received a lot of feedback over the years from my guests that they would rather surf a wave slightly wind affected with no one on it compared to hassling it out with 30+ other guys in the lineup further North.

STOKED: Why is it important to have a good guide down South?

STUMPY: The local weather patterns are unpredictable and it takes someone with experience to really understand the area. Tides and currents down there are also tricky. I have been going to the Southern Atolls for more than 10 years and I see inexperienced guides and skippers come unstuck all the time. The guests are the ones who miss out…all because they chose someone ‘cheaper’ by a couple hundred bucks.

STOKED: Have you done any training that helps you with your daily tasks?

STUMPY: A little bit here and there. I did a lot starting out with the Fraser Island Tours because the operators had so much liability to worry about. The beauty of surf guiding is that 9 out of 10 people can surf ok and know their limits. You get one dick head every now and then who thinks they’re Kelly but the majority of them know what they’re capable of. One thing I make a big deal of on my trips is helping people become better surfers by slowly getting them to step outside their comfort zones. The feeling of accomplishment when a guest goes from surfing 2-3ft waves on a mal to charging 6ft nuggets on a short board is great.  

STOKED: What tips would you give someone looking to book a surf trip down in the Maldives or anywhere for that matter?

STUMPY: Go with an experienced guide who knows the area, get a decent boat with a good skipper who will travel at night, have some good boards under your feet and keep an eye on the forecast to make sure you are equipped for all conditions. And if you can, go with a bunch of people you know you will get along with.

STOKED: Thanks Stumpy! Do you have any trips lined up? Can people request your service? How?

STUMPY: Always happy to be invited as a personal guide for those who will have me. I think I’ve got some good knowledge to pass on and make their trip as good as it can possibly be!

I usually head to the Maldives every August with World Surfaris so hit them up for the details.

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