One of the real beauties of surfing is that it can be passed on from one generation to another. Most of us share the same first memories: dad pushing you into the waves, teaching you to duck dive, reaching the backline for the first time and from there, the surf missions to find and ride good waves together. But what could be more ultimate father-son bonding time, than jumping on a plane for an island surf adventure!
That’s exactly what George and Levi Epenetos did. They packed their bags and headed for warmer tropical skies, seeking good waves in the Maldives.
Here’s a fun read into how dad and grom experienced the trip and what made it totally worth it!
Tell us a bit about yourselves?
George: I am 50 years old and was born and bred in Cape Town. I am the proudest husband and father to the most amazing family: Nicole (my wife) and three kids, Levi (14), Eden (12) and Zach (9). I’ve been surfing for the last 40 years and still have the stoke of a grom!
Levi: I’ve just turned 14 years old and I love to surf every day after school. In fact, I love anything to do with the ocean. I also enjoy working with my hands - doing woodwork and shaping surfboards.
What’s your surfing backgrounds and your relationship like – where and when did it all start?
George: My father got me into surfing at Muizenburg corner when I was about 10 years old. We lived in Milnerton and the beach break at the Milnerton lighthouse became my local daily surf spot after school. My dad soon thereafter introduced me to Elands Bay… which quickly became my favorite wave in the world.
Now I’m super amped to see my own kids enjoy the ocean, learn to surf and to see the stoke they get from riding waves.
Levi: My dad started pushing me into waves when I was about four years old at our local surf spot called A house in Melkbosstrand. I used to be super scared of rocks and big waves because I was only used to surfing sand bottom beach breaks every day. I did not need my dad’s help from about the age of 9. He now helps my younger brother. We just keep passing it on…
Have you done solo father-and-son surf trips before?
George: Most of our solo surf trips (without the other family members) have been to various surf contests for the South African Surfing association series. When Levi turned 13, we also did a father-son trip to Elands. That trip was more about me educating and talking to him about the new season ahead. It was a super cool time to share about the various challenges that every teenager will face.
Levi: We’ve done surf contest trips to Ballito, Victoria Bay and East London together. It’s super cool to jump on a plane together.
Whose idea was the Maldives?
George: It was definitely my idea… with the encouragement of the Esterhuyse family. Frederick educated me about the special that True Blue Surf travel was advertising. If Covid taught me one thing, it was to try and make the most of life and every opportunity that is presented to you. The Maldives is definitely a nice introduction to heavier waves than the beach breaks we are used to.
Levi: It was my dad’s idea, but it was one of my 2021 goals to go on an overseas surf trip with my dad!
What was on the cards for this trip?
George: A full week, with daily surf passes to other islands in the area, of full board at the Lohifushi surf resort in the northern atolls.
Levi: I wanted to get experience in heavier waves and coral reefs. I also wanted to try out my new Ibelli First Time soft top board and get a few photos/videos to proof it.
And traveling with Covid – has it been challenging?
George: The Maldives is one of the only surf destinations where there is no quarantine period required. One only has to provide a recent Covid negative test result and a few minor online questionnaires have to be completed. It was not a mission at all. The local doctor on the island then performs another Covid test the day before your departure.
Levi: It was very different travelling with a mask. We had to wear it the whole time on the plane and in the airports. It was not difficult to get there. We flew to Doha and then to the Maldives.
What boards did you pack?
George: I packed 3 boards… a 6’0” (did not use it once), a 5’9” fish and my favorite JS 5’8” swallow tail. Also packed diving gear but did not use it as there were waves every day!
Levi: I also took 3 boards. 2x Glen Row performance short boards and my 5’2” RYD Ibelli First Time soft top board.
The burning question, what is the surf like in the Maldives?
George: The waves are perfect and unintimidating. The coral reef is also super flat and the chances of getting hurt by the reef is minimal. The left at Lohis is pretty much as perfect as most of the waves you would get in Indo. There are about another seven or so flawless waves on other islands that are close by in the area. Best part: the water is a warm 30 degrees Celsius!!!
Levi: Beautiful sheet glass and tropical surf conditions. Waves run much longer than at home and you have a perfect channel to paddle out after each wave.
How crowded was it and was it easy to get along with the locals and find the spots?
George: This is an interesting question. We chose to stay and surf on Lohis for the first 6 days of our stay as only Lohis residents are permitted to surf the wave. Surfers from other islands are not allowed. This is a HUGE plus as it is a free for all at all the other spots. We got reports of between 30 – 40 surfers in the water at all the other breaks. Most of the surfers on Lohis were beginners from Moscow, Madrid and Munich! There were times where it was just Levi and I in the water - surfing perfect waves all to ourselves.
Levi: The locals are awesome and helpful. The three surf guides were super cool and showed us the ropes. The other Lohis surf guests were all friendly and the vibe in the water was mellow.
What was your best wave like? We want to hear all the details…
George: In my opinion, Honkies is the best wave in the area. Honkies is a perfect left that wraps around an island and has a similar look and feel to St Leu in Reunion. I had surfed it 17 years ago and had to introduce Levi to the wave. We decided to make the short 20 min boat trip to the wave on our very last day… and we scored big time!
Levi: My favorite wave was Lohis. We surfed 4-6 foot waves with perfect offshore conditions on the last three days of our trip. The wall on the wave is super long and the lip keeps on giving you sections to hit. The sea life is amazing too… turtles pop up next to you all the time.
Highlight and lowlight of the trip?
George: Highlight was definitely the father-son quality time we had. We created memories and special moments that we will both never forget. Meeting new friends from other parts of the world is always a huge highlight. Lowlight was perhaps the gale force onshore monsoon type conditions on day one of our stay… we decided to make the best of our time and toured the island instead.
Levi: Highlight was flying into Male, getting on a speedboat and passing all the islands on our way to Lohis. We arrived at sunset and walked to watch the sun set over perfect waves. Lowlight was me getting bitten by small sea lice every day. I had an allergic reaction and had to put on cream every night before going to sleep. It was super itchy.
Will you go back and would you recommend this trip to others?
George: Absolutely!!! This was my 3rd trip to Lohis. First prize would be to take my whole family. In saying that, your choice of destination is critical and based on the skill level and experience of the surfers. I also prefer a land-based stay and always opt for the full board option (otherwise your pocket can feel the food and drinks bill).
Levi: 100%. I would love to go back there with my family and some friends.
My advice would be to definitely do a land-based trip as there are many other things you can do if there are no waves. You will also meet many new friends at a surf resort.
Take lots of sunblock and creams. Don’t pack too heavy because you’ll live in baggies and a t-shirt the whole time. Get fit before you go!
Where would you guys like to head next - what is in the dream pipeline?
George: If I had license to dream… a trip to somewhere in Indo so that we can get a few barrels. My biggest dream would be to go and watch the WCT Pipe Masters and hopefully score a few waves too. One up on that would be to go and watch the WSL Finals at Trestles in California. We’re allowed to dream right!
Levi: To go to the Mentawai islands in Indo with my family and with a couple of my friends’ families too.
Good waves and even better dreams to keep you going, George and Levi! Now we’re all frothing to jump on a plane and enjoy those perfect waves…
All images by Ali Ahmed