Ian and Tony met in Arugam Bay, 1980

Tony Hussain, The Maldives Surf Veteran
Posted by: Shari on December 18th, 2008

Story by DOUG LEES, from the latest issue ofA?A?Surfing World Magazine

Tony inside bowl - Honky's, late 70s

Tony inside bowl – Honkys late 70s

On 27 May this year, Anthony A?a??A?Tony HusseinA?a??A? Hinde, the surfer who discovered the waves of the Maldives, died surfing the wave he found in 1973 A?a??a?? the wave where, he said his A?a??A?soul became completeA?a??A?.

Having ridden a wave to the end, Tony did not get back on his board and was spotted floating in the water. Despite the best efforts of fellow surfers and the local doctor he could not be revived. Tony had suffered a sudden heart attack as he finished that wave.

TonyA?a??a??s story is one of the truly great surf fairytales. He was the 20 year old from Australia who went on a surfing adventure at a time when many of the worldA?a??a??s best surf breaks were yet to be discovered. A shipwreck on a deserted island in the middle of the Indian Ocean landed him on the then-unknown Maldives, where he found his own nirvana and made it his life and livelihood.

Tony with the first surfboard ever ridden in Maldives.

Tony with the first surfboard ever ridden in Maldives.

In 1973, Tony was traveling with his good friend Mark Scanlon on a surfing trip from Indonesia to Africa. By December they had come as far as Sri Lanka, where, despite neither having any sailing experience, they talked their way onto a 56-foot ketch bound for Africa. The captainA?a??a??s plan was to set sail and let the current push them north, but the December currents drove them south towards the Maldives.

On the third night, when they thought they were in the middle of the ocean, the boat was hit by a four-foot wave. Luckily they managed to surf the boat in to the deserted shore – Tony Hussein had landed on the Maldives. In the morning they realised they were A?a??A?in a beautiful lagoon, surrounded by a beautiful reef and covered by an equally beautiful skyA?a??A?.

Tony doing a cutback at Pasta Point.

Tony doing a cutback at Pasta Point.

Despite the captain deciding not to stay, Tony and Mark salvaged the boat and sailed it around the islands – at the time one of the most deserted places on earth. One day on this journey of discovery they rounded a headland where A?a??A?there was a wrapping, blue, perfect left-hander, offshore wind, six feet, breaking off a deserted island with no other surfer for a thousand milesA?a??A?. As luck would have it, there was a right-hander just as perfect on the other side of the island. After just one session there, Tony decided this was where he wanted to live.

Tony sailing his dhoni.

Tony sailing his dhoni.

The Maldives opened to tourists in 1972 but by December 1973, Tony estimated, there had only been A?a??A?maybe 100 people throughA?a??A?. Tony and Mark were the first to arrive on their own and the local government agency didnA?a??a??t know what to do with them. There were no guest houses in the Maldives, so they billeted with locals until Tony rented a house, for seven dollars a month for a year.

A?a??A?I was 20 and thought IA?a??a??d died and gone to heaven,A?a??A? he said.

From 1974 to 1984 Tony and selected friends surfed the Maldives area by themselves. They would simply walk to the end of the island and paddle out or sail in TonyA?a??a??s small dhoni, a single-sailed local transport vessel, to other islands nearby. They would leave their boards in the jungle and sail back and forth.

Ton in a bottom turn.

Ton in a bottom turn.

If they saw another yacht sailing by they would belly the waves straight in and hide in the bush. Tony gave the waves heA?a??a??d discovered names, by which they are now widely known. He originally named both the left and right breaks Sultans, but later changed the left to HonkyA?a??a??s after his nickname Honky Fats Waller.

In 1984, Tony got his first outboard motor, mounted on the back of his dhoni. This was a major advancement after ten years of sailing and poling between islands and in and out of lagoons. In the Maldives Tony found personal as well as surfing nirvana, converting to Islam in 1977. He said his conversion was a A?a??A?way of thanking Allah for guiding me to the Maldives and for the good fortune IA?a??a??d had thereA?a??A?. He also liked the fact that the people of the Maldives were like Polynesian Muslims, a more casual, but very respectful sort of Islam. A?a??A?They respect the religion here but theyA?A?re not hardcore about it,A?a??A? he said.A?A?In 1983 his naturalisation was completed when he married a local Maldivian, Zulfa, with whom he had a son and a daughter.

Young Tony and Zulfa

Young Tony and Zulfa

ItA?a??a??s estimated that only about ten different white men had surfed HonkyA?a??a??s up until 1984 – now thatA?a??a??s a well kept secret. But in the mid-eighties, more surfers arrived through the introduction of friends. Tony said heA?a??a??d always known that one day the Maldives would be exposed to the world and thought he would open a surf travel company. So, in 1989, in partnership with good friend and surfer Ian Lyon, Atoll Adventures was begun.

Ian and Tony met in Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka in 1980, but it was several years before Tony let Ian in on his secret – the surf in the Maldives – and then it was with some urgency. Tony wrote to Ian saying that, due to a change in the laws in the Maldives, if he was to come surfing there, he had to get there before May 1984. Ian arrived soon after receiving the letter and had two monthA?a??a??s of perfect surf with Tony.

Ian describes Tony as one of the most interesting people he has ever known, a man he admired and loved as much as a brother. He says that first trip was one of the best experiences of his life.A?A?A?a??A?Staying in this isolated country of tiny islands with a culture and people unlike any others I had experienced. Surfing perfect waves with only a few friends and getting to know Tony really well, understanding and appreciating just how amazing his life of the past ten years had been and being part of an incredible secret.A?a??A?

Together, Tony and Ian introduced surfers to the incredible secret. In the early years of the business, Ian says, they had a hard time even convincing people that there was surf in the Maldives. People would ring and abuse them. ThereA?a??a??s no surf in the Maldives, they would say, accusing them of running an imaginary surf camp.

Tony at Boppa

Tony and Boppa

Now, Atoll Adventures is the leading surf travel company to the area and the resort they pioneered on Pasta Point has become the most popular surf location in the Maldives.

Tony often said he would spend the rest of his life in the Maldives and this is exactly what he did.

In an earlier issue of Surfing World (SW 299), Tony said: A?a??A?I have been very happy here, happier than I ever thought possible. Again I want to thank Allah for all that he has given me. I have lived a lucky life, a dream life, in my years in the Maldives. My only regret is that Simon Anderson didnA?a??a??t invent the thruster 15 years earlier.A?a??A?

TonyA?a??a??s wife of 25 years, Zulfa, died in January 2008 while undergoing treatment for Leukemia at Wollongong Hospital. He is survived by his son Ashley (23) and daughter Mishal (15). Ashley has deferred his university course in Sydney to return to the Maldives to attend to family affairs and learn everything about the operations of Atoll Adventures. Mishal is at boarding school in Brisbane.

Tony and Zulfa

Tony and Zulfa


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