One day in 1973, Tony Hussein Hinde became the luckiest surf rat in history when the boat he was taking from Sri Lanka to Réte;union Island ran aground on an uninhabited atoll in the northern Maldives, 400 miles southwest of India. Realizing he'd achieved reef-surfing nirvana, Hinde stayed, and for the next 15 years, cruised the island chain in his dhoni (a 16-foot sailboat) charting and naming all the major breaks, learning to speak Dhivehi, and converting to Islam. Word of Hinde's paradise trickled out, of course, and in 1989 he opened Atoll Adventures, the Maldives' first surf-touring operation. He now ferries surfers (25 is the limit) to breaks in cushy sailboats. It's a very effectiveand exclusivemethod. Quoth Aussie surfer Terry Fitzgerald: "We were assembled in front of a four-to five-foot left that was so picture-perfect we were all wetting our pants in anticipation." No wonder Tony stayed.
Surf's Up: Mid-February to mid-May, and mid-August to mid-October; swells generated in Antarctica range from chest-high to double overhead off the outer atolls.
Your Stick: Medium-size boards for the outer atolls and a hot dog for the mushier stuff up north. Tip: The locals eschew longboards; bring one for the small days and you'll have the waves all to yourself.
Beware: Outgoing tides can flow like the Ganges and suck you out to sea.
Aprève;s-Surf: The Seagull Caféte; in Male (the capital) is a favorite among surfers who have been living on fresh tuna for days. Try a Kurumbaa Surprisea coconut shell full of homemade ice cream.
Getting There: Waterways Surf Adventures (800-928-3757; www.waterwaystravel.com) can book you plane tickets and a cool cabin (air-conditioning, on-board cook, VCR) on one of Hinde's boats. Price: $3,050.
Jalama Beach, California B
Trust us, just keep going. Past the sprawling Santa Barbara County ranches; past Lompoc and the only surf shop for 20 miles; past 200-year-old live oaks. Leave Highway 1 behind, and wind 14 miles down a narrow road. Pay the paltry five-dollar parking fee, and survey your reward: one of the choicest surf spots on the California coast. Just north of Point Conception, Jalama County Park gets swells from the north to the southwest. Tarantula is the draw, a consistent left-hander that lures surfers from as far away as Brazil. Four and a half miles of coastline provides waves enough for everyoneespecially if you're willing to hike a mile up the beach. Mornings and late afternoons are best, when the wind calms down and the choppy waves subside. Mingle with dolphins, gray whales, and brown pelicans while you wait out the rough spots.
Surf's Up: Autumn brings perfect southwest swells from storms in the South Pacific, and if you're lucky, a few early-season North Pacific swells.
Your Stick: Think heft. The waves are big and you'll be braving 54-degree seas in at least a three-millimeter wetsuit, so bring a six-foot-eight to seven-foot board.
Beware: Tarantulas and grumpy locals are understandably loath to share their beach with outsiders.
Aprève;s-Surf: The Jalama Beach Store and Grill (805-736-5027) stocks Frisbees, caviar, and Spam, and serves three squares daily. "Our ground sirloin burger is world famous," boasts co-owner Steve Eittreim. Good thing, because his kitchen is your only option.
Sleep It Off: Jalama Beach Campground (805-736-3504) is first-come, first-served; on summer weekends, dispatch a scout several days ahead to save your spot. Sites are $16 a night with the basics (fire pit, picnic table), and $22 a night with electrical hookups.
Clean point breaks, high-impact sandbar breaks, peeling offshore reef breaks, heck, breaks with sea urchins that poke you in the backsideBarbados's swells fulfill any fantasy. Brooding 98 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, the island's ragged, 80-mile reef necklace takes the first hit from the Atlantic's tradewind swells. "There are many, many waves in Barbados," says Bajan Surf Bungalows proprietor and resident carver Melanie Welch, "but a lot of them don't break all the time." The secret? Head to Bathsheba Beach on the central east coast. Here, mellow oceanside shanties catering to the no-shirt-no-shoes set are just a longboard's length from Soupbowla world-renowned, thick-walled, hollow right break that remains head-high 300 days a year. If it gets too crowded, use Soupbowl as your crystal ball. "If it's a real big north swell," says Welch, "you'll know the west coast is on. And if it's real windy and big, chances are good for a south-coast swell." Better yet, just shadow any car with boards on top.
Surf's Up: Cold fronts that hover north of Barbados from October to April can get waves going up to 15 feet in Soupbowl.
Your Stick: Welch rents out used long- and shortboards ($20 per day for guests; $20 per hour for everyone else).
Beware: Only brave Tropicana, a popular west coast left-hander, at high tide, or the coral will slice you up like sushi.
Aprève;s-Surf: Mount Gay and Coke, Mount Gay and tonic, Mount Gay piñde;a colada... For 300 years the sugarcane nectar has been distilled here, so take advantage.
Sleep It Off: The Edgewater Inn ($85-$145 a night; 246-433-9900; www.edgewaterinn.com) and Bajan Surf Bungalows ($28$38 a night; 246-433-9920; www.jorgen.com/surf) are a barefoot walk from Soupbowl.