Australian-born world-record-holding extreme sports enthusiast and motivational speaker, Damien Rider has completed the Maldives Paddle Challenge that took him 480 km across the island nation. He was the first to attempt Stand-Up Paddleboarding in the Maldives, starting from Hulhumale’ island all the way to the zero-degree atoll, on the equator.
Prior to taking up the challenge, Damien has trained in the Maldives for several months, living in Hulhumale’ and familiarizing himself with the Maldivian climatic conditions and weather. He embarked on this innovative challenge on February 18th, 2023 from the island of Hulhumale’ and continued on his paddleboard for 9 consecutive days. Damien made a total of 8 stops in his journey, each at a different local island in the country, where he received a warm welcome from the residents.
The eight islands that he visited on the voyage include K. Maafushi, V. Rakeedhoo, M. Kolhufushi, Th. Guraidhoo, L. Fonadhoo, Maanaagalaa resort and Gdh. Vaadhoo. At every island, Damien was shown the true hospitality of Maldivians with traditional welcomes arranged at each step of the way. During his expedition, Damien used a specially designed paddleboard manufactured in Thailand for the challenge. In the last leg of the journey, he also crossed the ‘Huvadhoo Kandu’ to reach the equator, a feat that required immense endurance and perseverance on his side.
By finishing the 480KM Maldives Paddle Challenge, Damien wanted to call attention to mental health as he, himself has experienced struggles in the past. Damien describes that the paddle represented a connection between islands, countries and the ocean. He also expressed gratitude for the warm welcome he received on the way, thanking the Maldivian people for allowing him to experience the Maldives in a way not many have been able to.