Introducing Salt Gypsy`s latest contributor….
Kiwi surfer, Hannah Horton is our current girl crush. With an ethos of ‘eat right, tread light, live bright,’ Hannah is the creator of a very tantalising wholefoods blog: Health Yeah! Recipes for homemade bounty bars, raw vegan coconut lime cheesecake and the ultimate green smoothie nestle in amongst DIY face washes and other simple, do-able life hacks. Hannah – we are gutted we missed you in the Maldives but can`t wait to share a lineup with you someday…..
Kia ora* Hannah, we heard whispers over tropical waters there was another Kiwi girl living and working in the Maldives a couple of years back – turns out it was you! How did you end up amongst a string of pearls in the Indian Ocean? I was a Sustainability and Development Major at Uni. I was interested in the unique challenges faced by Small Island developing nations due to their remoteness, limited natural resources, geographic dispersion and vulnerability to climate change impacts and natural disasters. So, I headed to the Maldives to work for the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) on climate change resilience and adaptation to coastal erosion and rising sea levels.
Living in the heart of a geographically-isolated Muslim nation, how did you find the cultural differences? Maldives was a paradox. There`s ‘Tourist Maldives,’ which is luxury at its finest: overwater bungalows, copious buffets, infinity pools and spa treatments. Then there`s local Maldives where tourists rarely venture. I lived on Male – a 2 square mile island, 2.4m at it`s highest poing and bursting at the seams with over 140,000 residents. It felt like a bustling tropical Calcutta – beeping scooters and taxis, aromatic spices, wafting tuna markets, black burkas, dubious pink, blue and yellow high rise buildings, leaky air con units, breezy tropical heat. All enclosed by concrete seawalls and the hint of turquoise Indian Ocean in every direction.
Zealously Muslim, politically unstable and facing some serious environmental unknowns, Maldives was a cultural smack in the face, in the best kind of way.
And the waves….Ah the waves. Consistent pulsing swells, warm, glassy, wally, barrelly, rippable tropical perfection. Amazing!
There is a lot of controversy at the moment over exclusivity on reef breaks in the Maldives (check out the Save Thamburudhoo project). As a surfer and Sustainability and Development advocate, what are your thoughts? I`m not impressed! It`s all about the commercial interests of resort ‘barons’ (many of them foreign), and from my experience there, the wealth doesn`t trickle down to the people. Once a resort ‘claims’ an island, they get leases as long as 99 years, and locals can`t access these islands unless they work for the resort. Furthermore, there`s a lot of sand dredging, land reclamation and even coral mining that goes on when building resorts, especially on a small island like Thamburudhoo, which seriously compromises the delicate ecosystem.
It`s a rough deal for the local surfers. Living on Male is so intense; such a politically and religiously charged atmosphere. We would hang out for weekend surf trips to the nearby non-exclusive breaks to maintain a bit of sanity! To deny Maldivians access to their homeland breaks for the sake of a wealthy, foreign minority really sucks. No-one owns the ocean, least of all those who only seek to profit from it.
So how did your blog, Health Yeah!, come about? As an environment nerd and a travelling/surfing devotee, a whole foods plant-based lifestyle was an inevitable progression (but also a total revelation) for me. There are many things we can`t change about the world, but we each have the power to revolutionise our health, vitality and happiness; and make conscious and thoughtful food choices for the sake of future generations while we are at it.
The Health Yeah! blog was created to inspire people – whether it`s to feel energised and get healthy, to heal ailments in your body naturally, or to become more conscious and connected to the source of your food: it`s all about changing your food, changing your life.
If we came to visit your neck of the woods, where would you take us for surf/post-surf-cold-beer/good kai*….To The Island (somewhere in the Bay of Plenty), or straight out to Piha for a surf, and afterwards enjoy a BBQ and some crafty beers watching the sun go down from the deck of my family bach*.
Words you live by….
Travel light, live light, spread the light, be the light.
Favourite surf spot: Mexico and New Zealand
Tshirts + Bikinis (sturdy ones!)
Silk sleeping bag
Boards: my 5’10 and a gun
A good book
GLOSSARY OF KIWI TERMS:
Kia ora = NZ Maori word for hello.
Kai = NZ Maori word for food.
Bach = holiday house. Typically small, modest homes located on or near the beach.
*Hannah Horton is a New Zealand surfer, Sustainability and Development mover and shaker, and founder of whole foods blog-of-radness, Health Yeah!. Read more about Hannah here and connect with her here.
All photographs provided by Hannah with several off the surf shots in the Maldives (including the one above) shot by Maldivian surf photographer, Rushh Hassan.