Experienced surfers looking for a pristine break are heading to a remote archipelago somewhere between Hawaii and the Philippines. The Marshall Islands are hard to find and even harder to get to – and of course, that’s part of their appeal. Most of the 29 coral atolls that make up the Islands are unknown to western travellers, only one – Bikini Atoll – stirs a look of recognition.
Why the Marshall Islands?
The islands have good surf pedigree – their surfing potential was discovered by legendary surfer and boat captain Martin Daly, who put more than 100 breaks on the map, including One Palm Point in Mentawai Islands in Indonesia, first surfed in 1983, and now one of the most renowned surf breaks in the world. Daly is credited with popularising the Mentawais with travellers worldwide.
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Having sailed around the world for years on his Indies Trader charter boats, leading small groups of surfers to the best waves from Indonesia to Brazil and beyond, three years ago Daly finally decided to put down roots. He decided on the Marshall Islands after first coming across them on a 6-year round-the-world ecological research/surf promoting voyage with the surfwear company Quiksilver. Several years of hard work later, Daly has launched Beran Island, an 8-room private island luxury villa getaway for keen surfers and kiteboarders – or at least those with the budget to fly halfway across the world for the chance to surf a pristine break.
The 45-acre Beran Island, somewhere between Hawaii and the Philippines © Damea Dorsey
Beran Island is 45 acres of sandy scrub and palm trees and hardwoods, surrounded by pristine ocean and world-class surf breaks that appear from October to April. Beyond surfing, both the kitesurfing and diving opportunities are also world class.
The rooms are barefoot luxury in style - some with panoramic views over the island from private decks, others arranged into family-style spaces. While the accommodations are comfortable, the main attraction here is the possibility of daily surfing in the company of only a handful of other people. As Daly says, “Privacy is becoming harder and harder to achieve, and a private island in the middle of nowhere ticks a lot of boxes.”
This privilege comes at a price – the cost to rent the villa in its entirety (for up to 16 people) is a cool $50,000. And that’s before you factor in the location – 2,000 southwest of Hawaii. Travellers must fly to Majuro (the Marshall Islands’ capital) via Honolulu before transferring to a boat to reach Beran.
Snorkelers check on the health of the coral around the island © Damea Dorsey
A commitment to sustainability
Aware of the contradiction of creating a luxury outpost on an empty island atoll that takes a serious amount of flying time to reach, Daly’s mini-resort has a key commitment to sustainability. Daly says, “If we were going to do something to this pristine island, we had a great responsibility to have as little impact as possible.” Solar panels (100 of them) and two wind turbines generate enough power to run the operations, with a backup generator on hand just in case.
Rainwater is collected and stored below the villa in a 50,000 gallon reservoir. It’s then used to cool the resort and provide drinking water as well as water for the plumbing system, showers and kitchens.
Out at sea, Daly worked with the late conservationist Tony de Brum – the former Marshall islands foreign minister and champion of the Paris Climate Agreement – to create a shark sanctuary around the Islands and help protect the creatures from commercial shark fishing and finning practices. Divers on the island regularly monitor the coral health on the surrounding reefs, sharing the information with NGO’s working to preserve the ecosystem.
For many surfers the chance to surf practically alone is priceless © Damea Dorsey
The search for the surf
For dedicated surfers, there's a holy grail list – a set of must-visit breaks that must be tackled before you can truly call yourself a surfer, from the Pipeline in Oahu, to Mavericks in California, the Mentawais and Puerto Escondido in Mexico. The sport's popularity has grown exponentially in the last two decades, meaning the most popular spots are often packed with people all vying for the same wave. Those with the time and money have a new goal – going out of their way to find waves to enjoy in the company of just a handful of others.
For surfers lucky enough to visit Beran Island, daily life revolves around finding the best breaks – whether that’s right offshore or further afield, reached by one of two boats anchored at Beran. Daly says the best breaks – known as Nirvana and Maybes – are found 11-12 nautical miles offshore.
After a hard day’s play the villa’s guest come together for a family-style dinner, cooked by Mango, the on-site chef. Conversation runs from that day’s highs and lows, to the importance of marine conservation, or the search for Emilia Earhart, whose plane disappeared somewhere in the vicinity in 1937.
A trip to Beran might be something for the very privileged few, but for those with the means it promises a heady combination of pristine breaks, a luxury desert island experience and bragging rights to last a lifetime.