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Going where the surf takes him – with David Manteuffel

Surfer on a long wave
Manny found love the Maltese Surf Community, and we're gonna miss him and Leila!

When David Manteuffel traded Central America for Malta, many felt he was crazy. After all, this tiny Mediterranean island isn’t exactly world-renowned for its waves. But as David’s story goes, sometimes you just have to go where the surf takes you.

“Why did you come to Malta?” I asked him, my scepticism palpable. His response? “It’s a pretty nice story.”

David had been gallivanting across the globe, catching waves in Australia, Indonesia, the USA, and Central America, when the world suddenly ground to a halt—thanks to a certain virus named COVID-19. “I was kidding,” he chuckled, “everyone was exaggerating, and then it hit hard.”

With the safest option being a return to his home country, Germany, David reluctantly packed his bags and headed back to Europe. But after six months of the humdrum routine, a friend mentioned that Malta offered job opportunities and, surprise-surprise, a chance to surf.

“Malta? Surfing? I had my doubts. But then she sent me a video showing some waves off the Maltese coast: ‘OK, I’m coming,’”.

A few job applications later, and David was back on the road, bound for Malta. “I really like it,” he grinned. “Super warm, and super nice, and all the people were great.”

Surfer on a wave
Getting ready for a turn

David was especially impressed by the burgeoning surf community on the island. “The surf community is super super nice in Malta,” he beamed. “I’m happy it’s growing fast right now. During the first 1.5 years, it wasn’t growing that fast, but during the last year, lots of people have been joining the community, and we’ve even got the association. I’m sad I’m leaving right now, just as we’re expanding.”

David’s background isn’t what you’d typically expect from a surfer. He hails from East Germany, where he grew up in a city with a less-than-stellar reputation for tolerance. “I grew up in one of the most racist cities in Germany,” he admitted.

Confrontations and challenges marked his early years in life, but David found solace and camaraderie in the world of surfing when he landed in Malta. “I don’t really feel this over here,” he said, comparing his experiences in Germany to the tight-knit and welcoming surf community he’s found in Malta.

From our island…

Since his arrival on the island, David has been hitting the waves regularly, especially after getting his own car. He made a good friend in Sky, and together they’ve surfed every chance they get, even when the waves are tiny.

When it comes to favorite surf spots, David has a few gems to share. “Fajtata and St Thomas Bay are great for the longest waves,” he noted. “And for the cleanest, you’ve got to check out Playground.” Warning kooks: Playground is not for beginners and the reef there is absolutely unforgiving – just ask Lola, whose butchered feet are still a sight for sore eyes after a session there a month ago.

As for his best wave? It’s a tale that takes us all the way to Waikiki, Hawaii. “I had my most perfect wave in Waikiki on a 10 ft longboard,” he reminisced. “At peak time, it was crowded, with over 60 surfers, some beginners, some experienced. It was messy. Every wave was a party wave.”

Of course, with the euphoria of catching waves comes the danger of wiping out, and David has his fair share of stories. “Nicaragua, it was one of my biggest, steepest waves, clean and fast and barrelling,” he recalled. “You just have two strokes, then you have to pop up and go left within a second.”

…To the next adventure

Now, David is on the cusp of his next adventure, trading in the Maltese waves for the shores of Ecuador. “My apartment is 10 minutes’ walk to the surf spot,” he shared with excitement. “It’s a beach break, a point break, a left-hander, a right-hander, all within 7 minutes. And then the biggest surf spot in Ecuador is just an hour away.”

His plan? “Surf every single day. This is what I did in Nicaragua. One hour in the morning, one hour at night,” he declared. “My aim in surfing is to get better, to have the feeling, do some nice turns, and get that ‘wow, sick wave, dude’ from people watching, especially from the better surfers.” In Ecuador, his dog Leila will certainly be happier – she’ll have all the space in the world to run around and be in more natural spots – something we do sadly lack here in Malta and this is a key part of his reason to leave – even if it was a massive hassle travelling with a dog to the other side of the world. We’re relieved he made it, after missing a flight, and having the wrong paperwork! His Insta stories of his trip were popcorn-worthy, but the relief of his touchdown in South America must have felt amazing.

Overcoming fears

But it’s not all smooth surfing? “The hardest part,” David admitted, “is overcoming your fear. If you’ve never surfed and see huge waves, you think, ‘Oh yeah, I can do it.’ As soon as you go in the water and see a 1-meter wave, it looks huge, and especially when you wipe out, you feel like you’re going to drown. That is the biggest fear.”

“Don’t google it!”

For those aspiring surfers out there, David had some sage advice. “Always ask a local surfer the best surf spot for a beginner and which board they recommend. Don’t Google it. Ask a local,” he emphasized. “My biggest mistake was Googling surfing and buying a shortboard. Or go to a surf school; this is the best advice!”

As David readies himself for the next chapter of his surfing journey in Ecuador, we can’t help but salute his adventurous spirit and the tight-knit community that welcomed him with open arms in Malta. So here’s to you, David Manny, and to all the surfers chasing their dreams one wave at a time—may your stoke be endless and your barrels never-ending! Goodluck out there Manny, we’ll be tracking you and Leila on your Insta. Yeeeeeeew!

A dog wearing sunglasses on a surfboard
Ride on Leila!

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