The Maldives are part of a submarine plateau sitting 20-30m below the surface of the ocean. The islands didn't exist until coral formations built up on top of each other, eventually creating an archipelago of tiny islands scattered over a huge area. There are 26 different low-lying atolls, comprising of 1,200 islands spread along an 800km (500mi) long vertical line. The ridge extending from the Lakshadweep to Chagos Islands is 2000km (1250mi) long. The result is a vast area of shallow seas dotted by islands creating a perfect surfing paradise.
Most of the islands get no surf, but the S/SE facing coastline gets waves on reef passes that break close to the shore. Unless you are staying in the Tari surf resort, then you will usually have to rely on the irregular Dhonys, (local boats), to reach many of the waves. From the air, what appears to be some classic set-ups is a bit misleading, as there are not that many spots in North Malé unless the swell is big. South Malé atoll has quite a few spots, while the atolls to the S get more swell but these can only be reached on a chartered boat.