Hussain Areef (Iboo) and Ali Javed (Jaatte), on Saturday, won Maldives Surfing Association (MSA)'s 'Raalhu Season Opening' competition in the shortboard and bodyboard divisions respectively.
Hosted at capital city Male's famous wavebreak 'Raalhugandu', the event was held from May 1 to May 4, 2019, following an approximate 5-year hiatus of competitions by the association.
With the registration of 24 bodyboarders and 24 shortboarders, the event was one of MSA's most diverse competitions held to date, where surfers from across the archipelago took part in the contest, including athletes from Gaafu Dhaalu, Meemu, Kaafu, Laamu, Raa, Baa Atoll, and Fuvahmulah city.
In addition to the inclusivity of competitors, the event saw the participation of various youth athletes, with the youngest being 13-year-old Shimaal Shameem from Fuvahmulah.
Title sponsor for the event was local surf apparel shop 'Sea Sports', co-sponsor 'Lizzy' and event partners 'Sea Gear' and local telecommunications giant 'Dhiraagu.
The first two days of the competition saw waves in the 10-15 foot range, with the swell fading into a two to three-foot range as the event culminated towards the end.
Maldivian Red Crescent provided first aid service and treated a number of athletes for injuries incurred during the contest.
Upon winning the first competition following the recent appointment as a brand ambassador for Sea Sports, Jaatte expressed immense joy, declaring, "I feel ecstatic and, [am] even happier that three athletes from Laamu (Atoll) contested in the bodyboarding final".
In line with Jaatte's thoughts, fellow brand ambassador Iboo noted that it was "great to see young surfers competing from all these islands", adding that surfers are thrilled at the opportunity to contest in Male', in the wake of Raalhugandu's closure between 2016 till late 2018.
Jaatte and Iboo hail from Laamu Atoll and Raa Atoll respectively.
Audiences noted as a highlight of the day President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's visit to Raalhugandu, where he bore witness to performances by two of his relatives that were participating in the competition.
- BODYBOARDING DIVISION -
* - Ali Javed (Jaatte)
* - Aswan Mohamed (Dhooni)
* - Ahmed Nazmeen (Loabi)
* - Arish Rasheed (Teddie)
- SHORTBOARD DIVISION -
* - Hussain Areef (Iboo)
* - Hassan Nasih (Chika)
* - Ismail Rasheed (Smiley)
* - Ahmed Agil (Ammaday)
Prior to the season-opening, MSA organized judging courses for the divisions of bodyboarding and shortboard. These newly trained judges were part of the judging team for the competition.
Despite being generally regarded as underfunded in Maldives, the sport of surfing continues to bring in numerous top level finishes in international level competitions, bagging a record amount of gold medals for the country.
A Maldivian team consisting of various disciplines of waveriding, including bodyboard and shortboard, participated in the Malaysia-hosted 'Tioman Surf Festival' each year, with Maldives consistently achieving podium finishes in the bodyboarding division for the past six years.
Surfing is also an important sector for the tourism industry, as it is the only sport that generates revenue for the country.
Efforts are underway by MSA and the Olympics Committee to train and send athletes to take part in the 2020 Olympics held in Tokyo, Japan.
MSA aims to take surfing to new levels in the country by developing local talent and professional athletes within the local population.