Professional free-surfer Dave ‘Rasta’ Rastovich, defeated seasoned campaigner Taylor Knox in the grand final of the Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy yesterday (August 10) to be crowned the 2014 champion.
The event saw six former world champions, including Knox, Rastovich, Sunny Garcia, Taylor Jensen, Fabio Gouveia, and Rochelle Ballard battling it out all week at Sultans Point.
For the third consecutive year, Hussein ‘Iboo’ Areef won the hotly contested Domestic Champions Trophy which showcased the island nation’s depth of surf talent. The ‘goofy footer’ (right foot forward stance) defeated Ismail ‘Kuda Issay’ Miglal, Amid ‘Ammaday’ Agil and Mohamed ‘Billu’ Irushad.
All six former world champions were impressed after watching the local final, with Contest Director Ross Phillips noting, “the standard of surfing today in the Domestic Champions Trophy was world class. It was a tough final and Iboo was a deserving winner.”
“The Maldivian Surfing Association is forging ahead in leaps and bounds. It’s fantastic to watch surfing progress at both a performance and organisational level in the Maldives,” he added.
Fewer barriers to local involvement
This is the fourth year that Four Seasons and Tropicsurf have held the event, and the third year that Maldivian talent has competed in the domestic category.
After national champion Areef last year highlighted the need for more local involvement in the competition, many of this year’s competitors agreed that there has been a vast improvement in the involvement of local surf community.
Spearheaded by collaboration with the Maldives Surf Association (MSA), the 2014 competition saw more local involvement, including Maldivian shadowing judges.
There remains one change Afeef would like to see in next years competition, however.
“It would be great to get a chance to surf against the champions, even just one local guy to compete in the main event,” stated Areef.
Similarly, Dave Rastovich commended the local surfing talent and stressed the need for local participation.
“Its crucial to involve the local community, especially in surfing. There have been big divides,” Rastovich told Minivan News.
Rasta went on to highlight the important link between privatisation and the divide between local and international surfers.
“[Exclusivity] always created a lot of division between communities. Division between visiting people and locals.”
“It suits a few, but to the detriment of the many,” Rastovich warned.
Rastovich, a dedicated marine conservation activist, went on to highlight some of the environmental issues faced in local oceans – a topic which has often intertwined with Maldivian surfing culture.
“There are so many great species of fish [in the Maldives] that you don’t see in Indonesia anymore, you don’t see in parts of Australia anymore, and certainly don’t see them throughout Asia.”
“So the great thing about here is that you’re not there yet. There’s still species, there’s still populations here, you have the time. It’s a no-brainer both ecologically and economically to preserve and protect,” encouraged Rastovich .
The end of exclusivity?
Speaking at the grand final ceremony yesterday, Minister of Tourism Ahmed Adeeb explained the government’s new enthusiasm for the development of surfing in the Maldives.
“It was the youth who identified, who kept pushing us, to develop the surf,” explained Adeeb.
“The surf points were exclusive for the resorts and hotels here, but we have ended exclusivity for the locals.”
The surf breaks of the Maldives have been a battle-ground in recent years, with local surfers, ministries and resorts engaged in heated debate since 2011 over access to the waves.
After years of pressure from local campaigning against privatisation, the Maldives government appears to have retracted its original stance, announcing that all popular surf and dive spots have been freed from any access restrictions.
“We believe there are a lot of surf points in the Maldives that need to be protected, and we need to make it a sanctuary for the surfers,” stated Adeeb.
Ahmed Aznil, president of the MSA, pointed out that free breaks are not all plain sailing.
“A free for all, without the necessary legislative and management holds in place would eventually lead to chaos.”
The key to success, argues Aznil, is keeping the breaks well managed and to maintain clear communication between the government and stakeholders.
Meanwhile, the next Maldives’ surf competition will be the Red Bull Both Ways event, held at Sultans breaks between August 20 – 30. The competition, which has fifty slots for Maldivian surfers, challenges Maldivian and Sri Lankan surfers to ride both left and right waves.