Maldivian bodyboarders shine in Australian competition

Maldivian bodyboarders who took part in the Jeff Wilcox Memorial 2013 competition held in Australia this weekend stood out as “some of the best in the event”, with 17 year-old bodyboarder Ali ‘Shaam’ Raafiu winning first place in the competition’s Junior Division.

The Jeff Wilcox Memorial is described as one of the longest running, most respected, prestigious, and independent bodyboarding competitions in Australia – having held 16 contests since 1990 – with some of the best riders in the sport participating.

The competition was revived, after a nine year hiatus, by the Forster Tuncurry Bodyboard Association (FTBA) and is being held on August 24-25 in the Great Lakes region of New South Wales, Australia, with over 100 bodyboarders participating.

Representing the Maldives, the Maldives Bodyboarding Association (MBBA) sent their top three bodyboarders – Ali ‘Kuda Ayya’ Khushruwan, Ali ‘Shaam’ Raafiu, and Ali ‘JD’ Javid – who took 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places, respectively in the Burunu Shikaaru Bodyboarding Challenge held in Male’ this May. Team official and MBBA Vice President Mohamed Khushruwan Ahmed also attended the event.

The MBBA team “made their presence felt” early on, despite the challenging surf conditions on Saturday (August 24) that eventually opened up by the afternoon with four to five foot waves, the FTBA reported.

“The MBBA riders took a little time adjusting to the cooler climate, but when they did they found their groove and were amongst some of the best in the event,” Jeff Wilcox Memorial Event Director Aaron Dodds told Minivan News today (August 25).

After placing first in his heat during the opening round of the competition, Ali ‘Shaam’ Raafiu went on to win the Junior Men’s Division today.

“Shaam built his assault early, the music and great vibe keeping him in the mood. He continued with his clean consistent comp surfing, drawing tight lines for big aerials and quick whipping spins,” Dodds said of Ali ‘Shaam’ Raafiu’s winning performance.

“Shaam drives clean lines and [demonstrates] brilliant combo surfing by linking multiple maneuvers. His lightweight frame always helps,” Dodds added.

In addition to this being Shaam’s first international competition, this was also his first bodyboarding contest win.

“The competitors were tough and the wave conditions were small on the first day of the event, but the final day was pretty challenging with better, good sized waves,” Shaam told Minivan News today.

Shaam explained the keys to winning the competition were “staying sharp and wide eyed during the competition. Also, having the Maldives’ team here supporting me gave me a lot of confidence.”

“This is the first [competitive] invitation MBBA has received after forming the association [earlier this year]. Winning the Juniors title seems good for the youngsters in the Maldives,” he added.

While Shaam does not yet have a professional bodyboarding sponsor he is “looking forward to it”.

Meanwhile, during the first round of the Men’s Open Division, Khushruwan fought off tough opposition.

“Ali Khushruwan beat top seed IBA Australia Jones Russell in his first heat, securing Khushruwan as a potential favourite,” explained Event Director Aaron Dodds.

However, on the competition’s final day, four to five foot waves with “clean wedging bowls” allowed Russell to “shine and just notch out” Khushruwan from the Men’s Open Division quarter finals, Dodds continued.

While Khushruwan did not advance beyond the first round heat of the Drop Knee Division, he still established himself as a formidable competitor.

“Looking for an opportunity to show his skills, Khushruwan made the most of the challenging conditions and busted out some solid maneuvers,” the FTBA highlighted in their competition coverage ‘Visitors Dominate Day 1 at the Jeff Wilcox Memorial‘.

Although the Maldivian bodyboarders are no strangers to difficult wave conditions, the cold water posed an entirely new challenge.

“It’s totally different, we don’t wear wetsuits. We wear only board shorts and surf, so it’s really difficult for us,” Khushruwan told Australian media outlet NBN News.

Javid also competed in the Men’s Open Division, but was eliminated after the first round of competition, as only the top two bodyboarders from each heat advance to the next round.

In addition to the competition, the Jeff Wilcox Memorial 2013 also provided coaching sessions to the junior bodyboarders, as well as free surf awareness and CPR courses for competitors as “a lot of surfers are responsible for thousands of unsung rescues”.

Three coaching and development sessions that focused on nurturing younger riders’ skills were led by professional bodyboarding coach Haydon ‘Da Boogie Man’ Bunting.

“One of the major things that is missing from bodyboarding is mentoring at club level, these kids have great style and posture, it is a matter of building their confidence and the young riders understanding that it is more than catching waves,” said Bunting.

“Just observing others surfers, watching their techniques and having good understanding of the ocean is very important,” he added.

Photographs 1 & 2 provided by Shane Chalker Photography