Victorious Maldivian bodyboarding team returns from Australian competition

The Maldives Bodyboarding Association (MBBA) team that took part in the Jeff Wilcox Memorial 2013 competition held in Australia last weekend received a warm welcome back to the Maldives last night (August 28).

Around 25 friends and family, as well as the Minister of State for Human Resources, Youth and Sports – Mohamed Ghassan Maumoon – and local media, greeted the team with flowers, cheers, and well-wishes in the VIP lounge of the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport.

The MBBA sent their top three bodyboarders to the Australian competition – Ali ‘Kuda Ayya’ Khushruwan, Ali ‘Shaam’ Raafiu, and Ali ‘JD’ Javid – who had taken 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 traveled with the team.

The Maldivian competitors 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, Jeff Wilcox Memorial Event Director Aaron Dodds previously told Minivan News.

The returning team lauded the competition’s organisers, the Forster Tuncurry Bodyboard Association (FTBA), for holding a quality competition and offering their support to develop the sport in the Maldives.


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


Big surf heats up bodyboarding competition final

The Burunu Shikaaru Bodyboarding Challenge, the first event of the Maldives Bodyboarding Association (MBBA), concluded in Male’ yesterday with big surf and competitors in high spirits.

The newly formed MBBA began this aptly named event – in Dhivehi, ‘burunu’ means a constellation that indicates the southwest monsoon and the best season for surfing, while ‘shikaaru’ is to hunt – on May 2.

What was originally planned to take three days stretched into nearly a week and a half of postponements and rescheduling with swells at Male’s surf area ‘Raalhugandu’ only reaching about a foot.

However, after a week of severe thunderstorms across the island-nation the five foot swells at yesterday’s (May 11) final provided competitors with the strong, hollow waves they were hunting for.

Ali ‘Kuda Ayya’ Khushruwan, founder of MBBA, won first place and MVR 10,000 (US$648). The competition’s youngest bodyboarder, 16 year-old Ali ‘Shaam’ Raafiu, finished a close second scoring only half a point less, and walked away with MVR 5,000 (US$324). Third place and MVR 2,500 (US$162) went to Ali ‘JD’ Javid, while Ijazulla ‘Ija’ Shareef took home the ‘rookie’ award.

“I didn’t know this would happen. I thought you know it’s really competitive, I didn’t expect this. Today it was really good, really strong and nice waves. Overall [my performance] was pretty good, but in the final I got really panicked because I didn’t get really good waves. I thought I’d place second. I’m really shocked,” MBBA founder and competition winner Ali ‘Kuda Ayya’ Khushruwan told Minivan News.

“I also didn’t know that my dad competed. The first day I told him don’t go, it’s going to be really big,” said Kuda Ayya. “It’s really nice, crazy, everyone came here to support me. I didn’t know that everyone would come, my friends and family, everyone was supporting [wearing ‘Kuda Ayya’ t-shirts],” he gushed.

Second and third place winners Shaam and JD were beaming after their performance in the final and craving the next competition.

“Waves today were really good. We didn’t think we’d get this size of waves. At the beginning [of the competition] it was good, but the waves were awesome for the final,” Shaam told Minivan News.

“It was very heavy and shallow, with a strong current and backwash. All the conditions are very difficult because this area is closed,” JD told Minivan News.

Both Sham and JD are “trying for first place the next time” and explained that competition is always a friendly amongst the Maldivian bodyboarders because “it’s a very close knit group”.

Kuda Ayya is also excited to compete in the for the next MBBA competition, planned to take place in June on Villingili Island, which neighbors Male’.

“It’s going to be good, really fun, it’s really hollow and really shallow. We have to be really careful, but it’s competition,” said Kuda Ayya.

Twenty-two bodyboarders faced off over 18 heats, with the best two from each heat automatically advancing to the next round, while the bottom two had a chance to participate in the requalifying rounds. Ultimately, eight bodyboarders advanced to the semi-final and four to the final yesterday.

Rough rides at Raalhugandu

Although regulars make carving the waves at raalhugandu look easy, the reef break is not for the faint of heart.

“If you can surf here, you can surf anywhere in the Maldives,” a local surfer explained.

Bodyboarders had to contend with a reef break plagued by strong currents, rip tides, backwash, a very shallow reef, all in an area less than a kilometer wide.

“You have to be very careful. It’s really hard to learn here [at raalhugandu], because it’s a reef break and really shallow – waist high where the waves break,” said Kuda Ayya.

“This break is pretty, it’s like when it’s big, it’s really good for bodyboarders, the waves are really strong and hollow. We need a critical, strong lip for maneuvers – like backflips which are my favorite,” Kuda Ayya explained. “But it’s a really small space.”

“In 2000 the artificial beach was made, that’s why it’s really small. Previously we had really long waves. It was really good spot in the 1980’s and 1990’s but what to do,” he lamented. “[Now] it’s really bad. I think the bodyboarding and surfing community is really small, that’s why they [the government] didn’t care and they did this.”

Although Raalhugandu can break big, after Kuda Ayya’s first round, first heat win earlier this week, he discussed having to compete on small waves.

“The heat went pretty good, the thing is the waves are pretty small [today], but I think it’s going to be fine,” Kuda Ayya said. “Actually it’s really hard to take the speed and doing the rolls and things, you have to paddle for the rolls and forward spins. It’s really difficult, but what to do,” Kuda Ayya told Minivan News the first day of competition.

Kuda Ayya is a Male’ local with 12 years of bodyboarding experience, including winning first place in international competitions held in Malaysia and New South Wales, Australia. He took first place in 2012’s Australia’s Senior Men’s Open, competing for the New South Wales team.

Raalhugandu regulars

“The MBBA plans to hold four or five contests yearly,” MBBA Media Coordinator Hassan ‘Rushh’ Rasheed told Minivan News.

“This is the first competition, so I think it’s pretty big. You can see lots of spectators,” he added.

Maldivian bodyboarders and surfers work together closely, especially raalhugandu regulars, and this was evident during the very well organised bodyboarding competition.

Five International Surf Association (ISA) certified judges – also local surfers – scored the competition.

“Although the maneuvers are different, the judging criteria is the same,” a competition judge told Minivan News.

“The Maldives Surfing Association (MSA) and MBBA we are together and work together. MSA is the governing body, but I think next year MBBA might change to a bodyboarding governing body,” explained Kuda Ayya.

The Burunu Shikaaru Bodyboarding Challenge was the first event held by the MBBA, which had its first round of elections February 10 and was registered February 11 with 40 new members. To compete in the competition bodyboarders had to be an member of MBBA.

The bodyboarding challenge was sponsored by Sonee Sports, the Tourism Employees Association of the Maldives (TEAM), and travel company, ‘I (heart) Maldives’.

The newly-formed MBBA’s mission is to help local bodyboarders of all ages get started and build a career in the sport. They aim to raise awareness, support, and promote bodyboarding throughout the Maldives.

Given the intimate relationship bodyboarders, and surfers, have with the ocean, the MBBA also plans to organise beach cleaning projects on islands throughout the country with local bodyboarders and surfers.

Joining MBBA only requires MVR 150 (US$10) and an application form, and membership has the bonus perks of a member identification card, event t-shirts, and “hopefully” surf shops and coffee shop discounts.