May 29, 2008

Iboo : still the best surfer in Maldives

Hussein « Iboo » AREEF

Born 23 April 1977, Goofy

In Rasmandhoo (Raa atoll)

Height : 5’6 ; Weight : 52 kg

National titles : 2001, 2002 and 2004

Favorite surfers : Kelly Slater, Rob Machando, Tony "Hussein" Hinde

Because of the booming of deluxe tourism industry, you see a lot of wealthy kids in Malé taking over surfing with brand new boards and expensive surfwear brands. But Hussein Areef, aka Iboo, is not one of them. His father is an humble fisherman, who was working on fishing dhonis in Hasmadhoo on Raa Atoll, on the western side of the country, an unknown place to surf. However, until he was a kid, he would do “Raalhaelhun”, some kind of bodyboard with a wooden plank.

Then, he moved to Malé to study but a close friend named Azlee from Noonu Atoll and Sulja lent him a soft bodyboard and obviously, his parents were not happy at all that he would spend days surfing the local break. They did not want him to become a Vakaruge Kudin : the equivalent divehi word for “beachbum”. After 3 years of stand up surfing Malé, he finally got one day to Honky’s on a good Iruvai(dry season) day. It was a revelation : such a long wave, his legs would be tired halfway through the wave. He managed to keep up with his science studies but in 1997, when Ahmeed Rashid, aka Dara, told him about a job opportuinty at Tari surfcamp, although his parents had asked him to stop surfing, he gave it a try.

It was a tough experience at the beiginning being a shy surfguide among noisy Australians. He’d speak some english but never hung out with foreigners before, it was really hard to act as a surfguide. i.e, explain to the guests how Tari resort works, give them advice on surfing Pasta Point and arrange the dhonis to go to the nearby breaks like Sultan’s, Honky’s at Jailbreaks...Incidently, I happened to lose my board on a fairly big day at Jailbreaks in 99, right after the spot ban had been lifted, and guess who went swimming in the lagoon to pick it up ! Being able to surf Pasta everyday, Iboo quickly became the best surfer in the Maldives and he’s still ranked N”1 even at 31 years of age, despite the grommets in Malé getting better every year.

I met Iboo again in 2002 in Durban where he was leading a small delegation of Maldivian surfers in the World Surfing Games. First time surfing a beachbreak and first time wearing a wetsuit so it was not easy for those guys ! For the last couple of years, after watching some videos, he got into the switch foot thing, willing to go for a change on those perfect peeling waves. Although, he likes to bust airs and reverse tails, still, his favorite move is to get barreled on his forehand as a natural footer. He managed to get a sponsorship from Quiksilver Australia and really plays the athlete game like he quit smoking, which he did fairly heavily for 10 years ! His national ranking entitles him to participate in the Deep Blue O’Neill and now WQS contest at his home spot on Pasta Point.

After 10 years at Dhonveli (now Chaaya Resort) as a surfguide, he’s back in Malé working in the boat operations throughout the country. “Gaafu Dhaalu waves can be heavier than North Malé, there are soft waves too but that’s what I like about Fiyoari or Five Islands, there is real power !” Every year, he gets to travel with his girlfriend in Asia or Australia, wondering then when it will be best time to start a family ! Remember, Iboo has got 6 brothers and sisters and 5 of them surf, so if you go surfing Malé Break, there will be a Areef family member surfing for sure !

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