Local surfer Abdulla “Fuku” Areef has been picked as this year’s wildcard for the Four Seasons Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy, which brings together some of the world’s leading surfers.
The 35-year-old from Rasmaadhoo, Raa Atoll, has been surfing since childhood and started with a wooden plank at the age of 12. He graduated to surf boards in 1997, becoming national champion in 2006.
“I’m very happy and this is an amazing opportunity,” he said about being the wildcard.
He competes against superstar Bruce Irons, Brazilian livewire Alejo Muniz, and the 2001 WSL Champion CJ Hobgood.
The event, which began in 2011, takes place at the Sultans break near the Four Season’s Kuda Huraa resort. It is divided into three categories: the single fin, twin fin and thruster.
Last year’s local wildcard was three-time national champion Ismail Miglal, known as “Kuda Issey.”
“The Maldivian surf scene is growing,” Fuku said. “More islands are opening up to it, with more kids aged 13 to 14 getting involved.”
But the sport continues to be male-dominated as “there are very few women surfers.”
Perceptions of surfing have changed in the Maldives over the years and many of its athletes are winning international praise.
While there has been a history of surfing with wooden planks in the Maldives, pro surfing was introduced to the country in 1973 by Australia’s Tony Hinde.
The event ends August 13.
Top photo: Facebook page of Fuku Areef. Bottom photo: Ismail Miglal, handout from Four Seasons