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Indonesian and Moroccan Surfing Teams Tokyo Games 2020 – Previews

Indonesia and Morocco haven’t historically been producers of a multitude of top-tier, Championship Tour level surfers, but anyone who has been to either country will know that there is a whole lot of serious talent in both of them. They’ll each send one surfer to Tokyo for the inaugural Olympic surfing event, so let’s take a look at who they are and how they’ll likely fare.

Rio Waida

Rio Waida is Indonesia’s first and only Olympic surfer, but he may be in line for a little local support in Tokyo given he was born in Japan and lived there until he was five years old. Along with his Indonesian father and Japanese mother, he relocated to Bali at the age of five, and given the access to fantastic waves he had on his doorstep from then onwards, and the fact that both his parents were avid surfers, he was always going to take up the sport.

Waida is now just 21 years of age, and in a country full of surfers with incredible talent, he may just be the best chance to become Indonesia’s first ever full-time representative on the Championship Tour. Standing at 170cm and weighing in at just 64kg, Waida – like many of his fellow countrymen and women – is incredibly light on his feet, able to generate speed at the drop of the hat, and also has the ability to go to the air at will.

It was these attributes which helped him to make an impact on the global stage from a young age. At 16 years of age he took out the Quiksilver Young Guns Surf event against many of the best kids from around the world, while the next year, he won the Pacitan Pro in the Qualifying Series and also racked up a 2nd and a couple of 3rd place finishes. He hasn’t won at that level since, but he has had plenty of close-run things and in 2019, did well enough at the Asian ISA World Surfing Games to qualify for Tokyo.

Waida is one of the non-Championship Tour surfers who could easily make an impact at the Olympics. His talent is undeniable, and unlike a few of the other lesser-known surfers at Tokyo, his lack of experience at the top level is more a product of his age than anything else. For anyone who has seen him surf, it’s clear that the 21-year-old has the ability to compete on the Championship Tour, and it will be no surprise to see him there in the years to come. At Tsurigasaki Beach, he has all the tools to make the most of what will most likely be a medium-sized beach break, and though he’ll be up against it facing the world’s best, he could easily cause an upset or two.

Ramzi Boukhiam

When Ramzi Boukhiam first appeared on the Championship Tour in 2011, the then 18-year-old appeared destined for a long career at the top level. In the ten years since, however, the prodigiously talented goofy footer has been unable to string together the level of consistency required to compete with the world’s best, and has spent much of his career in the Qualifying Series as a result. 

His ability is clear and he has always appeared capable of surfing as well as anyone in the world when on song, but to this point he hasn’t been able to do that often enough. 2019, however, seemed destined to be something of a turning point; he qualified for Tokyo through the African ISA World Surfing Games before taking out an event in Brazil early in 2020, but unfortunately the pandemic brought a halt to his good form.

Boukhiam is a fantastic backhand surfer, arguably one of the best on the planet, a skill he honed throughout a childhood in which he had many world-class waves on his doorstep. He grew up surfing just north of the Moroccan capital of Agadir, a region rich with both point breaks and beaches, before moving to Saint Jean de Luz in France’s famous southwest as a teenager. There, he had easy access to waves which dot the wide sandy beaches of Les Landes, the most notable of which is the world-renowned breaks at Hossegor.

He has experience surfing in all kinds of conditions, so nothing Tsurigasaki Beach throws at him will trouble him too much. The main question plaguing him heading in is whether he can recapture the form which he found prior to the beginning of the pandemic. If he doesn’t, the world’s best will wipe the floor with him, but if he can find something resembling his best he will earn plenty of admirers and could easily advance into the latter stages of the event.

Both Waida and Boukhiam have more than enough talent to cause headaches for the top surfers in the world. Boukhiam, for his part, has had plenty of time to advance his career and has thus far struggled to do so, but at his best he undoubtedly fits in with the world’s best. Waida, too, has comfortably enough ability to compete at the top level, and will likely be doing so for the years to come. It would still be a surprise to see them beat all of the Championship Tour surfers they’ll need to in order to get a medal, but they are a long way from the bottom of the pecking order in terms of upset chances.