Mohammed Hassan Rahma, the first Emirati to play international representative rugby, has opted to call time on his UAE playing days to pursue a career as a professional surfer.
Rahma initially took up surfing as part of his recuperation after reconstructive surgery on a rugby-inflicted knee injury.
The winger returned to the playing field with Abu Dhabi Saracens last season, after four operations in the three years since he had last represented the Arabian Gulf at a sevens tournament in Singapore.
He returned to form and fitness in time to earn selection for last year's Dubai Rugby Sevens, where he appeared as a replacement for the UAE, in front of a crowd of 40,000.
However, he has now opted to trade the rugby field for the waves of places like Kuta and Maui instead, although he will continue to play the oval-ball game on a social basis.
"All my life I always wanted to represent my country in sport, and I achieved that in rugby," said the 25 year old, who once enjoyed a week-long training camp at Sale Sharks in England under the current France coach Philippe St Andre.
"At that time rugby was my passion, it was what I loved. Now I want to become the first surfer from the UAE and Middle East to compete internationally.
"I am looking forward to competing in my first international competition next year. I love the rugby community, and Abu Dhabi Saracens is a great club who brought me back in to the sport.
"Surfing is a great lifestyle, but sometimes it is a little hard being on your own in an individual sport, but this is what I want to do now."
Rahma, whose first rugby experience was at the 2005 Sevens in the Gulf Social competition playing for the Dubai Falcons, is one of the best established UAE nationals involved in rugby.
Even though more Emiratis are playing the game than ever before, Rahma will still be missed, according to Wayne Marsters, the UAE rugby manager and national sevens coach – and also a keen surfer.
"Mohammed has a history with the game through the Arabian Gulf and the sevens programme," said Marsters, noting that Rahma was one of the first to assemble an Emirati team, the Falcons. "Any Emirati who has got the type of experience of the game at the level he has will be a loss. Let's hope he is not lost to the game forever."
[ @SprtNationalUAE ]