Why Emirates staffer swapped turf for surf

Emirates Airline staffer makes the switch from rugby star to avid surfer.

Mohammed Hassan Rahma, who works at Emirates Airline, is a qualified surf instructor for Surf School UAE.
Powered by automated translation

Mohammed Hassan Rahma's day job is at Emirates Airline, where he works on a human resources team assisting UAE nationals. Mr Rahma received acclaim for becoming the first Emirati to play rugby at an international level. But he has since quit the pitch to tackle the country's waves, which has led to a burgeoning side business:

qWhy the switch to surfing?

aI injured myself back in 2009 and was told to go running on the beach to help the injury. I saw people surfing and I wanted to try it.

Did the injury mean you had to stop playing rugby?

I had a great surgery and I can play rugby but I started to enjoy surfing, so that is why I stopped.

How did you get immersed in the UAE surfing scene?

I bought my first board from Carl de Villiers, who was running a surf shop in one of the free zones. I then started surfing and hanging out with Carl and we teamed up in 2010 to open Surf Shop Dubai in Al Barsha, behind Mall of the Emirates. Both Carl and I put some money in and I became the local sponsor.

Do you take a hands-off approach to ownership?

I'm very hands-on in the shop as I often get involved in the daily work and the decision making. I am also a qualified surf instructor for Surf School UAE, part of Surf Shop Dubai. I do a lot of lessons when I'm not surfing.

How does surfing help your work at Emirates?

You meet a lot of people surfing because there are a lot of people in the water. So it actually develops my communication skills. Surfing is the reason I speak good English. It is also the way I relieve stress. I just get out my board and get in the water to relax. I always have my board in the car ready to finish work at 3.30pm and go to the beach.

That should give you something to look forward to each day.

I go in to work at Emirates at 7am and check the weather and the water beforehand. There is no chance for me to surf before work, so I do it in the afternoon.

And at weekends?

I try to surf as much as possible. Any time I go travelling for a holiday, it now has to be surfing. It is really tiring. Your body feels like it has been run over by a truck. So I don't surf for the whole of the holiday. My head is ready for work because I have had a break.

Do people at Emirates join you on the surf?

No, they think I'm nuts. It is not our culture. It is weird for them to see a UAE national surfing.

Why is that?

At school we were forced to play only football. If you are forced to play one sport it puts people off sport. After playing rugby, I now watch a sport on TV and go out to try it.