“It’s a beautiful day outside,” you think to yourself. The sky is a stunning shade of sunset orange, the warm sand between your feet gives off an almost tingling sensation, and the waves crashing along the shore juxtapose the sand’s cozy embrace, emitting a satisfying feeling. Yet something catches your eye. You look out into the distant horizon to see a boat zooming though the gulf, creating a wake behind it as it blazes over a hundred kilometers. A figure on a board masterfully riding the artificial waves. At first it strikes you as a mirage, a mere illusion. Yet as the boat gets closer to you, an exper t figure becomes much more visible, enter Shaikha Al-Nouri.
Khaleejesque sat down with this trailblazer to talk about her experiences as a professional Kuwaiti wake boarder: her memories, goals, and the pressure surrounding her profession.
B. N. Bassam: What made you realize that wake boarding was what you loved?
Shaikha Al-Nouri: Ever since I was a child I used to go to the beach on a weekly basis. At a very young age, my father taught me how to drive and handle his boat. He introduced me to watersports. Growing up I was constantly water skiing and knee- boarding. I always looked for something to challenge me; something exciting. In 2009, I was introduced to a wake board. Little did I know that I was going to fall in love with this sport. I started practicing from time to time, and in 2010, I competed at Waki Day and won first place. From then on, I started training on a daily basis. I practice four days a week and trained others three days a week. To do something you love and to actually be good at is one of the best feelings in the world.
BNB: What do you hope to make of wakeboarding in Kuwait? Do you have any projects in mind to spread water sports in Kuwait?
SAN: We hope to recruit young, and talented wakeboarders for our team, since it’s spreading amongst the Kuwaiti youth. For instance, in 2010 at Kuwait’s first local Waki Day, there were less than 10 competitors. Today,Waki Day has over 50 entrants, if not more. Keep in mind that these are people who have started wake boarding in their late teens, or who have been practicing for less than a year or so. We also train Little Riders, which is a wakeboarding camp designed for young children and teens aged 8-14.This is where we can engage young aspiring wakeboarders to train and learn the craft from scratch. Thankfully, we received positive feedback from parents after our first trial run with the camp. We even ended up holding one in Abu Dhabi’s cable park, which was also a great success.
BNB: What is wakeboarding to you?
SAN: To me, it’s not just about the board and handle. This sport changed my life; it molded me into the person I am today. Anyone can get on the water with a board, but it takes courage to ride the wake. To be able to commit to something on a daily basis, and work a trick over, and over, and over until you finally land it. Sometimes it takes just a couple of days, sometimes a few months. Wakeboarding is not only physically rigorous, but mentally as well. To be able to take myself so far out my comfort zone, and push the boundaries of my limits makes me a newer, better person every time I ride the wake. Wakeboarding is not just a sport, but it’s a lifestyle as well.
BNB: Is it intimidating being in a field dominated by men, since you're the only woman on the Kuwaiti wakeboarding team? Does this ever make you doubt yourself and your skill as a wake boarder?
SAN: I should state that we actually have more upcoming female wakeboarders than we do males. The only male- dominating aspect of this sport is in my team, since I'm the only female on it. Honestly, it’s not intimidating at all; if anything, it’s encouraging. The amount of love and support I have received is unreal. Being the only female athlete on a team may make someone else doubt their skill, but my teammates have offered me nothing less than encouragement, as I do to them. We motivate one another, there are no gender barriers, which is how our team is built
BNB: Where do you see your wakeboarding in 5 years?
SAN: I don’t know where to start. Firstly, I dream of joining the Asian Beach Games. I plan to join as many competitions as possible and I strive to earn a place on the winner’s platform whenever I compete. I hope to be able to earn as many points as I need to qualify for the Wakeboard World Championship (WWC). I want to compete in the WWC and wear my country’s name and flag proudly.
It can be said without a doubt that wake boarding has shaped Al-Nouri’s life and it could definitely shape the lives of others. Thankfully, wake boarding is a rapidly expanding water sport and anyone can learn how to wakeboard. Whether they’re kids and teens with Little Riders, or adults under Kuwait Balance, wakeboarding is easily accessible throughout Kuwait. Remember, anyone can get on the water with a board, but it takes courage to ride the wake.
For more information on Shaikha Al-Nouri, visit www.instagram.com/ShaikhaAlNouri