Mohammad Hassan Rahma, also known as Mo Rahma, is the first Emirati to compete in international surfing competitions. Having only been surfing for six years and learned surfing in the UAE’s famous Wadi Wave Pool, he was a professional footballer and later on a rugby player before that.
However, due to his chronic condition, he was obliged to pursue water-based physiotherapy, which is when he first discovered surfing.
His severe illness led him to abandon his original love of rugby, a sport in which he had represented his country in, and he converted to surfing as a sport. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease with severe symptoms, in which abdominal pain, recurring or bloody diarrhea, weight loss, and weariness are the most prevalent symptoms.
“I was struggling a lot. My colitis wasn’t under control at all and I was going to the bathroom 15 to 20 times a day,”
As a result, Rahma sought treatment from doctors all over the world in order to enhance his quality of life.
With a belt fastened to his ileostomy bag, he found a way to roll with the waves even after the colectomy (without the colon, he passes solid waste through a stoma in his abdomen connected to the bag). Now, he claims in an interview with Friday Magazine, that “I am very positive. I have set my eyes on the Paris Olympics and big wave surfing.”
His Crohn’s illness battle and the loss of his football career at such a young age had sent him into a deep depression. “It was a particularly gloomy period in my life. For over two months, I did not speak to anyone or leave my room,” adding “I eventually learned to dance with my demons.”
Rahma was able to discover the light within the darkness through the help of motivational movies, literature, family support, and meditation.
“I went to many countries to meet doctors, to seek help for my condition. I am also fortunate to have a great circle of friends and family. But most of all, it was a two-week-long silent meditation session in India that helped me to go deep inside myself. That’s where I found my answers and learnt to look at the lighter side of life,” he shares.
Rahma, modest about his accomplishments but bursting with excitement for his sport, competed in an International Surfing Association (ISA) tournament in Spain, where he advanced to the second round, and made it to the third round in another tournament held in the Maldives.
The surfer has placed realistic goals for himself, but his drive to compete on an international level goes beyond his personal goals. He explains that one of the reasons he is doing this is to pave the road for younger generations, particularly young Emiratis. “If I had known about surfing when I was younger, I would have begun considerably sooner. You never know what I may have accomplished if I hadn’t done what I’m doing right now.”
The only thing preventing Emiratis from learning to surf, according to Rahma, is a lack of waves and awareness. “The only time we get waves around here is in the winter.” They don’t see it in front of their eyes throughout the summer, nor do they see it on TV or read about it. As a result, there is no knowledge or awareness of the sport. The only reason we don’t have more athletes is because of this.”
Nonetheless, Mohammed Rahma has demonstrated his resolve to overcome any challenge that comes his way. His dedication to the sport he loves serves as an example to everyone battling an uncertain struggle to never give up hope and stick to their own convictions.