• • Naaisha Haneef was born in the Maldives and was always around water. Since working in Brazil and Portugal, she has taken to the waves, finding the meditation in surfing as she does with yoga. We chatted about how her interest in the sport began, the creative process behind her surfboard designs and her future.

Hi Naaisha, can you tell me a little bit more about what inspired you to start surfing? Tell me about the surfing scene in the Maldives?

The Maldives, my home, is simply a paradise with surf across the country with pumping waves. Surfing is a sport that all the locals enjoy, although it’s always been more for men there.

When I first learnt to surf I didn’t get started in the Maldives. I got motivated to surf after spending 3 months in Brazil working at a surf house as a yoga teacher. As soon as I got back, I continued surfing back home and right now I’m surfing in Portugal.

Besides surfing, you’re quite an experienced yogi!

Can you talk about the overlap in the positives that yoga and surfing have bought into your life?

I began to do yoga over 8 years ago, and it really did change my body and mind in a very positive way over the years of practice.

I’ve been teaching and spreading my knowledge of yoga for a wide range of clients and in many countries.

After moving to Portugal, a country where there’s surf around the coast, I found that I work mainly for surfers. I started to change my teaching style to be, “Yoga for Surfers”, where you energise your body for the surf.

I teach them to strengthen the upper back muscles to increase paddle power and stamina. It helps a lot with balance and body movement in the water as well.

Your body becomes prepared for the surf. Surfing and yoga come hand in hand as both of the practices I believe are a form of movement meditation where your soul is fully aware and connected to nature.

What lights you up?

Enjoying life, Warm hugs, getting compliments from my beloved family and friends.

I sometimes forget how much I am loved by the people around me. I always try to remind myself about this quote from my master, who I followed

the teachings of yoga from, “Life is a never-ending festivity“, as it always lights me up.

You’re also extremely creatively talented, especially with your designs on surfboards, where do you gain inspiration from for your designs, and can you tell me a little bit about your creative process as a whole?

I’ve been painting on surfboards for a couple of years. Honestly, I paint surfboards as a passion and a meditation where I don’t even realise how much time passes. When I start painting I leave the surfboard once it’s done, and I also like the person who rides the board to see the process. All the boards which are painted, are done with love and for free on requests. Sometimes the value of art is ignored, but it’s also an expression and a strong emotion.

My artworks on surfboards pretty much resonate with the surfer. It’s almost the same as how you design a tattoo. I have a conversation with the surfer and I get ideas from the surfer of what the person would like on the surfboard and I show a range of sketches from my sketchbook for them choose a style.

My art inspiration comes from the ocean, seamless repetitive patterns of corals, fishes and seal life are in all my artworks.

Be brave and be willing to take chances, never turn your back on what you really want to do

Tell me a little more about your background?

Graphic design and art is my profession for the past 10 years and I’ve been enjoying designing to the fullest. Working as a freelance graphic designer and on the side having ongoing projects with an American home furnishing brand DENYdesigns. Testing my art through diverse mediums and applying them to various products which are offering universally.

For the past 2 years, I wanted a change in my art career. to get back into painting and now I have found my newest passion – painting on surfboards. Next biggest step in my life for me is getting into yoga practices and starting to spread the knowledge of yoga. I’ve been teaching yoga for the past 7 years.

Coming from a background of creative arts, I bring my creativity to the yoga teaching resulting in a dynamic, inspiring and spiritual practice, teaching from the heart, drawing from my own experience who strongly believes yoga to be a constant discipline for healing, growth, and transformation and to be present. Relive in a moment where you feel blessed. During my yoga journey, I explore how yoga is practised in different parts of the world by taking the time to attend several yoga retreats and surf houses after getting started with surfing.

I gave it a go at surfing out of the blue at “Floripa Surfhouse” Yoga & KiteSurf retreat during my travels to Sicily, Italy in 2015. After two years I travelled out to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, to teach yoga at a Surf School “Rio SurfnStay” for three months. I began my regular surf lessons in various beach breaks in Rio de Janeiro and got practically persuaded to continue surfing.

I have additionally taken surf lessons at Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. From that point forward surfing has turned into an enthusiasm for as long as a year. I enjoyed being out in the ocean surfing as a recreational sport. It is absolutely a meditative activity which has its great physical and mental aspects.

Since I had been surfing in beach breaks in various parts of the world, I needed to take a stab at surfing at world-class reefs breaks at my own island home as well. In 2018, I finally started surfing in the Maldives. Begun lessons from “Raalhu Edhuru” Surf school in Thulusdhoo. I have practised techniques of sliding on longboards to surfing on shortboards. I still expect to absorb information to enhance my abilities to improve as a surfer.

For over a year I’ve been living in Portugal to work at Yoga retreats and Surf houses which is more in tune with my lifestyle teaching yoga and surfing. Currently, I’m working for “Dreamsea Surfhouse Portugal” teaching yoga for surfers who stays at our Surfhouse.

Our Surf instructors, Diogo and Andre have been a real motivation at this point, for me to surf well in Portuguese waves since the ocean is completely different from my home breaks. I’ve been enjoying surfing on these beautiful beaches in Portugal.

Tell me about some women who bring light to surfing in the Maldives?

It began with Raalhu Edhuru Surf School, founder Ismail Miglal (Kudaissey), three-time National Surf Champion from the Maldives with two other women surfers, Saaxu Saeed & Dhafy Hassan. Their initiative was to find and help a generation of young surfers all around the Maldives.

Travelling across the islands in search of surfers and giving surf lessons for many girls and encouraged girls to start learning to surf especially kids. It has been running for a few years and I would say a lot has changed after I moved back to Portugal. Currently, Aya Naseem has been taking over Raalhu Edhuru to teach surf lessons and she has become an inspiring female figure to all the surfer girls. She’s started surfing in her teens and right now she is one of the best surf girls around our small islands whose input should be much appreciated when it comes to surfing. I would love to give credit to another surf girl, Azhoora Ahmed (Azoo) Soneva Surf Program mentor and manager who is also working really hard with surfing initiatives and programs in Sonevafushi Resort, Baa Atoll.

Surfing and yoga come hand in hand as both of the practices I believe are a form of movement meditation where your soul is fully aware and connected to nature

Are there any lessons that you think surfing has taught about yourself and how you approach your own things in your life?

You need to your intuition. There’s been a couple of times I paddled out without checking the conditions and not knowing the ocean very well. It was a disaster.

Always check for tides, currents and the swell before getting into the water and remind yourself that you are on your own. If it’s too big and crazy then don’t get in! I like to enjoy a surf where I am calm and happy in the water, not struggling.

Looking towards the future, are there any words of advice you’d pass onto younger women who may be interested in doing what you are?

Be brave and be willing to take chances, never turn your back on what you really want to do. Trust yourself.

What is next for you?

Currently, I’m working for Dreamsea Surfcamps and it has been an amazing year. I’ll be living in Portugal the next year as well. I haven’t been home ever since I moved, so right now I’m looking forward to my year-end holidays in the Maldives to spend time with my family and also to surf back at home.

• • An incredibly creative Naaisha continues to amaze us with her talent.

Her Instagram shows off her beautiful surfboard designs and also her impressive yoga skills and ability.

We can’t wait to see what future projects this incredible young woman has under her sleeve and for her to continue to radiate with such beautiful positive energy.

A tribute to Naaisha’s late father:

“To a man whose completely connected to the Ocean, lived across oceans for many years. To a man who was a marine Master, taught what’s beneath the stars and beyond. To a man who taught me the power of nature, the real reason why the ocean is calling for me. To a man who asked me to take challenges, allowed me to explore the world independently. To a man who was the most supportive person to win everything, I wanted in life. To a man whose infinite love and compassion is the reflection of who I am today. To a man who had only two daughters and understood the power of women, believed in “if a man can do, so can you”

Forever in my memories,

Peace be upon you. Amen.

Yours loving,


September 30, 2019 — Janaya Wilkins