Omeir Saeed: What I've Learned
I actually started out snowboarding. I would go with my friends from Abu Dhabi to Dubai every week, and I got hooked. The problem was I got tired of doing the drive every week. Fortunately, Abu Dhabi had just opened up a world-class water sports center that had a wakeboard cable. So I went there and haven’t looked back since.
I used to wakeboard just for fun, and signed up for my first competition just two months in after learning how to do. I didn’t have high hopes in doing well, but I ended up placing second. After that, I thought if I took the sport seriously and really pushed myself, I could do better.
Wakeboarding tournaments are split up into heats. There are age categories, but the best riders all compete together. That means you can be 14 years old and be competing against a 34-year-old. All that matters is your skill on the water.
I began winning a few competitions and that taste of success started to drive me to train harder. The more I won, the more people and sponsors started noticing me. I was soon competiting against better wakeboarders, in more established tournaments and championships.
I have a ‘Learn by doing’ mentality. Most of my understanding of the sport has come from watching others on YouTube. I have always been good at figuring things out visually, as opposed to reading something in a book or being told what to do. For example, when I watch really talented wakeboarders do tricks; I can see the way they shift their balance or roll their torso, then I go out
and practice what I saw until I can do it just as well as they can.
There are different types of wakeboarding. You can be pulled behind a boat and use the surf to propel you upwards to do tricks, or you can be towed by a cable system like they have at the Al Forsan water sports in Abu Dhabi. I prefer the cable; as it is a lot more social. You can have six or seven people all on the cable at the same time.
Starting at such a young age was definitely an advantage. The enthusiasm of youth is a big factor that shouldn’t be underestimated. You tend to be more fearless and eager to prove yourself when you are younger. Back then I would happily wakeboard for hours and hours, and then come back the next day and do the same. I never worried about hurting myself, no matter how challenging a particular trick might be.
Abu Dhabi is a fantastic place to wakeboard. Unlike other countries, the UAE has year-round sunshine. It has also really invested in the sport; last year the city hosted the IWWF World Wakeboard Championships [pretty much the world cup of wakeboarding]. It was great, not only for the city, but wakeboarding in the UAE as the top-ranked boarders encourage more people to come and watch, and that inspires people here to take up the sport.
My parents were always supportive. They said I could do whatever I wanted to do, provided I continue to keep my schoolwork up to scratch. In truth, I wouldn’t be where I am now without them and their belief in me.
When I relax, you’ll still find me at the water sports centre.Yes, I wakeboard professionally now but it is also how I blow off steam. That’s not to say I spend the entire time out on the water; there’s no better place to chill out than taking in the sun with your friends on the beach.