In the Kingdom, it takes a lot to stick your head out and try something new. While some Saudis like swimming when it hits forty degrees and the sea is dead flat, they just as swiftly retreat to their stately homes when a strong Shamal blows and air temperatures drop to twelve degrees. This winter, Rafael Howell, a six-year-old British-Filipino grom, saw opportunity when desert winds whipped up a rideable swell in the Persian Gulf. For three months he surfed alone at a rocky point break and challenged the locals’ ways of seeing. The ever vigilant security services pulled up on a few occasions to either watch or question the sanity of surfing in such cold weather, but they never stopped him from becoming Saudi’s first surf grom.
The world is an infinitely better place when seen through any six-year-old’s eyes. In a world where kids are supposed to play on tablets at home or wander around glitzy malls, Rafael’s positive outlook and carefree approach allowed him to continue his love of surfing in an unlikely place. He didn’t stop to wonder what anyone else thought about it. On land, he rides his ripstik, and in the sea, he glides along some surprisingly long point break waves. Through his eyes at least, Saudi rips.