the Moroccan Ramzi Boukhiam, an Olympic surfer

Ramzi Boukhiam will be one of the two representatives of Africa when surfing at the Olympic Games (July 23-August 8) with South African Bianca Buitendag. For this 27-year-old Moroccan, playing the 2021 Olympics is an inauguration, he who developed a passion for this discipline on the beaches of Agadir and its region. Portrait of the future Moroccan flag bearer in Tokyo, with boxer Belahbib Oumayma.

Between Ramzi Boukhiam and Japan, it is a rather special story. It was in the Land of the Rising Sun that this 27-year-old Moroccan surfer won most of his qualification for the Tokyo Olympics. It was at the 2019 World Cup in Miyazaki. “I used to be quite injured and I had not had good results. I was a little demotivated, the person concerned remembers. I told my trainer Aziz Bouchgua that I just wanted to surf because I know how to do, drop and be effective. So I did not really have the point in mind and what I would do to qualify.

However, after finishing the first three laps, Ramzi Boukhiam has almost secured the place for an African surfer at the Olympics. [1]. “We were at the restaurant and had dinner. It had been a big day for me, so I was very happy, he remembers. But Aziz continued to stare discreetly at his phone under the table. I asked him what he was doing, but he replied, ‘Nothing, nothing!’ In fact, he followed the results of the South African I competed with. For those who went the furthest during this competition had the place in Tokyo. And when he lost, Aziz said to me, ‘It’s good Ramzi, it’s done!’ “.

The following? Lots of conversations from his family and from the Moroccan sports world. But he struggles to realize what he has just achieved. “I was still competing so I was still focused,” he explains. It was really three, four days later that I really realized that it was big, very big, what had just happened ”.

A childhood by the sea

Ramzi Boukhiam then had the opportunity to remember his discovery of surfing, somewhere on the Moroccan coast. “My dad loved fishing so we were on the beach all the time, with my dad, my mom and my big brother. We grew up in Agadir and we walked about fifteen kilometers all the time, he says. We were always on the beach, in the water. I started with bodyboarding. My big brother was already surfing. He told me I should try. I hooked right away. And a few months later I did my first competition. It was 2003 ”.

Ramzi Boukhiam tells very carefully about this period in Adadir. “It was really calm [détendu, ndlr], he slips, compared to life in big northern cities like Casablanca. We were spoiled, if not only at the climate level. We wore shorts to school. We could surf very often … It was really a very beautiful childhood ”.

Although the young Ramzi loved football then, nothing is as surfing in his heart. “In the summer I would go to France. I played in all the small competitions in southwestern France, he explains.

A founding drama

France, the Moroccan will settle there in 2007, after a tragedy. His father has just passed away. Ramzi Boukhiam’s mother, originally from the Netherlands (the country where the athlete was also born), decides to take her two sons to Biarritz, a city the family already knows.

The first year I struggled with the winter, the surfer has fun today. I was just crying, I was cross-border in depression. I said to my mother, ‘We have to go back to Morocco!’ Then I got used to it and made many friends. The Biarritz region is a bit like my second home now. My mother still lives there ”.

He adds: “I did sports studies there. I had my Quicksilver sponsor. I made a career in juniors and now in seniors. It was a wonderful trip. ”

Surfing the Olympic wave

Ramzi Boukhiam hopes to have another five good years ahead of him, including participating in the Olympic Games in Paris 2024, after those in Tokyo. “Having a Moroccan for the premiere of surfing at the Olympics is historic,” he says. It will remain engraved in me. I will be Olympic forever. It will be special. But I really do not want to go to Japan as a tourist and just participate. I train hard and I know I can do it ”.

His ambitions on the beaches of Tsurigasaki, the site of the competition, are very high. “I aim for the gold medal! After that it will be very complicated because there will be the best in the world. But anything can happen. I feel ready, I have good boards. Everything just needs to connect well on D-Day. My opponents are all beatable (sic). I’m really going there to win. “

He concludes: “These games will be a crazy experience! For all athletes, this is the ultimate achievement. Afterwards, it will be a bit special with Covid. There will be no public, there will not be all the madness in the Olympics. But I can not wait to concentrate and put on lycra.[2] “

[1] South African surfer Jordy Smith also qualified for the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo but had to lose due to a knee injury.

[2] The interview was conducted before Ramzi Boukhiam was named Moroccan flag bearer in Tokyo with boxer Belahbib Oumayma.


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