Iffa Umaira: Blading in Malaysia
Iffa Umaira came into our lives on January 10th when we saw a photo that Wheel Love Skateshop had posted to Facebook. That photo showed a young muslim woman doing a backside farfegnugen on a ledge while wearing a traditional hijab scarf on her head. By our Western standards, it was not a common sight. The blade-o-sphere seemed to agree, and in short order the picture — between Wheel Love’s original posting and then our re-post — went viral across Facebook and Instagram. But we wouldn’t be a self-respecting media source if we let the story end there. So we tracked down the young woman in the photo to find out more about her… and that’s how we met Iffa. And now you get to meet her, as she rolls out into the Blade World for her first ever international feature. Enjoy!
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Iffa, you live in a city outside Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, right?
Yes, I live outside Kuala Lumpur and stay at Shah Alam city in Malaysia.
How old are you and how long have you been blading?
I’m 18 this year and I’ve been skating almost two years.
When did you first end up on skates?
When I was 15 years old, that was the first time I used inline skates. I started aggressive inline in 2014.
Is it easy to get into rollerblading in Kuala Lumpur? Are there a lot of skaters there?
Yes, it’s easy to get into rollerblading in Malaysia and there’s a lot of skater in Kuala Lumpur.
Isn’t Malasia a really strict country? How does that work with the sort of rebellious nature of skating and grinding?
Malaysia is a strict country, according to your law. Here, people love to see us grinding. But you do need to be smart before you hit some street spots.
Like, that picture of you doing back nugen on the ledge — what would happen if you were caught?
Maybe… I’d just fall on the ground.
I heard back from you pretty quickly after I sent that message. Do most people in KL read and speak English (or are you using a good translator)?
That’s because I’m so excited to get a message from you! Some people can speak English and some don’t, but either way they probably use a translator when they don’t understand. That’s what I do.
Who are your favorite bladers?
My favorite bladers are Jon Julio from U.S.A.… and Memen Mansor from Malaysia.
What’s the most inspiring edit you’ve seen recently?
“Project Seringgit” by Nabil Hussin.
How often do you get to session with your crew?
Always, when we are free!
Who all do you blade with?
With bladers and bladies.
What pros have visited Wheel Love and sessioned with you guys?
Too many pros! Jon Julio, Adrien Anne, Richie Eisler, Nick Lomax, Mathias Von Gostosmski, Julien Cudot, CJ Wellsmore, Soichiro Kanashima, and Jeerasak Tassorn.
Have you traveled much outside of your area? Made it to Winterclash or anything like that?
No, but I wish. For now I’ve just traveled around Malaysia.
Do you skate in competitions or plan to?
Random stuff. Sometimes I plan to compete, sometimes I don’t.
Which do you prefer: street or park? And what tricks are you working on?
I prefer park over street, and I’m working on a bunch of tricks cause I need a solid grind.
Are there sports or activities outside of blading that you pursue?
How important is religion to you personally and to folks in Malaysia overall? Here in San Diego at least, we’re pretty much like WHO CARES. I guess what I mean is, do you want to skate in the hijab, or, if given the chance at a location in the United States or elsewhere, would you blade without it?
Most people in Malaysia practice Islam. Women in Islam need to cover their bodies, including our head. It’s called ‘aurat.’ If I get the chance to skate there I won’t skate without it.
Have you ever encountered prejudices within blading because of being a woman or otherwise? How did you overcome them?
Yes, I have, but then I just go blading and don’t care what people think or say.
What’s something you’ve learned from skating that you apply to your daily life?
Never give up on something you really want to do!
If you could go one place anywhere in the world to blade, where would it be?
Who would you take with you?
My best buddy, Linda Eddy.
What is your current set up?
USD Aeons setup with anti-rocker.
Next piece of equipment you need to buy?
Favorite, most cherished piece of blade memorabilia?
When I land tricks, and every tour I’ve been able to be part of!
And finally… who do you want to thank or shout out?
I want to thank my family that supports me. Wheel Love team who help me a lot in this industry. Doshieskates, Kukubesiong, friends and LTB. And also thanks to ONEblademag for this!
Well thanks for all your time, Iffa — we’ve really enjoyed meeting you and spreading your story about the blade world. Good luck!
Questions by JE
Photos by Nabil Hussin
Leave A Comment
Great article. I would like to invite iffa and other bladers / bladies in Kuala Lumpur to come to Sungai Petani Kedah and skate with us here. This is my cell number 0135124143.
Great article. Inspiring to see that there is blading in Malaysia.
I like this article because you do what you love. I also skate but I do figure skating.