Surfing is more than vision. It’s freedom, adrenaline and peace

There is a miracle on the water you might have heard of. A man who is blind, but can surf some big waves! Meet Derek Rabelo, the blind surfer who reminds us all about the power of human beings, the strength that surfing can give us and the places it can take us.

Who or what made you want to become a surfer? I grew up around the ocean. I always had a desire in my heart to be a surfer. My dad and my uncles were professional surfers. I had it in my blood and I always wanted to try. When I was 17 years old, my dad took my out and I surfed for the first time at Espirito Santo in Brazil. I finally got to take part in the family activity. God chose the right time.

At which spots have you surfed? I’ve surfed in Brazil, Indonesia, Hawaii, California, North and South Carolina, Portugal, Spain, France, Australia, Germany and even on the river in Munich. I am getting better, but I am always learning. When I spent 5 seasons in Hawaii I really developed my surfing.

Who is your assistant in the water? Professional bodyboarder Magno Passos has helped me a lot. He helped me on my journey to Pipeline and acted as my coach taking on that challenge for the first time.

When you go to new spots do the locals help you? I always have locals that will help me out. They are always very friendly and welcoming. The Hawaiians are so nice and we have a lot of fun together. They even closed Pipeline for me. They told everyone to wait and helped me catch a wave. It feels so good to be appreciated. It happens everywhere I go. I love meeting new locals. They always help me get waves and they always know the spot well.

Why are locals important? Locals at surf spots are really important. They protect the spot and make other people respect it. They are like lions defending their young. They might sound rude sometimes, but they are defending their territory and we must be respectful. To earn their respect, you must show respect. We are locals back home, but we try to be nice locals.

Can you describe for us the sound of a barrel? The sound of the barrel is the most amazing thing ever. Only a surfer knows the sound and the feeling. It’s loud and clear, you feel the wind, the spray and it makes that “haaaaaaah” heavy breath like sound. It’s like the sound of a shell on your ear, but a lot louder.

Now that you have been surfing and skateboarding are there any other board sports you would like to try? I would really like to try to snowboard. I know it will not be easy, but I am sure I can figure it out. I can’t wait!

Any funny moments on the water you want to tell us about? When I am dropping in on a wave, I try to be careful but I can end up in some people’s way. Sometimes someone will say, “Watch where you are going!”. I respectfully respond, “Sorry, I am blind.” I really try my best to stay out of people’s way or have the locals check to see if the coast is clear for me.

I also really liked surfing with Kelly Slater and Michi Fanning. Those guys are real jokers 🙂

What is something that all surfers can feel no matter if you can see or not? Surfing is more than vision. It’s freedom, adrenaline and peace. A peace everyone can feel. It helps us appreciate nature and what god has blessed with, like this epic sport we call surfing!

Follow Derek on Instagram @derekrabeloofficial
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