Surfing big waves in the ocean is a skill that takes a lot of practice, technique, balance, and talent. In fact, even experienced surfers have the occasional wipeout and sustain injuries in their pursuit of the big waves. The combination of skill and danger makes Brazilian surfer Derek Rabelo's story all the more incredible.
Rabelo lost his eyesight to glaucoma when he was just 1 year old, but that setback has not stopped the 19-year-old from becoming proficient in a wide range of outdoor sports, including swimming and skating. In his own words: "I don't feel different from others. I feel normal, and I don't feel limited at all." He especially loves to surf, following in the footsteps of his father and uncles.
Rabelo began honing his surfing skills two and a half years ago in Rio de Janeiro while attending a local surfing school there. He said that because of his inability to see, he uses other senses like touch and sound to gauge the size and shape of the waves he rides. His mother, Lia Nascimento, says of her son: "He has courage that I sometimes lack, to do things."
In February, filmmakers from "Story Hunter" followed Rabelo with a few cameras to document his trip to Hawaii, where his dream became reality — he successfully surfed the Banzai Pipeline. This particular area is known for being perilous to surfers with its huge waves and shallow water. Rabelo navigated the waves with ease, providing inspiration to even professional surfers who would later see his videos.
Indo Surf Life tweeted, "Next time we complain about life being unfair, we should remember this kid." Not sure we could ever forget Rabelo or his courage.
[Related: Surfing Growing in Popularity in China]