Inspirations: Derek Rabelo

Inspirations: Derek Rabelo

How a blind Brazilian surfer conquered Pipeline

As seen in the May 2013 issue of TransWorld SURF magazine. Subscribe now and get a free gift!

Derek Rabelo isn’t your average surfer. In fact, he’s as far from that as one may be. Derek was born with congenital glaucoma—in plain English, without sight. But that didn’t stop the 20-year-old Brazilian from learning to surf when he was just three years old. “I swim, surf, ride skateboards and bikes,” says Rabelo. “With God, everything is possible.” Understandably, religion plays a big role in his life. In fact, the church helped take him to Hawaii last winter, where the surf community took Rabelo under its wing. After a video was released with Makua Rothman taking the Brazilian surfing at a small day in Pipeline, his fame spread across the globe. It shows him duckdiving incoming whitewash with perfect timing, as well as paddling into waves all by himself. “I can see the same things as others, except in different ways,” he explains.

Rabelo returned to the North Shore this winter to gather footage for his upcoming documentary, Beyond Sight—its teaser even showing big-wave surfer Carlos Burle towing him into well-overhead waves at a Brazilian beachbreak. Relying on four out of five senses, if Derek’s example doesn’t put trivial complaints like high tides or sideshore winds into perspective, not a lot of other stories will.

Derek Rabelo

Derek Rabelo. Photo: Brian Bielmann