Sport

Blind surfer who took on Pipeline an inspiration

WAVE rider Derek Rabelo's dream was to surf Pipeline, one of the world's most challenging waves. Derek, however, is no average surfer - he is blind.

Derek's father had dreams and aspirations for his unborn son. He prayed for him to become a professional surfer and named him after legendary surfer Derek Ho.

His hopes, however were shattered when Derek was born with congenital glaucoma on May 25, 1992, and after three unsuccessful surgeries, Derek's parents accepted he would never see.

Being blind did not deter Billabong rider Derek from his dream of surfing Pipeline and he embarked on a journey to conquer Pipeline, an area notorious for huge waves and cavernous reef.

It was on this journey that Brazilian-born Derek met and inspired pro wave riders from across the globe including 11 times world champion Kelly Slater, pro surfer and SUP rider Laird Hamilton, nine times world champion bodyboarder Mike Stewart, pro surfer Rob Machado, Lakey Petersen (sixth on the ASP Women's World Rankings) and pro surfer Tom Curren among others.

"Pipeline is basically the ultimate wave in a lot of ways - just a short, intense, dangerous wave that's close to the beach," Kelly Slater said.

"Many surfers with sight do not venture out even after they see that others can do it."

When the YouTube video of Derek surfing Pipeline with Makua Rothman went viral in 2012, it inspired filmmaker Bryan Jennings to produce the captivating documentary, Beyond Sight about Derek's gruelling three year physical, emotional and spiritual training regime to surf what Laird Hamilton describes as "one of the most dangerous waves in the world."

"And when you know what you're doing and have perfectly good eyes, you can die. When Derek went out to Pipeline and surfed, the angels were busy that day," Laird said.

The Billabong slogan 'only a surfer knows the feeling' is fitting for Derek as Australian 2012 world champion Joel Parkinson points out when he surfed with him at Pipeline.

"It's ironic that Derek is a part of the Billabong team and that with him not being able to see means he can only feel it," Joel said.

Derek credits his success and achievements to his faith in God and strong Christian values.

His attitude, perseverance and ability to overcome insurmountable hurdles has inspired top wave riders such as Lakey Peterson, who said: "Look at Derek, he lives 100% by faith and zero by sight and look what God's doing in his life."

Kelly Slater also said: "For Derek to actually surf one of the heaviest waves in the world (Pipeline) is unbelievable, he has definitely inspired me."

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