Derek Rabelo was always destined to be a surfer, having been named after world-famous surfing champion Derek Ho by his father during birth. But that dream was placed on the backseat for a moment as the Brazilian boy was born blind.
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Derek has glaucoma, but this wasn’t about to stop the 23-year-old from pursuing his passion.
At the young age of 17, Derek learned how to surf after being repeatedly encouraged by his supportive father. “We went to the ocean together in the mornings. However, he sent me to a surf course to learn and practise more. I have also practised a lot with my friends. They always consider me just as themselves,” he said in an interview with Bored Panda.
Surfing runs in Derek’s family, with his uncles being professional surfers and his father who is an enthusiast as well.
“Surfing is in my blood, I always wanted to surf,” he told Fairfax Media. “Everybody feels frustrated sometimes. I never stopped to listen to the things that will not help me.”
Five years after riding his first wave, Derek became a professional. In 2013, a documentary film based on his inspiring story was released entitled Beyond Sight: The Derek Rabelo Story.
As for his success in the sport, he points his achievements toward God, to whom he continues to rest his faith on. “I listen to the ocean and feel it,” said Derek. “And every single part of a wave makes different noises. So, I can decide which side of the wave I should surf towards. If you have a dream, you have to believe in yourself. Otherwise, you can not do it. I believe all of us have strong senses given by god. Use them with passion and perseverance.”
Derek’s achievements include surfing in Hawaii’s Banzai Pipeline and is looking at the legendary break Jaws next. While most surfers wouldn’t even dare go against those big waves, Derek is just excited for his next adventure.
He has this inspiring thing to say, “You have to believe in yourself. Go chase your dreams and you can do it if you want.”