A Brief Interview With Derek Rabelo, the Blind Pipeline Surfer

Derek Rabelo is a few months shy of 20, lives in Guarapari, on the coast northeast of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and has been blind since birth. Being blind, like being paralyzed, isn’t an obstacle when you have the right attitude and a good measure of cajones. But naturally, the surf world is blowing up at this video, which shows Rabelo surfing Pipeline. And that’s awesome, because it’s not every day a blind dude surfs Pipe.

But the video, unfortunately, tells us almost nothing about Rabelo. I caught up with him by email, though, for an understandably brief Q&A about his North Shore session, which as it turns out was neither his first nor his biggest.

How old are you?
19

Where do you live?
Guarapari, ES, Brazil

What’s the story with your sight — can you see anything? Were you born visually impaired or did something happen later?
No I’m 100 percent blind. Yes, I was born blind.

When did you learn to surf?
2 and a half years ago.

Was that your first time surfing Pipe? How was it for you?
No, I surfed Pipe at the same day they had the finals of the Volcom Pro, 01-31-12. I couldn`t catch waves because it was very crowded but it was amazing experience…6-8 feet perfect Pipe.

The video said you wanted to pull into the tube. Has that happened yet?
I`ve got a couple barrels but I didn’t make it out.

Were you surprised at the gift of the surfboard? How does it ride?
Yes I was, very surprised. The board is amazing, 6’2″…

This video above mostly features pro surfer Makua Rothman talking about his experience with Rabelo. The one below is all about Derek and his time in Hawaii.

{ One comment…read it below or write one }

  • mario

    Guarapari is not in Rio de Janeiro.
    the correct would be “…lives in Guarapari, on the coast of ESPÍRITO SANTO, Brazil,…”
    congratulations for the story.

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