I was introduced to Derek Rabelo’s surfing when I saw a quick clip last week from a recap video of the Payette River Games. I instantly wanted to know more about Derek’s story, and a quick Google search later, I was blown away. In 2012 Derek traveled to Hawaii from his home country of Brazil with the goal of surfing the infamous Banzai Pipeline wave. Pro-surfer and big wave pioneer Laird Hamilton describes the dangers of the wave: “When you know what you’re doing, and you have been surfing for thirty years, and can see perfectly well, you can still die.” Derek’s trip was a success and a short video of him surfing with pro Makua Rothman at Pipeline went viral.
The next year Derek began filming a movie called “Beyond Sight” with producer/director Byran Jennings, became sponsored by major companies, and got to surf with his idols including Kelly Slater, Laird Hamilton, and Rob Machado. Through this whole experience, Derek continued to focus on becoming a better surfer. At Pipeline, Derek and his surfing coach, bodyboarder Magno Oliveria, felt they could do more. Surfing bigger waves and getting barreled at Pipeline became Derek’s goals, and with the help of friends both new and old, set out to accomplish them.
Derek’s story is a part of growing positive trend in the outdoor actions sports landscape-the growing recognition and reverence for adaptive athletes. We have been treated Josh Dueck and his Freedom Chair, one-legged backcountry skier Vasu Sojitra, and one-armed surfer Bethany Hamilton, among others. This reverence and recognition is more than well deserved, and hopefully will get more people both adaptive and not into the sports we love.