Blind surfer Derek Rabelo, whose story is documented in a new film titled "Beyond Sight: the Derek Rabelo Story," credits God for his surfing ability and hopes he is able to be an inspiration to others.
"I want to show that my movie is not just another surfing story," Rabelo told WORLD magazine, "God exists and He is present in my life. If I surf, it's because He gave me this gift and I'm really grateful for this gift."
Rabelo's father prayed that his son would become a professional surfer, even him naming after legendary pipeline surfer Derek Ho. Although the 21 year old Brazilian native was born blind, he has not let the handicap prevent him from fulfilling his dream. He began surfing at the age of 17, he has progressed rapidly, already surfing the notoriously difficult Pipe on Hawaii's North Shore.
"I swim, surf, ride skateboards and bikes," Rabelo said in a recent interview. "With God, everything is possible."
Rabelo's church helped take him to Hawaii last winter, where the surf community took the teen under its wing. While in Hawaii, the surfer met Film producer Bruno Lemos, who connected him to some Hawaiian pro-surfers. After a video was posted on YouTube of "blind surfer Derek Rabelo surfing Pipe," Rabelo catapulted to fame. The video shows Rabelo flawlessly surfing as well as paddling into waves all by himself. "I can see the same things as others, except in different ways," he explains.
His story caught the attention of surf legends across the globe. "He's an inspiration," pro surfer Koa Rothman says in the film, "How many blind people do you know that surf and pull in at Pipe?"
Lemos partnered with Bryan Jennings, a former professional surfer and founder of Walking on Water Films, to turn Rabelo's story into a documentary. Jennings has produced 12 faith based movies, including Heart of a Soul Surfer, a documentary about shark attack survivor Bethany Hamilton.
"When I returned home from Brazil I could not stop thinking about Derek and his powerful testimony," says Jennings on Vimeo. "God then made it very clear through some miraculous circumstances that Derek's story would be our next Walking On Water film and the theme of the movie would be based on 2 Corinthians 5:7 which says, 'We are to live by faith, NOT by sight.'"
Rabelo's unique story has touched the Christian music industry as well: lead singer of Audio Adrenaline says their song "Believer" was inspired by the surfer's indomitable faith. The song includes the lines, "blind but I can see/ I see the way You're moving/God how I believe that."
"God is telling us to turn our eyes off even if they work and stop looking at the circumstances of your life-why you can't do something-and start looking at God," Jennings said. "When you get your eyes on God, you start to realize all the reasons you can do something."
"Beyond Sight" will be shown at select theaters in Idaho, North Carolina, Florida and several other states in the coming months.