Surfing without sight: A lesson in bravery

The biggest life lessons are often learnt when you least expect them – like, for example, when you’re slurping a banana milkshake on the west coast of Bali.

I was working one morning in a simple beach-side warung – my regular office while Mark catches waves – when a surfer at the table next to me pointed out someone in the water. “You see the guy in the red top, yellow board, wearing helmet?” he asked. I struggled to sip my chunky banana milkshake through the straw while my eyes searched the waves. It was hard to see the guy – the waves were pretty big. Eventually, when I spotted him, the surfer said “He’s blind.”

Yes, totally blind.

It turns out the man I was watching, a Brazilian, was once a really talented surfer who lost his sight in a car accident. That was 17 years ago, and only recently has he started to surf again. He goes out into the water with a few friends who call out when to take off, and the rest of the time he feels what the ocean is doing and surfs by his senses. Last year he travelled halfway around the world to surf Uluwatu, Bali’s most famous wave; this year, he’s come back for more.

I had goosebumps watching him that morning, and was completely humbled by his determination, his faith, and his bravery. And I often think back on him, a red shirt in the ocean, and realize: if a blind man can surf those waves, I have absolutely no right to be afraid.

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