The father of Brazilian surfer Derek Rabelo prayed that his son would become a professional in the sport, but when Rabelo was born blind it seemed that dream would never be realized. A new documentary by Walking On Water Films shows how, as a teenager, the blind boy's faith and determination helped him accomplish his goal of surfing one of the world's most challenging and dangerous waves: the Banzai Pipeline.
"Pipeline is basically the ultimate wave in a lot of ways – just a short, intense, dangerous wave that's close to the beach," said Kelly Slater, 11-time world champion surfer, in a statement. "Many surfers with sight do not venture out even after they see that others can do it."
The film, "Beyond Sight: The Derek Rabelo Story," follows the now 20-year-old on a three-year journey to surfing his dream wave in Oahu, Hawaii. Bryan Jennings, director of "Beyond Sight," told The Christian Post on Wednesday that Rabelo literally lives "by faith and not by sight."
"We all get in trouble when we start looking with our physical eyes around us at the circumstances of our life," said Jennings. "That's when we start to feel like we can't do something or we shouldn't do something. If you look at it, even biblically, if you look at any of the heroes of the Bible, if they would have paid attention to what they're seeing physically, there's no way they would have had success. They had to live by faith and not by sight."
Jennings first met Rabelo in Brazil, where he watched the faith-filled teenager ride on 15-foot-high swells – waves no other surfers dared to test that day. Rabelo is used to riding strong waves, says Jennings, but Pipeline waves can be dangerous.
Off of the North Shore of Oahu, the ocean floor rapidly rises toward the shore, making for powerful, round, dangerous waves. If a car or bus was put under one of these waves, Jennings says, it would be crushed, and some people have actually died trying to ride them.
But it seems Rabelo was "destined" to surf, says Jennings. Named after famed Pipeline surfer Derek Ho, Rabelo is now officially a professional surfer after he gained sponsorships from Billabong and Cobian Sandals.
In addition to Slater, pros like Gerry Lopez, Tom Curren, Damien Hobgood, Lakey Peterson, Laird Hamilton and others appear in the film and were inspired by Rabelo's story. Fellow Brazilian surfer Adriana de Souza was "starstruck" by Rabelo, says Jennings, after having first seen the blind surfer on a national television program in Brazil.
"Pro-surfers are star-struck by Derek," said Jennings. "So not only did Derek's father's prayer get answered, but above and beyond that, he's an inspirational figure."
The Gospel message is shared in each Walking On Water film, and is shared after each screening. Jennings, who founded the nonprofit organization, says the surfing community respects the quality of his organization's films, though occasionally some people lash out because of their faith-based themes. Walking On Water has previously worked on a number of documentaries targeting the surfing community, and played a role in promoting the popular Sony Pictures Faith film, "Soul Surfer."
Shooting for "Beyond Sight" will likely continue through mid-January. Jennings hopes to have the documentary completed by May 2013, though it may not be done until the fall.
Jennings's nonprofit organization continues to seek donations for the film – which it is producing in conjunction with S4J Hawaii Productions – through Kickstarter and through the organization's website. Christians interested in volunteering at an outreach event during the upcoming Billabong Pipe Masters surfing event in Oahu, where Rabelo will be surfing before the finals if conditions are right, are encouraged to email the organization for more information.