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9-year-old blind surfer gets stoked riding first wave at Doheny State Beach, California

Nathan Nipp, 9, learned to surf at Doheny State Beach last Friday. Despite being blind, Nipp had no problem learning how to ride the waves. (Video screenshot: Lambert Lo)Nathan Nipp, 9, learned to surf at Doheny State Beach last Friday. Despite being blind, Nipp had no problem learning how to ride the waves. (Video screenshot: Lambert Lo)Nathan Nipp, 9, learned to surf at Doheny State Beach last Friday. Despite being blind, Nipp had no problem learning how to ride the waves. (Video screenshot: Lambert Lo)Nathan Nipp, 9, learned to surf at Doheny State Beach last Friday. Despite being blind, Nipp had no problem learning how to ride the waves. (Video screenshot: Lambert Lo)
Nathan Nipp heard the wave approaching and jumped up on the surfboard, putting his arms out wide and bending his knees into a surfer stance, the intense look of focus on his face easing as he enjoyed the ride.
“I’m up,” the 9-year-old surfer yelled out. “I got it!”
It didn’t matter that Nipp, of Irvine, couldn’t see the waves approaching, or had to feel around with his fingers to find just the right place on the soft-top surfboard to lay his body flat while out in the water.
Being blind has never slowed this kid down – and it certainly wasn’t going to while he was learning how to surf at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point on Friday, April 7.
Lambert Lo, a long-time surf instructor, met Nipp at the Mix Academy, a community center in Santa Ana. Lo is no stranger to introducing people to the sport of surfing – he once taught Steve Jobs how to ride waves and not long ago traveled to North Korea to give lessons. Last year, Lo held a surf camp in conjunction with pro surfer Courtney Conlogue to teach homeless people how to ride waves.

When Lo met Nipp, the youngster was taking a skateboarding class.
“He’s just this little kid filled with life,” Lo said. “He’s fearless, an accomplished musician, amazing on the ukulele.”
Nipp was born with an eye disease, his eyesight worsening as he got older despite several attempts at corrective surgery, Lo said.
“You wouldn’t know that he has a disability,” Lo said. “His parents are heroes too — they don’t treat him like he has a disability. They want him to experience anything any other little boy would.”

When Lo brought up the idea of taking Nipp for a surf lesson, they boy didn’t hesitate.
“He wasn’t afraid or anything,” he said. “He was like, ‘Let’s go.’”
Lo said he also learned something from the surf lessons. Nipp, he said, taught Lo how to use his ears to hear waves approaching.
“When you’re surfing, we’re usually looking for waves. He was listening for waves. He could tell what waves were coming and when,” Lo said. “He knew which waves he wanted to take. His sense of direction; he was like half dolphin.”
Nipp rode wave after wave at Doheny, known for its gentle-sloping surf. The new surfer couldn’t get enough, popping up several times during his lesson. Wipeouts didn’t faze him.
“I’ve taught lessons for a really, really long time. It’s sometimes hard for students to get back on the board after they wipe out, but his senses are just amazing. He can’t see, but he can see,” Lo said. “His clarity is, I think, a lot more acute than most people.”
“He was ear-to-ear grinning. He was saying, ‘Let’s get a bigger wave. Let’s get a real-size wave,’” Lo said.