Aleli Medina, a 14-year-old charger hailing from Puerto Rico, is truly remarkable both in and out of the water, showcasing incredible skills despite facing visual impairment. We caught up with the ISA Para Surfing World Champion for a brief chat.
Aleli how does it feel to be a gold medalist at the recent World Para Surfing Championships?
It feels amazing, like a dream come true!
What was your experience of the competition?
My experience at the competition was great, everyone was super nice and friendly. The highpoint was definitely getting out of the water after my heat and seeing the Puerto Rico team receive me with open arms and congrats.
What were the specific challenges you faced during the competition and how did you overcome them?
One challenge that I had to face were the conditions of the waves. My first two heats the waves were super mushy and windy, but I overcame it by believing in myself and telling myself that I could do it.
I first started surfing at the age of three years old. My parents and my love for surfing was a big motivation to pursue surfing to a competitive level.
Being visually impaired, how do you navigate the waves and ensure your safety while surfing?
Since I’m visually impaired my dad has been a big part of my safety while surfing my whole life, he is my spotter and coach. I navigate with him the ocean and he places me in the correct place to catch the wave. Surfing the wave isn’t as hard as some people might think it is, since my condition allows me to see up close with my right eye but not far. I’m blind from my left eye.
I don’t use any adaptions but my dad is always in the water with me, he is my spotter, even if it’s free surfing, training or competing because he is my eyes out in the ocean.