Deaf, blind White House honoree learns to surf in inspiring new video

Haben Girma had already made history when she became the first deaf-blind graduate of Harvard Law School and was later also honored as a White House Champion of Change. But now she’s stretching herself even further and taking on a whole new challenge: learning to surf.

Girma, a civil rights advocate for those with disabilities, said that when she decided she wanted to try to surf, she reached out to Larry Graff of Swamis Surfing Association.

“I’m also deaf-blind, so the way I learn and approach the world is slightly different, so I need to think up alternative techniques for accessing information,” Girma explained.

“I’ve been preparing for surf lessons by thinking about all the different ways people can communicate without using their voices or using hearing or vision,” she said. “So thinking about tactile ways to communicate different surfing position, getting familiar with surfboards and getting familiar with the surf communicate.”

However, once Girma gets out in the ocean, she knows everything changes.

“There’s the challenge of technology not working in the water,” Girma said. “So I’m excited to be having a lesson with Matt and to learn to surf, and see where we can go without technology and with the opportunities of physical communication and the ocean and a wonderful surf team.”