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Calinfluence: That Blind Surfer (and Karate) Guy

Not long after first exploring Muay Thai — as my outlet for frustration and as a new focus in martial arts — now more than 5 years ago, I first met Joshua Loya. There was a common love for karate movies and Bruce lee, and for the challenge and application that learning martial arts can bring. And not incidentally, there was one difference, tremendously, that existed. Joshua is totally blind — a combination of a congenital vulnerability, limitations that had existed for fruitful treatment, and a fateful, teenage nunchuck mishap that took his precariously delicate eyesight.

In moments that we shared as training partners, between punch and kick combo reps, I gleaned Joshua was a man who grew up living between preservation of his failing, vulnerable eyesight — and trying to live life fully amid caution.

By the time Joshua reached high school, his worsening vision — to him — had become like a TV signal fading out of tune. And that was what he held to as his last conduit to normalcy. What, too, that relegated him to do few things at all, for fear of an impact that might jostle away what vision remained. So went the last of it, as a teen, by foam nunchucks. What he has been doing best at adapting to now, in adulthood.

I don’t think Joshua wants to reflect on his blindness in terms of a silver lining. There is none. Just adaptation and moving on. But what unlocked, he found, were the doors to adventuring and martial arts that he was left dissuaded from through all his adolescence.

So now goes his journey into Karate — as an instructor and student — that Joshua enriches with smatters of Muay Thai, Judo, and Jiu Jitsu. So goes, too, his curiosity into adventuring — and his growth into competitive adaptive surfing. Joshua now masses a life of fulfillment that otherwise stood mired in what he has lost. He doesn’t choose bering labeled, but is doing best to embrace his state in being unsighted to his fullest.

Next, in June, Joshua sets his aims on the Hawaii Adaptive Surfing Championships. I can’t imagine the guts he has surfing, let alone there, never mind blind. But he has an adventure mind and has long evolved beyond showing guts. For Joshua, he won’t be there just to surf — but to compete — and win. And in the time since I’ve known him, I’m in awe. And my outlook in life has grown much richer.

—WJJ (The Writer Jason James)

Joshua Loya is a blind adventurer and competitive blind surfer. Please consider contributing to his Go-Fund-Me campaign (Send a Blind Guy Surfing) to help fund the trip to his surf contest in Hawaii, in June.

Jason James is an award-wining essayist and journalist. Follow his work on Buzzard Digital, Great Pacific Review, and at Prattlon.


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