'DO THINGS THAT DON'T MAKE SENSE.'
KAMLOOPS - Brett Devloo of Kamloops was taking notes in history class nearly five years ago, when he thought the overhead projector went out of focus.
He asked someone next to him if they could read the words and when she said yes he knew something was wrong.
Devloo, who was 16-years-old at the time, went to the eye doctor during his lunch break.
"It took... eight months to figure out what caused me to go blind, which is a long time to not know why you can’t see," Devloo says.
He has a DNA mutation, which caused him to lose his vision in both eyes. The mutation is called Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the condition usually begins in a person's teens or 20s and is more common in males.
The condition caused Devloo to become 98 per cent blind, to the point that he can only see light, but being blind isn't stopping him from pursuing his passion.
"I wasn’t going to let being blind stop me from doing what I love to do. (Skateboarding) is my passion," Devloo says. "Skating is just my second nature, it’s just what I do. I can’t not skate."
Devloo was living in Manitoba when he lost his vision. Since it was wintertime, he couldn't get back on his skateboard right away because of the snow.
He brought his board back out in February and even though there was still snow on the ground, Devloo was anxious to ride again.
"I went outside with a shovel and I literally shoveled the sidewalk outside my high school, took my board, stepped on it and it just felt like home again."
He says he knew skateboarding was something he would do for the rest of his life despite his blindness.
"I went blind and I still skate, that just doesn’t make sense," Devloo says. "That’s what my whole message is: do things that don’t make sense."
CREATING A 'SKATE FAM' IN KAMLOOPS
Devloo says his old skate park, called The Forks in Winnipeg, had a sense of family among skaters and now that he lives in Kamloops he's hoping the same can happen for the people who use the McArthur Island skate park.
"Skating here has been pretty dope, actually. I’m really excited to get more into it and create the skate park family I love to have," Devloo says. "You've got The Forks family so I can’t wait to have my Mac Fam."
Devloo says the first time he skated at McArthur Island Park, a fellow boarder offered to show him around and by the end of the day people were calling him TBK which stands for The Blind Kid, also Devloo calls himself and his clothing line.
He said he was bullied after he lost his vision and would hear people whispering in the school hallways "there goes the blind kid."
"I guess they didn’t know that doesn’t mean the deaf kid," Devloo says. "I just owned it like, yeah here comes the blind kid... hear me roar."
When Devloo first lost his vision, he didn't want to use his cane because he didn't want to "advertise" he was blind, but he found it was the most useful thing to get him back on the board.
"When I started skating I was using it to get from place to place," Devloo says. "I would go down the sidewalk full speed and have my cane out in front of me."
Devloo doesn't use his cane as much anymore when he's skating, but says it's still handy to have around.
GETTING INTERNATIONAL ATTENTION
Devloo has gained a lot of attention for skating without being able to see. He was even able to meet Tony Hawk when he went to California.
"He knew who I was already," Devloo says. "I’ve gotten a bit of attention... I’ve been on the show 20/20."
Devloo appeared on an episode that focused on athletes who are visually impaired.
He says he's been to California a couple of times and even ended up getting sponsored while he was down there.
Devloo met another blind man down there just a couple of months ago and he was offered a one-way ticket to Kamloops to try the skate scene out here.
"I said sure, bought a ticket and said let’s go," Devloo says. "Can’t follow your dream by sitting on the couch."
Devloo has become more focused on skating since he lost his vision, since his prior plans for the future had become a question mark.
"I wanted to be an electrician, I don’t know anyone who’d hire a blind electrician," Devloo says.
In his future, Devloo sees himself being an inspiration to others while he portrays his message of "do things that don't make sense."
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