A Legendary Grom From Nias Joins The Audible World, Thanks To Surfers - Stab Mag

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“He's very natural in the water. He’ll literally surf for five hours on the inside section of Nias – there's this little point that reforms. He's so small that he gets washed all the way in. He climbs over, runs as fast as he can back up over the tiles, and does it again and again and again. This is his favorite thing ever because he's limited in almost every other mode of expression,” recent Nias visitor Robbie Goodwin told Stab.

A Legendary Grom From Nias Joins The Audible World, Thanks To Surfers

‘Boy’ is a staple of the local surf community — who’s been gifted a new sense to shred with.

Words by Ethan Davis
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Heartwarming like a whiskey highball.

Last week, a New England-based tube jockey by the name of Robbie Goodwin sent us a letter. “I write to you today from Nias, where a local kid named Boy Franklin Laowo has just returned home from a trip to Medan, after acquiring custom-made hearing aids that have allowed him to hear for the first time in his life,” he started. “This is relevant in the surf world because Boy is already a staple in the Nias surf community at eleven years old.”

Far behind the Western world in accommodating youth with disabilities, Indonesia is home to over 2.5 million non-hearing residents, many of whom face social exclusion and considerable discrimination in accessing health and other services, education, and employment according to the International Labour Organization

For Boy, being born and raised in the education poor, coconut rich Lagundri Bay, one of the few outlets by which he could integrate himself within the community was via surfing. 

“He can’t hear, he can’t talk. He just kind of makes noises,” explains Robbie. “He communicates through actions and hand signals. He’s clearly very smart, so it’s disheartening when he tries to convey something to you and you just can’t understand. Surfing”

Boy’s condition can be chalked up to profound sensorineural hearing loss, which can be effectively managed with hearing aids and ongoing auditory therapy. Thanks to a handful of generous donors who had the pleasure of stumbling into Boy’s orbit, they were able to solve the first part of the hearing equation — acquiring hearing aids to turn the volume up a few decibels. 

However, the second, and far more time and cost-consuming part, entails how to turn this ‘noise’ into something meaningful. Typically it involves regular visits to an audiologist, recalibration and maintenance of equipment, and some sort of intense, accelerated learning program on the side.

“The other day we sat down and I let him go through my music playlist and pick out the songs he liked. He just listened to them over and over and over again. Dancing and smiling and enjoying it so much. It was mind blowing to me that he had never heard the sound of music before, or the sound of rain on a tin roof. One thing is certain: he absolutely loves Reggae.”

After a lifetime of experiencing an internal monologue that must resemble something like an abstract impressionist’s fever dream, Boy’s ability to learn language isn’t nearly as easy as it is for infants or adult speakers. The great linguist Noam Chomsky has proposed that children possess a Language Acquisition Device (LAD) – an innate biological mechanism that enables children to develop language skills in a critical ~4 year window after birth. Solid evidence supports this idea that after this period, acquiring a new language becomes significantly more difficult.

Boy is eight years beyond that ‘critical period’, but there are exceptions to every mousy academic theory, and his close friends and family are hopeful that his ability to read the abstract lines of the ocean can carry over to language. 

He will need some ongoing professional assistance however, and Robbie (who absolutely rips Mullies + other slabs of truth and made a feature in the most spectacular waves of 2023) has started a Gofundme to help raise funds to get him speaking. If you want to make a direct impact on a future Indo tube pig’s ability to deliver a Cheat Codes – please consider throwing him a few spare bucks.

You can donate here.

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