Blind Sailor Hiro is Inspiring San Diegans

“San Diego is always sunny and always right wind you know, so as a sailor it is heaven. It’s paradise.” – Hiro Iwamoto

Hiro Iwamoto is a competitive blind sailor who was born in Japan and moved here to San Diego ten years ago with his wife and daughter. He has conquered some incredible challenges, and now helps people all over the world learn to live life with purpose and positivity.

Hiro began to lose his sight when he was 13 years old and became fully blind by the age of 16. In this video interview, he explains how he started falling when walking, having trouble putting toothpaste on his toothbrush, and eventually even running into walls when he couldn’t see any longer. He became so depressed that he tried to commit suicide. After trying to drown himself unsuccessfully, he took a nap and while napping he had an epiphany that life was worth so much more than what he had thought. He woke up from that nap and began to challenge everything in life. He was inspired. He started learning English, and came to the U.S. to learn even more English. He also wanted to learn to sail, which he did and now, 15 years after starting to learn, is a world-class sailor.

Blind Competitive Sailor

When Hiro and his family moved from Tokyo to San Diego in 2006, they fell in love with the city instantly. Hiro says, “San Diego is always sunny and always right wind you know, so as a sailor it is heaven. It’s paradise.” He loves that you can sail here in San Diego year round, and he loves competing himself, instead of with other sailors. He started competing in championships around the world, and found that he kept wanting to sail even father and farther. In 2002, he started dreaming of sailing across the Pacific Ocean! Everyone thought he was crazy to want to sail that far, but he was determined. He wanted to sail across the Pacific to inspire survivors of the Tohoku Tsunami to live unafraid of future disasters. His dream almost came true.

In 2013, Hiro began to sail across the Pacific Ocean with just one other sighted sailor and a few cameras. He wanted to prove that while his partner slept, he could sail himself blindly across such a large body of water. In the middle of one stormy night during the sailing journey, Hiro heard a loud BOOM BOOM BOOM. He knew right away, a whale had hit their sailboat. Video clips of the excursion prove that indeed the thick skin of a Blue Whale cracked their boat. Hiro tried hard to get the water out, but the boat was sinking faster than he was taking water out. A typhoon was chasing them, resulting in huge waves and fast wind. It was very difficult, but they eventually climbed from the sailboat into their lifeboat, and waited. For ten hours Hiro and his partner clung to the lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, riding the waves up and down.

Eventually they were rescued and brought back to Japan to explain the journey. Hiro was shocked. He explains, “When I bumped into the whale, I thought, why whale?! I was trying to make my dream come true, why did you bump into me?!” As we all know, many whale watching boats in San Diego go out on excursions searching for hours, and come back without any whale sightings whatsoever. For Hiro and his partner to bump into a whale in the middle of the ocean is extremely unlucky. He thought to himself, “Why me, in the middle of the Pacific?!” Through it all though, he knew there was deeper meaning. He slowly began to realize that every moment in life has meaning. There is meaning in everything that happens. “It means it will make my future success 100 times bigger, 1000 times bigger,” Hiro says, “It means I have to keep going, to make my dream of sailing across the Pacific come true. I will be able to inspire 1000 more people, a million more people, to be more passionate about life through my next trip. Life is good. I want to encourage people who have lost the meaning of their lives. As long as you have wind, you can keep going.”

Blind Competitive Sailor

After the Pacific Ocean sailing incident three years ago and learning so much in the process, Hiro has now started his own company called Positive Life International.  He provides motivational speeches and one-on-one life coaching in the Kearny Mesa area. He also can give inspirational speeches to employees of a company, to help improve their productivity and give them a new passion for work. He believes there is even meaning to him becoming blind, because he can help people in ways that sighted people cannot help. Through his motivational speaking and life coaching, Hiro hopes to change the lives of many people. (He is also planning a special week-long retreat in Japan for life coaching members, we will let you know more about this soon!) Along with his passion for life and sailing, Hiro has also added triathlons (swimming, cycling and running) to his accomplishment list, and is training for The CVC San Diego Half Ironman Triathlon on August 14th in Chula Vista.

This August triathlon is composed of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile cycle, and 13 mile run. Hiro has been training almost daily for the last two months for this race, so he is more excited than ever to compete. After that, he has dreams of doing a full Ironman Triathlon race (twice the distance he is racing in August) next year in Japan.  The people of Okinawa, otherwise known as “Miracle Island” plan to host an Ironman triathlon to raise awareness for those who lost their houses in the April 16th, 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake. Hiro wants to compete in this event and show enthusiasm and give hope to the local people who have lost their homes.

Update! Here is video footage from Hiro’s triathlon!!:

Hiro’s story is unforgettable and life changing, and I hope you enjoyed the video interview as much as I enjoyed filming it. Hiro’s journey is one to be followed, and if you’d like to reach out to Hiro, please do not hesitate to visit his website or simply comment below! What inspires you to continue on in life when there are challenges?

Amanda Henry
Written by

Amanda Henry is a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, photographer, web designer, mom, and freelance blogger living the luxury and active lifestyle in San Diego.


  • Kells Christian

    I am a marine surveyor and also write actively. I am writing a story about a continuation of the story on Hiro Iwamoto and would like to provide a link to your blog with you permission
    Kells Christian

    • Web Editor

      Yes we would love that thank you!