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Gabriel Rocha, 18, poses in undated photo. Gabriel went viral for going close to ships in the middle of the sea in Vitoria, Brazil, which is prohibited. (@gabriel_rocha_afonso/Newsflash)

An 18-year-old law student who likes to paddleboard towards giant cargo in the middle of the sea which could easily crush him has been warned by the Navy that these stunts are illegal.

Young university student Gabriel Rocha has gained an incredible social media following just months after he began posting videos of himself approaching monster-sized vessels off Brazil’s coast.

Videos showing Gabriel getting dangerously close to these giant ships on a surfboard have gone viral on TikTok, jointly amassing over 12 million views.

In addition to approaching ships, Gabriel collects other “controversial adventures” on social media.

In other videos, he has camped at sea with a friend and visited an island that is part of the Tres Ilhas Archipelago in Guarapari, where visitation is prohibited.

In this video, Gabriel and his friend were approached by Navy officers who ordered them to leave the area.

After seeing the videos, the Navy issued a warning that areas designated for the anchorage of large ships are restricted and unsuitable for sports activities.

The young man, however, said he was unaware of the prohibition on approaching ships and that his intention was not to encourage this practice.

Gabriel Rocha, 18, poses in undated photo. Gabriel went viral for going close to ships in the middle of the sea in Vitoria, Brazil, which is prohibited. (@gabriel_rocha_afonso/Newsflash)

Gabriel, who now considers himself a digital influencer in extreme sports told local media that he started making videos at the beginning of 2024.

By May, the young man already had 150,000 Instagram followers and another 83,000 on TikTok.

He is also a law student and has been passionate about extreme sports since childhood.

He said: “This passion for adrenaline started in my childhood when my father and I took up mountain biking.

“I participated in state championships and gradually fell more in love with sports that involve adrenaline.

“They bring me a great sense of well-being.”

Gabriel tries to publish at least one video a week, showing the route he followed.

Photo shows Gabriel Rocha, 18, getting close to giant ships in the middle of the sea in Vitoria, Brazil, undated. The Navy issued a warning saying this practice is prohibited. (@gabriel_rocha_mtb/Newsflash)

He usually leaves his home in Vila Velha at dawn and paddles to points he selects on the map, such as islands or following a cargo ship.

These are intense paddles, sometimes up to nearly 30 miles. To reach his chosen destination, Gabriel plans every detail.

Regarding the risks, the young man said he is always prepared to avoid any problems.

Initially, the videos were recorded without life jackets, but after a video made in March of this year went viral, he started using safety equipment.

Gabriel said: “I know the risks, which are many. But I am prepared to deal with each one of them. My phone alerts me when I approach a vessel, gives me all its details, and I can change my route.

“It’s impossible for a vessel to run over me, impossible to be sucked underneath. The ship always gives signals, and I am always attentive to that.

“I only approach anchored ships; if the weather turns, my phone also alerts me, and I always carry a fully charged device.”

Photo shows Gabriel Rocha, 18, getting close to giant ships in the middle of the sea in Vitoria, Brazil, undated. The Navy issued a warning saying this practice is prohibited. (@gabriel_rocha_mtb/Newsflash)

But in spite of all his preparedness, Gabriel said he was not aware his stunts were still illegal.

He added: “I never intended to encourage anyone to do what I do; at no time do I make that clear, these are dangerous activities, it’s a dangerous extreme sport, and I don’t want to encourage anyone to repeat what I do.

“I know it’s risky, but I didn’t know it was prohibited.”

The Navy has not stated whether the young man could be fined or penalised for this practice.

It added that it will strengthen awareness actions for sports practitioners.

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