Category Archives: Films

Bella Vita: living, and surfing, the good life in Italy

Like a really hungry North American sitting down to an Italian Sunday feast, Bella Vita, a new surf doc from director Jason Baffa, bites off a lot, and manages to chew most of it.

Following surfer, artist and environmentalist Chris Del Moro as he travels with friends to his ancestral home in Italy, the film is currently making the rounds at international film fests and just had its US premiere at the Santa Barbara Film Festival.

Still from Bella Vita – Bogliasco bay, Italy

With a cast of characters like Dave Rastovich, Lauren Hill, and the Coffin Brothers, you may think that Bella Vita is all surf, just with a European backdrop. But the movie is anything but your average surf flick.

For starters, Italy doesn’t exactly jump out as the location for a surf doc, let alone the location to surf, period. But as Bella Vita shows us, there’s a lot more going on in Italy’s surf scene than you might expect. Here we get a crash course in Italian surf history, starting in the 60s and 70s with the country’s first shapers, all the way up to today, with surfers like Alessandro Ponzanelli and Leonardo Fioravanti, a surf prodigy who’s been winning competitions on a global level.

Still from Bella Vita – Friends in Italy

But it’s not just the setting that makes Bella Vita a bit of a an oddball among surf films. In fact, even calling it a surf doc in the first is probably an oversimplification. Because, alongside some kicking surf footage, gorgeously shot on 35mm, Bella Vita also brings a taste of Italy’s landscapes, food and drink, art, and culture into the mix.

Here, we watch Del Moro and co. as they help out with the harvest at a Tuscan vineyard, sample authentic Italian cheese and coffee, chill with artisans and other locals, or set out to paint a mural. And that’s not even getting into the whole family memoir slash cultural rekindling thing that Del Moro’s got going on as soon as he sets down on Italian soil.

Still from Bella Vita – Italy


Bella Vita‘s like a rich spread, with tons of different dishes set (not necessarily in order) on a really big table. If you’re looking for just one flavor, say, something along the lines of a pure surf film, it’ll be hard to find in such a big buffet.

But if you’re the kind who likes to pop the cork and wander slowly around the party, mingling with guests and sampling a bit of this and a bit of that, Bella Vita is a flick that’ll give you a taste for all things Italian, including the surf.

Surfing in Italy from Bella Vita – photo by Nick LaVecchia

India’s first female surfer goes Beyond the Surface in colorful and uplifting new surf doc

You can do incredible things your whole life through and probably still never be the “first” at anything.

So imagine living your life, feeling more or less ordinary, only to find out that you had in fact done something completely unique.

Beyond the Surface, a new documentary film in the works, focuses on one such person, and how her amazing relationship with the sport she loves is changing the face of surfing in her country and for her gender. The film, which is raising funds for completion on Indiegogo, follows Ishita Malaviya, India’s first female surfer.

“When I first found out that I could possibly be the first female surfer in India I was shocked,” says Malaviya in a trailer for Beyond the Surface. “I kind of felt special in a way. I felt like the universe had chosen this path for me [...] because when I started surfing, it just felt like I had found everything I was looking for in life and more.”

Set against the rich and colorful backdrop of India, the film focuses on Malaviya as she travels through the country with a group of young women, exploring the ways surfing, yoga, and ecological consciousness can help India – and the rest of the world – face some of their biggest challenges.

From Beyond the Surface's photo gallery
From Beyond the Surface’s photo gallery

Of course, Beyond the Surface is largely a film about surfing, and about the joy it can bring to people, especially those who suffer hardships. But in the context of modern day India, the subject necessarily sprouts branches as numerous and diverse as the people that make up this ancient and multilayered culture.

It’s a film that “will touch upon eco-tourism, youth and women’s empowerment, biocentrism and personal growth [...] integrating these causes with the pursuit of India’s perfect waves,” reads the Beyond the Surface website.

Hypnotizingly colorful, the film itself promises to be a beautiful journey, not only for the viewer, but also for the young women at its centre, as they ignite hope and passion in others by sharing their love of surf.

“All the while, they will discover more about themselves, exchange life experiences and – through the medium of film – inspire others to seek a deeper connection to their fellow humans and to the wonder of nature.”

You can learn more about Beyond the Surface at the film’s website or on their blog. And you can make a contribution to fund them on Indigogo here.

Tipping Barrels: Surfing with the Spirit Bear

British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest is one of the most beautiful surf spots in Canada, if not the world. Boasting a killer coastline, the 27,000 square mile area stretches between Vancouver Island and Southern Alaska and is, til now, one of the largest unspoiled temperate rainforest zones in the world. It’s also home to whales, coyotes and a number of bear species, including the kermode, or “spirit bear.”

The area has an untamed, untouched quality you don’t get in many places. But that wild appeal has been threatened over the years by industries like logging, and most recently by a proposed oil pipeline that could see the waterways of Great Bear flush with supertankers rather than surf boards.


For surfers like Reid and Arran Jackson, that’s an eventuality that must not come to be. In ‘Tipping Barrels,’ a short film collaboration with surf label Sitka and environmental group Pacific Wild, the brothers recently headed into the Great Bear Rainforest for a four day surf trip where they’d test the coast’s swell and learn about this amazing region.

Directed by Ben Gulliver, the film offers beautiful shots of the forest, its wildlife and its coast, as the Jackson brothers pitch camp on the beach, tote their boards through the bush, and take on barrels along the coast. Along the way, these two are struck by the solitude and beauty of surfing in a place that seems as yet untouched and unmarred. It’s a place where you’re more likely to run into a wolf or a pure white spirit bear than another surfer.


But the Jacksons’ growing appreciation for the untainted coasts of Great Bear is cut with warnings from Pacific Wild’s Ian McAllister of what may come if oil giant Enbridge gets its way:

“People expect the Canadian government to protect it. But it’s not the case; The Canadian government, they want to bring fish farms here, they’re not supportive of banning oil tankers, they want to bring oil pipelines to this coast, they want to turn this whole rainforest into basically an oil depot and a place to transport crude bitumin from Alberta to Asia.”

Seen through the eyes of the Jacksons, who love a good coastline the way only surfers could, ‘Tipping Barrels’ acts not only as an ode to the majesty of one of the world’s last great temperate rainforests, but also as an urging to protect it.


In the words of the Gitga’at First Nation’s Helen Clifton, “With Enbridge, there will be the onset of these super tankers. What about our fishermen? What about our food resource. What about the spirit bear?[...]They call this the Great Bear Rainforest. What will be great about it?” It’s a question that probably anyone with a conscience, and definitely anyone with a surfboard, should be asking.


Surf Re-Evolution

A couple of weeks ago, our man JJ headed out to Long Sands Beach, Maine, to meet with Brad Anderson, co-founder of Grain Surfboards and organizer of Surf Re-Evolution, an annual event that celebrates the heritage of surfboard construction.

During the 2 days packed with board demos, music, food, art and discussion, we got to hear Brad’s thoughts on the legacy of surfing, and how he constructs surfboards that stay true to their heritage all while incorporating new materials and designs to his work.


Grain Surfboards workshop


Grain surfboard under construction



Surf Re-Evolution, Long Sands Beach, ME