Category Archives: Travel

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Surfing in Italy from Bella Vita – photo by Nick LaVecchia

The land of fire and ice: Russia, The Outpost Vol. 1 review

We just got a sweet late autumn treat in the form of a new DVD/book combo created by Chris Burkard and Ben Weiland. Russia, The Outpost Vol. 1 is a short surf flick, photography book, adventure tale, buddy movie, and exciting bit of travel journalism all rolled into one neat little package.

Here we follow Burkard and Weiland — along with surfers Keith Malloy, Dane Gudauskas, Cyrus Sutton, Trevor Gordon and Foster Huntington — as they venture to Russia’s remote and wild Kamchatka Peninsula, looking for the kind of surfing that few, if any, have ever experienced.

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The location is an unlikely one as far as surf destinations go. Boasting an insanely long coastline, it’s the most volcanic spot on earth, and also one of the coldest. Then there’s the fact that Kamchatka was, until recently, closed to outsiders for political reasons. All of these things have allowed this pristine yet foreboding place to remain almost completely untouched by surfers and other visitors.

But that seems to have been the main draw for Burkard, who poetically describes the “forbidden territory” of Kamchatka as “the land of fire and ice.”

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Indeed, the mythic quality of Russia’s Kamchatka starts to dawn on you as Burkard and his team pile into an old Russian military vehicle to navigate the impasses of volcanic rock and dense forrest blocking access to the coastline at most points — only in the city do roads ever lead directly to the coast.

Reminiscent of Kerouac’s On The Road, the whole thing kind of reads like a love poem to nature, freedom and the joys of leaving civilization behind. And, even as the team begins to “go native” — learning to use a fishing bow from locals, camping in the haunts of grizzly bears, and donning mud masks for a dip in natural hot springs (it puts hair on your chest) — you do find yourself getting swept up by the adventure and romance of it all.

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An ambitious multimedia project, Russia, The Outpost Vol. 1 is a work to arouse wanderlust, giving you just the slightest sense of what it’s like to be in the no man’s land of dynamism and duality that is the Kamchatka Peninsula — a place of such scale, emptiness and grand beauty that you have to ask yourself, ‘where do I even begin?’

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To order Russia, The Outpost Vol. 1 film & zine,  click here. 

Come hell or cold water: surfing in the world’s most extreme temperatures

With winter just weeks away for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, we’ve got a long, cold season ahead of us. But, while most of us think of cold as hoodie weather, cold water surfers are taking on way more extreme temperatures than that, sometimes going as far as the Arctic Circle to catch a good wave. These are the kind of surfers who’d rather trek through snow than sand to get to a swell.

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An image taken from “Numb, Six Years of Cold Water Adventure” (Iceland)

For the uninitiated, the whole idea of cold water surfing might seem painful, even borderline crazy. But once you get a closer picture of the cold water experience, you realize there’s a fine line between balls-out insanity and blissful enlightenment. For starters, surfing in the world’s colder regions can be pretty beautiful, especially if you’re the type of wanderer who likes some solitude.

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From “Numb, Siz Years of Cold Water (rain in North Cornwall)

That wide open, empty beauty certainly isn’t lost on photographer Tim Nunn or surfer Ian Battrick; the pair’s recent photography book, Numb, chronicles their six year adventure to some of the world’s most brutally frigid surf spots, like Canada, Scotland, Iceland and Norway. Likewise, surf photographer James Katsipis’s recent Cold Water Surfer Series photo project details a winter-long season of surf in Montauk, New York.

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From James Katsipis Cold Water Surfer Series

These kinds of photo projects give you a small glimpse into just how intense, arduous, and beautiful this icy surf experience can be. But aside from the freezing or near-freezing water, these projects also chronicle some of the less obvious challenges of cold water surfing. Take a surf trip to Scandinavia, Canada or The U.K., and you can expect crazy winds, hail and sometimes even blizzards.

You’ll also need to get used to a full wetsuit, including the gloves, booties and hood. It may not feel natural at first, but without all that rubber, you wouldn’t last five minutes in that kind of water. Of course, if you stick to the warmer, more traditional surf spots, you won’t have to worry about any of that. So why cold water surf at all?

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A still from Yassin Ouhilal’s “Arctic Surf”

Well, in his short film Arctic Surf, surf filmmaker Yassine Ouhilal offers up a few good reasons. Ouhilal and his team made a point of going pretty much as far north as you can go, hitting the North Coast of Norway and even the Russian border in search of spots where nobody’s ever surfed before.

The yearning for something pristine, new and solitary has led surfers deeper and deeper toward cold waters, where they can finally and completely escape the crowds. That desire to withdraw is echoed in Katsipis’ own explanation of why he started winter surfing in Montauk:

“As my generation grew older, the town grew as well. More and more people discovered our secret paradise [...] We traded in our warm and sunny surfing season for a cold and dark one. What other option did we have?”

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Still from “Arctic Surf”

But there may even be something bigger in the lure of cold water surfing. Arctic Surf compares the surfer to the mountain climber. While, for the mountaineer, there’s an apex to be reached, a concrete point at which you succeed, with surfing, the goal is often much more vague. “Surfing is kind of a perpetual thing, you’re never going to be totally satisfied,” says Ouhilal, “it’s kind of within you to determine whether you’ve succeeded or not.”

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From “Numb, Six Years of Cold Water”

But, when you camp out in a blizzard, trek over icy mountains with your board, or paddle out into untouched waters squarely within the Arctic Circle, that’s probably the closest a surfer can ever come to that summit of Everest feeling. And as crazy and masochistic as it all sounds, it’s probably exactly what success feels like.

Our Unofficial Puerto Rico

Those who’ve flipped through the pages of our  last Travel Diary know that our first official Eidon surf trip was in Puerto Rico. The shoot team included 3 Canadian girls, an LA-based photographer, 2 Puerto Rican surfers, a model from Florida, 2 Californian surfers, a few guides, and a partridge in a pear tree.

It’s been almost a year since we were all together having fun and wreaking havoc on that small Caribbean island, and we are in the mood for a little reminiscing today.

We thought we’d share a few pics we collected from our friends’ personal cameras and iPhones on the trip.

Enjoy!

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Sunset flight to Puerto Rico
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Finding our way in San Juan
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Tapas bar hopping – manchego y jamon – in San Juan
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Our photographer, Myles McGuiness, arriving in Isabela, Puerto Rico
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Myles doing his thing at dawn in Isabela
Matching outfits
Trevor & Rebecca in matching outfits
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Trevor post afternoon surf session
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Life-changing piña coladas at Crashboat Beach
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Making sure we’re on our A game
Model and dog on beach
Veronika and her new friend
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Photo team checking out underwater pics of Nydia during break time
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Palm field near Wilderness Beach, Puerto Rico
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A little fun after a long day
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Nydia’s dog waits patiently outside her family’s surf shop while we load the truck for a morning session

 

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The boys making a game plan for the day
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How many people does it take to change a flat tire on a surf trip?
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A little relaxing at a secret surf spot near Isabela, Puerto Rico
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Annie’s sunset zen time

Sharing is Caring: Surf for Life

In our constant search for interesting stories about people and organizations that embody the Live, Travel, Surf philosophy, we discovered Surf for Life, an organization that is rooted in what most of us look for on a daily basis; authentic love for your neighbor.

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El Cuco, El Salvador. Photo credit: Richard Walters http://www.sasurfari.com/

While most travel agencies are in the business of sending tourists to poor or under-privileged countries to take more out of the community they are visiting then they contribute to it, Surf for Life organizes programs focused on leaving something behind to help nourish them after they are gone.

It offers an alternative vacation option that combines recreation with community service opportunities by matching surf teams with various international destinations that combine world-class surfing and social philanthropy. The common point of interest of all participants is their commitment to contribute to the advancement of a social cause.

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Playground in El Cuco, El Salvador. Photo credit: Richard Walters http://www.sasurfari.com/

Surf For Life’s goal for these volunteers is to help them participate in meaningful social and economic development projects designed the communities they travel to, and that’s something we think is worth sharing.

For info on the organization, or to join a trip, check out their website here.

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.

 

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Grain Surfboards workshop

 

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Grain surfboard under construction

 

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Surf Re-Evolution, Long Sands Beach, ME