I've been going on surf trips for years. With my own dad, who surfs, to Costa Rica, Indonesia, the South Pacific — all over. I'm lucky. Just like you, who maybe just went somewhere last summer, or are gearing up for somewhere in the Spring. You're also lucky. Plain and simple, surf trips are the fuckin best. You are not a complete surfer without having traveled for surf. Fact. But not everyone's that lucky.
A few days ago, while down in Panama…on a surf trip…I bumped into four kids from different parts of the world, all getting drained in the sandy, green teepees we were sharing. Oddly enough, getting hooted into them by Taj Burrow and Dion Agius, who just happened to be around. The groms were also being filmed by a very rad man — who'd leave his tripod every so often to pull in with them — named James Fazio. The boys were also on their very first surf trip, thanks to James. Come to find out, James is making a documentary about these kids — some, who've been homeless, abused, and dealt with some harsh shit — called Time Well Spent. Dripping wet and sunburnt from hours beneath the Panamanian sun, James gave me the lowdown about this special film. –Beau Flemister
SURFING: What’s your project Time Well Spent exactly about?
James Fazio: Our project, Time Well Spent, is about four young men from different challenging backgrounds of pain and hardships that have found refuge in the ocean. They embark on a life-changing journey together through Panama getting some of the best surf of their lives, but more importantly learning that they can give back to others and make a difference. I believe that your past does not define your future and for these four boys it is so true. They have written their own stories and came out on top from very difficult odds.
Wow, amazing. And what made you want to turn their stories into a documentary?
Well, when I was 13-years-old I had a rare blood disease that almost took my life. It changed the way I viewed things and I realized that I wanted to make a difference in this world and give back to others. As my wife and I traveled and worked in different countries, we began to meet some amazing boys who came from very difficult pasts that found their healing in the ocean by surfing. Not only did they find their healing, but they killed it in the water, too. [laughs] They ripped. We wanted to give them a trip they’ve always dreamt of and our hope was to also give them a life-changing experience that showed them how much worth they truly have.
Tell me a little about these four kids in the film.
Kross Brodersen is 18-years-old and from the Big Island of Hawaii. Kross and his family had some tough times growing up. They lived out of their car and couch-hopped for most of his younger life. His dad did his best to raise and take care of the family, but certain unfortunate events kept making things not work out. Kross began surfing and found that he could put all his energy and thoughts into the ocean and he's found a new heart from this trip, wanting to spend the rest of his life helping and inspiring others that they are worth more then they can imagine.
Declan Bradley is 17-years-old and from Ocean Grove, Victoria, Australia. Declan had a fairly normal childhood growing up near the coast and surfing with his dad, until his life was turned upside down when his father committed suicide. For a long time Declan couldn't really find his way back to the ocean to surf, but he finally did. Since then, he has been surfing, skating and learning how to move forward after such a difficult event.
Yeferson Bellido, 24-years-old from San Bartolo, Lima, Peru. Yeferson ran away from his home at the age of 10. His mother and father had split at a young age and his father worked away often, which left Yeferson home alone to fend and provide for himself. When his father was home he would beat him. Yeferson had enough and he ran away to Lima in search of his mother. He was forced to live on the streets of Lima making ends meet by singing on buses and getting hand-outs while sleeping in the slides of playgrounds. Later Yeferson found his way into an orphanage ran by an amazing woman that became like a mother to Yeferson and many other children. There, Yeferson learned to surf and since then you couldn’t get him out of the water. Yeferson has ambitions as a competitive surfer, but even more so he has ambitions for his education, which he is currently studying to become an architect while helping things run at his old children’s home.
Henry Mcalvany is 17-years-old from Bali, Indonesia. Henry currently lives in a Children’s Home in Bali, where he moved to when he was 7-years-old after some traumatic events that left him on the streets with no food or education. After fending for himself on the streets, Henry was placed into the children’s home he currently resides in. It was there that Henry discovered his passion for surfing and sports, and eventually, he wants to become a businessman.Declan Bradley. Photo: Elliot Gray
Heavy. And besides getting shacked all day, what have you guys been up to in Panama?
Yeah, there's been a lot of surfing, but we've also been able to build a home for a family in need with Homes of Hope. Kross was even able to hand the keys over to the family. We have also been able to provide water filtration systems to a local village on the island of Bastimentos in Bocas Del Toro through More Than Sport. Other than that, the boys have been pulling double and triple sessions in Bocas and scoring some of the best waves of their lives.
Have you faced any obstacles while making this film?
It has been an obstacle getting all of the boys' documentation. Some of them did not have their birth certificates or really any documentation. So to get them all of the papers, plus their passports to travel out of their countries was a real feat to accomplish.
Another big obstacle in taking all the boys from different countries to one location for a surf trip — was the funding. We were not funded by any company, so raising the funds was a big thing. Most of the year, traveling to Hawaii, Peru, Australia and Indo was all paid out of pocket from my wife and I and our Director of Photography Elliot Gray. We were able to get the rest of the funding for this trip in January from the boys' local communities. We had fundraiser events in Kona and Australia and we raised just enough money to pay for the boys' food and travel expenses. All our crew paid their own way for the trip and stay. Our whole team believes deeply in this project so throwing down our own funds to make this happen was a no-brainer!
Another very big obstacle we had to overcome was Henry not being able to make it on this trip. We had obtained his passport and all the necessities for him to travel to Panama, but after we applied for his visa to travel to Panama, last minute they denied his visa. So with heavy hearts we were unable to take Henry. But since we were able to already raise his money for the trip, we will be taking him on his own adventure this coming March or April.
Unreal, James. So when it's all said and done, what do you hope to gain — for the boys, I should say — from this film?
Our hope for the boys and this film has always been the same. We had hoped for them to have a life-changing experience on this trip. That they would get the surf trip they always dreamt of, and in the process of helping others in need, would learn that they have much more worth in them that they could ever imagine. That they can make a difference in this world. For the film, our hope has always been that others who are in a similar situation as one of these boys, would see our documentary, hear their stories and would be inspired and gain hope to keep pushing on through their tough times.