"BoardHeads" Meet Homeboys in HB

A homeboy shares the stoke in BoardHeads.
A homeboy shares the stoke in BoardHeads.

Homeboy Industries, whose mission is to take former gang members off the streets and show them there is more to life than gang-bangin', brought young men and women from Los Angeles to Huntington Beach last summer for surf lessons.

Hot Tuna, a surf wear company that originated in Australia and now has offices worldwide, donated trunks and shirts for the ex-gang members, who besides riding waves modeled the clothing for a Homeboy Industries calendar.

Director Davo Weiss and his crew from BoardHeads, which screens as part of the Newport Beach Film Festival today, were there to collect footage for their documentary that follows members of the worldwide community of board riders giving back to mankind.

Pro surfers Shea Lopez and Sarah Beardmore joined local volunteers from OrangeCounty in introducing the Homeboys to surfing and the beach lifestyle.

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Photos of the Homeboys in their new beach attire were shot at the bridge over the Santa AnaRiver mouth.

Then, just like at any surf camp, the ex-gang members were first taught on the sand how to get up on a boards and the proper position for paddling before moving into the water for their first-ever surfboard rides.

They wound up spending a couple of hours in the water, with most emerging with huge grins and sharing the shaka--or Hawaiian "hang-loose" sign--with one another.

The day ended with a barbecue on the beach, a small campfire, some live guitar music and a visit from swimwear models.

Weiss, who has packed many more heartwarming stories into BoardHeads, reports that many of the ex-gang members are still surfing today.

His documentary took him to exotic locations around the world--but the focus was less on locales than the special needs of people helped by board riders.

"The concept of the film is that there's a global tribe of board riders sharing their stoke and making the world a better place," he said. "Unlike a lot of surf movies that are just extended music videos, I've actually got a project with a lot of heart--a lot of emotional connection."

The documentary was a work-in-progress for the past nine years for the television and corporate-video veteran, whose other credits include the televised Miss USA pageant.
It was actually a windsurfing vacation in Brazil with his wife Janet (affectionately known as "Snapp") and some friends in 2001 that sparked the idea for BoardHeads.

While in Jericoacoara, which took five hours in a four-wheel drive vehicle to get to, he was struck by the notion of a global community of riders as a worthy documentary subject.

While surfing is considered the original board sport, Weiss includes among the global tribe of riders skateboarders, snowboarders, windsurfers, wakeboarders and kite boarders, among others.

"All boarders share common bonds," Weiss said, "like families, relationships, dangers, travel and lessons."

In all, more than 150 hours of footage was shot from his working vacations around the world. Besides California, Hawaii and South African, BoardHeads took him to Aruba, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Italy, France, Switzerland, Dominican Republic, Bonaire and elsewhere.

He took on projects with private clients to help pay the bills, which allowed him to complete BoardHeads at home. He nicknamed his home studio, which includes state-of-the-art editing equipment and software, "The Fun House."

Interviews with action sports superstars such as Kelly Slater and Greg Noll are sprinkled among the stories of economically disadvantaged and physically impaired board riders, also known as "shredders."

But at the first screening of the rough-cut version of the film at the Magic Castle in Hollywood three years ago, Weiss discovered viewers were less drawn to the superstars than to segments on ghetto kids in Capetown, South Africa, taken in by a surfing school and off the streets, and a quadriplegic in Hawaii whose friends made a catamaran for him, with a windsurfing sail, to provide him with the thrill and speed of windsurfing.

That experience prompted him to expand his project and shoot more material of caring individuals "sharing their stoke" with the disadvantaged and physically impaired around the world.

"Stoke is basically the joy, the thrill, the energy you get when you do these sports," Weiss explained. "It's just such a great feeling."

BoardHeads screens at 1:30 p.m. today at Edwards Island Cinemas in Newport Beach.

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