Rocinha’s New Wave – surfing in the Favela.
“Rocinha’s new wave” is a short Goma Collective film centred around a group of kids making their way through life in Brazil’s largest favela, finding an escape and focus through surfing. Northcore were stoked to be able to offer some support to Mikey Krzyzanowski and the Goma collective with their project. Now that the film has been released we caught up with Mikey, the founder of Goma and asked him a few questions:
Tell us a little bit about the Goma Collective
Goma is a company I started with the motive to help people in a creative way – so far we’ve worked with Converse to support Nepal’s DIY skate scene and Loyle Carner to create an ADHD cooking school. Most recently we locked heads with a group of surfers we’re friends with in Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro. Together we created a documentary that tells their story as a group of surfers redefining their community – the largest favela in Brazil.
What inspired the documentary “Rocinha’s new wave”?
After spending some time in Rocinha in 2015, I left wanted to help the community in some way or another. One of my friends described the favela as ‘a muse to many’ which is undoubtably the best way to describe it. So first and foremost, the people of Rocinha inspired the documentary. Whilst living and working there in 2015, I met a group of surfers who were recycling broken boards, teaching kids how to surf and linking them up with the english school I was teaching at. I wanted to help them and decided the best way would be to put their story on a platform it deserved. These guys were doing the most incredible, selfless act, and they were all having fun whilst doing it. They were creating these tiny, steezy, citizens and I knew that what they were doing could go on to be a positive example to the wider world.
After deciding that, I called up my two friends, Sirus Gahan (Director) and Joe Izard (Co-Producer), booked our flights and put a deposit down on the best camera I could afford. It was pretty spontaneous and the entire documentary was massively carried by Sirus, who shot, edited and recorded the sound for the entire documentary.
Sirus is a skate filmer day to day, and that ethos really pushed the documentary in the right direction too. I think there’s definitely a universal attitude that people like skaters and surfers share. It’s difficult to describe, but that’s another thing that really allowed the documentary to become what it did – no matter where you are, kids can suss out if someone’s whack or not. Sending in some camera crew who had no understanding of that kind of culture would’ve produced something way less relaxed.
What is life like for the favela kids and how has surfing helped them?
Life for those guys is pretty chaotic. On one hand, they’re surrounded by a beautiful Brazilian attitude. Barbecues in the street, strong family ties and spending their lives at the beach with some solid role models. This is set off balance by the day to day troubles their community is faced with through drug-related violence. Kids are being shot in the street, people have bullet holes in the side of their homes and a lot of the kids have seen multiple friends die before they’ve even turned 16.
Surfing has given them an escape from all of the madness, a quite place to relax and focus on something positive. Whether the younger kids know it or not, it’s a form of meditation for them for sure. Surfing has taught them the values they need to inspire themselves and those around them to push past the difficult times and come out the other side stronger. Carlos (Belo Da Silva) talks about this in the doc, it’s beautiful.
How important has surf industry and community support been to the project? and can more be done?
Being able to hook the kids up with some product from Northcore and Patagonia was really good, it definitely helped us to get things going and those are the kind of resources that are crazy expensive in Brazil. Without donations, these kids aren’t able to get hold of the things they need to stay in the water, away from trouble.
However, they’re still in need of a hand up rather than a hand out. As well as kit, these guys are looking help to provide a real structure to what they’re doing and improve the quality of their work. We’re still looking for brands to sit down and commit to helping on something more long term for sure. It’s an exciting opportunity, so hopefully the right conversation will come around.
Do you have any advice for aspiring film makers?
Do whatever you have to do to get out there and actually do it. We’re probably the youngest, least experienced crew to have every put out a documentary on National Geographic, and I have a lot of pride on saying that. Be a bit naive, scrape together whatever money you can and work hard to make whatever idea you have come to life, and don’t wait for the perfect time to start – it’s never going to come.
Do you have any future plans?
We’ll continue working on different projects through Goma, however we’re still committed to the Surfers in Rocinha. We’re taking some time to figure out how we can best approach the situation and give these guys the hand up they deserve. We’re currently designing the branding for a new surf school in the community, and hopefully then sorting their kit sponsor for them. Amongst our team are people who have designed graphics for some of my favourite streetwear brands, now they’re working to build visual identities for young surfers out in Rocinha. For me, it doesn’t get much better than that. I’m ridiculously proud.
This new school is set on building up the female surf community in Rocinha as well, which is something we really want to see flourish. The future is looking incredibly exciting for these guys, with a lot of surf talent ready to come out of the community for sure.