The Leonardo da Vinci Society of the Bay Area is celebrating its 70th Anniversary. Founded by Italiophiles who were captivated by the genius of...
For most of his life, professional surfer Chris Del Moro has probably spent as much time in the water as on land. When he was just three, while most kids were learning how to swim, he was riding his boogie board on the shores of both the Pacific and the Mediterranean; by the time he was a teen, he began to surf around the world.
From Indonesia to California, Chris has parlayed his passion for surf into a sucessful career, and is widely known throughout the surfing community. But what is less known about this surfer with long golden dreadlocks are his Italian roots, which go back to one of Italy’s most beloved cities- Florence.
At six years old, Chris began flying to Italy from Los Angeles in order to visit his father. Back then, such a trip would take nearly twenty hours, and entail three stopovers. Not an easy feat for an adult let alone for a child who suffered from motion sickness. But just as he tackled the ocean’s waves, Chris, even at a young age, was brave and resolute. The trip was well worth it for he knew once he landed, he would be greeted by his father, his older sister and his grandparents.
Years before, Chris’ mother had gone overseas to study, and was smitten not only by Italy but with a handsome Florentine. The two married, but when their marriage ended, Chris and his mother flew back to the States. The worlds of his parents could not have been more diverse. California was a land of Orange groves, the Pacific Ocean, and Hollywood, while Italy was a world of cuisine, vineyards, art and history.
But though the places he so loved were so different in nature, the one thing he held within him everywhere was his passion for the ocean and the joy of surfing. It was there on the water’s edge, that this young boy felt most at home. Eventually, Chris also discovered a growing community of surfers in Italy.
Here on the west coast, on any given day, from Laguna to Malibu, one can always see dozens of tan lithe figures emerge from the waters on top of surfboards. Halfway around the world, in Italy, the vision of serfisti as they are called in Italian, was for the most part, an anomaly.
That is until the sport founds its way into the hearts of Italy’s surfing pioneers, a small group of young men who, unlike everyone else, did not head to the ocean just to tan, swim, and eat gelato. Instead, their love for the water, and perhaps for trying something unique and unconventional propelled a few good men to try their hand at surfing.
In the early 1970s, at around the same time, Alessandro Forte and the Fracas Brothers, Alberto and Marco, became Italy’s first surfers and surfboard makers. A little over a decade later, Chris Del Moro followed in their footsteps “I was hooked at ten. The adventure of the sea, the deep connection and history of surfing, and the environment, it was not just a competitive sport for me,” Chris told me. Today, Chris continues to surf and promote Bing Surfboards in Orange County and Etnies shoes whose world headquarters are located in Lake Forest.
When Chris turned thirty, he longed for the country where he spent so much of his childhood. Though his grandfather had passed on, Chris wanted to spend time with his Nonna who had been diagnosed with dementia. The fondest memories he has of Italy often are with her. “Grandma taught me recipes, we went to the farmer’s market together, selected produce and cooked it” .
Del Moro’s road back to Italy would later become the subject of a recent film, Bella Vita. Directed by Jason Baffa and shot mainly in Tuscany, the film chronicles Chris’ his travels on his vespa where he meets with local and well known artists and artisans, his friends such as surfer and owner of Sunset Café, Nico Pinzauti, and the surf community at large.
Unlike most sports that are so competitive and cut throat, the surfing culture in Italy, which continues to flourish, is a humble and an enthusiastic one. It is also based on respect for other surfers and those who came before them. Chris points out that while the first pioneers created the sport in Italy, the second generation “paved subcultures” while the third is producing superstars such as surfers Leonardo Fioravanti and Alessandro Ponzanelli.
The biggest challenge for Italian surfers lies, of course, with the weather and the poor surf conditions. Since the Mediterranean is an enclosed body of water, the surfers do not experience “heavy” monster waves such as those found along the coasts of Australia and the Pacific. Though surfers do experience some good sized waves, the wait, however, is longer, and perhaps because of this lull, the surfers are able to create stronger bonds. In Italy, they do not differentiate between American or Italian; there, they are all surfers.
“Italian weather patterns are dynamic and fast moving, “ says Chris in the film. One moment it can be “gale force winds with white caps…literally an hour later, it could flat.” But eventually the waves do come.
As summer turns to fall, and the weather changes, the waves pick up. While Italians head for warmth, the surfers instead head the opposite direction, don of their wetsuits, and race to the shore. There, on the water’s crests, the film captures the surfer’s intricate footwork, athleticism, and sheer grace; shots that are often missed when filming surfers riding skyscraper sized waves.
But it is not just the surf where Chris’ heart lies- it is indeed back in Florence, to his childhood, to his room at his grandparents. The combination of surf, Italy, and even his American friends who visit, helped to connect the two worlds which once seemed so far apart as a child. “I wanted to connect with my past. In the past I was little preoccupied with my career…I really see how important it is to connect with those dear to you.”
And it it that connection that is the soul of the film. As Chris’ friend, surfer and wine producer, Piergiorgio Castellani said, ”Though we may not be able to offer big waves…What Italy does offer is much more.” That more is instead found in a day with family, of surfing that one wave after days of calm surface, of enjoying nature’s beauty-these are the moments that indeed make up life, the good life, la bella vita at its finest.
For more, please go to www.bellavitafilm.com