We caught up with Film Maker Justin LaPera at the Newport Beach Film Festival to get the low-down on his surf discoveries in Papau New Guinea, and the unexpected journey they encountered while filming “Isolated” Exective Producer, Ryan Phillippe.
What physical and other strategic preparations did you make before embarking on a surf trip into the unknown?
JLP: For physical preparation we all train in our own ways. The guys surfing, they surf and do whatever they normally do to stay in top physical shape. For my film crew, I put them on a workout plan. We don’t have a big crew at all. Just 4 of us at most so we have to carry all of our film gear ourselves. Because there are no power sources, this means we have a lot of extra stuff like batteries, tapes, drives, as well as, all the cameras and our own personal packs. This means we have to be in great shape since we don’t know exactly how we will travel which means we could be trekking for days through the jungle. We had no idea what to expect. For their workout plan they need to do a ton of cardio and swimming along with weights to build up physical strength.
What stood out on the google charts about papau new guinea
JLP: The area we traveled was West Papua which is located on the Western half of the island of New Guinea. Papua New Guinea is on the Eastern half. West Papua is apart of the country of Indonesia whereas, Papua New Guinea is an independent nation. A lot of the waves in Papua New Guinea have been mapped out. Because West Papua is a journalist dead zone with a lot of conflict between the native Papuans and the Indonesian military, there aren’t any waves that have been mapped out on West Papua. It is one of the last frontiers in surfing which is what made us want to explore the region.
When looking at google charts, we can only really see what the coastline looks like from satellite images. So what we look at is swell direction in that region and how it hits the coastline. We look for a lot of points and river outlets. Because the coastline is lined with steep cliffs, we try to spot reefs and beaches that line up perfect with the swell direction. It is really hard to tell what your seeing so you have to go with your instinct and hope your seeing something that is promising and hope that a swell hits with the right direction to the coastline while your there.
How long was the boat ride from the first port to the final dream wave you discovered?
JLP: We traveled along the coastline for a good few days before we realized we weren’t covering enough ground fast enough, so we finally reached a larger village that had some cars and road access. We traveled by car for another few days before our car got stuck and left us ditching the car and trekking in the middle of the night until we reached a village. The village didn’t have road access but luckily had “johnsons” which are dugout canoes with a motor attached to the back. We finally reached our dream wave a few boats later and one motor bike that we wrecked trying to get to the wave.
Did you name the wave you found? And have you talked to anyone who’d surfed it lately?
JLP: Andrew Mooney ended up finding the wave when he took the motor bike and headed south while the team went north on a johnson. He named it “Lukies” then changed it to “Mooney’s” Haven’t spoken to anyone other than the guys other than our crew about surfing it since our discovery. We’ve kept it pretty secret. If you want to surf it, you have to find it. That’s how it should be when discovering waves. Keep the search alive. You should have to put in the work to reap the rewards.
What surf gear was most crucial for staying ready to charge after such a mission
JLP: Dry packs are crucial. The Xcel drypack is a must. If your gear gets soaked, your screwed. Nights get real cool so you have to keep everything dry and wet film gear is useless.
Did expect that this surf trip would turn into a humanitarian campaign?
JLP: We never anticipated the trip would turn into a humanitarian campaign. We knew there was conflict over there and tried to stay away from it, but we ended up staying with the tribes along the coastline and it became clear to us they needed our help. There was an amazing bond between us and the people of West Papua. We got ourselves into some pretty hairy situations and they were there to help us get through. They had never seen surfing before so we taught the kids how to surf in the villages which was an amazing experience as we saw how surfing became an outlet for them from the struggles they are enduring. Nobody should live in fear of dying. These people constantly live in fear of being wiped out by the military. They are so isolated from the rest of the world that we became less focused on the waves and realized that we had the power to give them a voice to the world that doesn’t know about their struggle.
How can we support and protect the people and their lands that hold such perfect waves?
JLP: Going to our website www.isolated.tv is the first major step. On the website there is a petition for the US Congress to address the human rights violations occurring in the region. You can sign the petition on our website and with enough signatures, we can hopefully force the United States to address the issue.
You can also take 2 minutes and upload a video onto the site stating your name and that you are an “Isolated Ambassador for Peace.” With everything going viral, this puts faces to the cause making the movement more personal and letting the world know that people all over the world want peace in the region and are demanding change.
You can also write your country’s political leaders demanding change and for your country to address the issues.
JLP:The surf community is a tribe in itself that takes care of its own. Our film is now calling on our tribe to step up. The people of West Papua are now apart of this tribe and need our help. This movie is about anyone who is willing to travel to the great unknown and what you must be willing to go through to find that perfect wave. With surfers traveling all over the world, we have the opportunity to experience the world and the amazing people that inhabit the regions where we find pleasure. Be willing to get off the boats that lead to these great waves and experience something different and give back to those who give you the perfection you seek If you like adventure, great surfing, and a film that shows the powerful impact surfing plays on our world, then this movie is for you.