Before Brandon Judd-Symes took part in the Life For More programme, he was on the road to nowhere, paved with drugs, alcohol and crime.

Now, he's got a clear vision for his future and has plans to help other young people in a similar boat.

"It's called Live for More for a reason. It saved my life in more than one way," the 22-year-old Tauranga man said.

"I've realised I've got bounds of potential -just buckets of it - and I've got great people behind me that want to see me succeed."


Live for More, a programme for at-risk young men, pairs surf therapy with other support services. The intensive part of the course runs for around three months and on-going support is offered.

It was created by Tauranga woman Krista Davis, who made her dream of using surfing to help people a reality.

Brandon Judd-Symes used to be a DJ and lived the party lifestyle to match.

He had his first brush with the law at the beginning of the year and ended up in court, which "really scared" him.

The encounter steered him clear of serious crime, but he was still hooked on smoking weed and battled with his mental health.

Other people had previously invited him surfing but he had always turned them down, thinking "Nah, it's not for me."

His probation officer suggested he take the course after he said he wanted to make some changes in his life.

"I thought the least I can do is give it a crack and if I don't like it I can drop it."


Aside from surfing, the course covered group sessions, which included learning their pepeha and a haka, along with one-on-one chats.

Live for More participant Brandon Judd-Symes, 22, got his life back through surf therapy. Photo / George Novak
Live for More participant Brandon Judd-Symes, 22, got his life back through surf therapy. Photo / George Novak

"Surfing is the beginning of feeling empowered, that we can do anything we put our minds to.

"When I'm in the water, nothing else on land matters. All my stress is left on land."

"We don't just have fun surfing - we learn something about ourselves and about the way we can look at the world."

The cultural aspect was also a highlight for him.

"Learning our pepeha is a big thing for us boys as most of us don't know where we come from. It's good to have that sense of identity."

Judd-Symes now has his sights set on being a social worker.

"I want to be the social worker that I never had."

Live for More is currently fundraising to create a Tai Wātea "Waves of Freedom" documentary that told the young men's stories and the impact the course had from more than 50 hours of footage filmed over two years.

Davis said the aim was for the film to be high-quality cinema so it could be entered into film festivals and shown around the world.

"Essentially we want to show the power of surf therapy," she said.

Tai Wātea "Waves of Freedom" - Live for More Documentary
To find out more, visit the Givealittle page.