Surfing as a way of looking at life has transformed a young Tauranga man who used to measure his existence by the next hit of synthetic cannabis and shot of alcohol.
Trey Ahomiro, 21, spent his days sleeping late, getting stoned and stealing - until he was offered the chance of joining a programme based on the natural high of riding the waves.
Eight weeks later he has sworn off drugs, was working for his father and has just started instructing rookies at the Hibiscus Surf School.
"This course has helped me more than I can describe."
He is one of the growing number of success stories graduating from the fledgling Tai Watea Surf Programme run by Krista Davis under the banner of Live for More.
The former Tauranga Boys College student has left behind a squalid existence of drug abuse and getting into trouble with the law. Synthetic cannabis was his drug of choice.
"Life was s***," he said, reflecting on the wasted years between leaving school and joining the programme which has just graduated its second intake.
Mr Ahomiro said he was hooked the second time he smoked synthetic cannabis.
"At the time I thought it was all right because it was legal."
He even remembers thinking how brilliant things were.
"I felt like I was living the perfect life."
But it was an illusion that even a shift to Christchurch with his family failed to rein in.
"It was drugs every day. And if there were no drugs, I started drinking."
Mr Ahomiro's father Darryl Pukekura had hoped the new environment would motivate his son into joining him as an exterior panel fixer in the Christchurch rebuild.
Instead the opposite happened. Mr Ahomiro said his life went from bad to worse: "The amount of drugs in Christchurch is shocking."
After two years of taking drugs and ending up before the courts, the family turned its back on the quake-ridden city and returned to Tauranga a year ago.
The moment that transformed his life was picking up a Tai Watea Surf Programme brochure and talking to a friend who had done the course.
"By the second week I was thinking, this is it. This is what I want to do."
Mr Ahomiro graduated on November 21 convinced that everyone caught up in a world of drugs, alcohol and crime would benefit from the course.
"It is a different world out there surfing, there are no worries, it is like a natural high. By the end of the programme I had turned my life around. I did not get to see life until I started the course."
The emotional climax was his selection from this year's intakes to receive a custom-made surfboard donated by Emile Van Der Linde of Mielie Surfboards.
"I had nothing to do but cry, it was pretty much a dream come true."
Ms Davis said the programme took diamonds in the rough and made them shine.
''I'm so proud of Trey.''
Surfing was a tool used to unlock potential and build a relationship with clients. They also learned about their whakapapa (heritage) and performed a haka at the graduation.
Each week of the programme was a different theme that correlated to surfing concepts. Guest speakers with good street credentials shared their stories of change to inspire and motivate.
''Bros came in who had been there and done that and could speak their language. Hearing it straight out of the horse's mouth gives them hope.''
She said surfing was probably about 20 per cent of the programme. Surfing was the drawcard that hooked them in and built confidence.
''We plant the seed in these guys but it is not always instantaneous.''
She has graduated five people for each of this year's two courses and wants to increase it to four courses next year if she found the funding. ''It is a miracle we are still going. We have no sustainable funding - it is a faith journey 100 per cent."
People can pledge a minimum of $5 a week to the Live for More Charitable Trust.
''We still need another 120 donors,'' she said.
The trust was also keen on attracting sponsors.
Live for More Tai Watea Programme and surfing analogy
Week one: Introduction/surf lesson on land
Week two: Freedom/getting into the water
Week three: Connecting/sitting on the board
Week four: Potential/paddling in
Week five: Purpose/catching the wave
Week six: Empowerment/popping up
Week seven: Perseverance/standing on the board
Week eight: Maintenance/riding the wave