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Surfing at Rio de Janeiro's Arpoador Beach is a way of life with its own community and specific rituals, such as showing young surfers Fabio and Naama, the secret breaking points on the seafront. The surfers, trainers and the children, all come from the hills of Rio in shantytowns called favelas. In a city which bears it class divide on its very topography, the beach serves as an authentic melting point where people across class and age barriers can meet and gather. It provides the closest normal life Fabio and Naama can share. Fabio, having lost his father to the gang war which terrorizes the favelas, finds succor through the help of his friends at the Arpoador Beach Surfing Club.
Based on a 2004 article by Vince Medeiros for Surfer's Path magazine, Rio Breaks eschews the conventional sports documentary narrative. It places surfing in relation to what it means to people in their daily life. Working as his own cinematographer, director Justin Mitchell makes use of digital video to intimately convey the society and world of two close childhood friends bonded by their love for surfing, their desire for escape and search for a better world.