Wrightsville Beach surfer’s battle with big waves, cystic fibrosis to be subject of documentary

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By Allyson Beckman

Intern

Wrightsville Beach professional surfer Jacob Venditti is always on a quest to surf bigger and better waves. As he battles cystic fibrosis as fearlessly as he battles the waves, Venditti inspires many, especially his longtime friend and surf partner, Jacob Laham. Now, the local filmmaker is making Venditti the subject of a documentary he hopes will inspire others.

Having raised more than $3,000 online, the two recently returned from Mexico, where they shot footage of Venditti surfing waves as tall as 30 feet for the documentary that Laham hopes will inspire others to overcome obstacles.

“I want to show people the superhero he is to me,” Laham said of Venditti. “We always talked about making a film, not a sob story, but an inspiring film that could change the world and motivate others.”

Along with some other friends, Venditti and Laham shot the footage at a secret location that they have visited several times over the past few years.

Venditti, who was born with cystic fibrosis, said that he was fortunate to have grown up by the beach. Despite his passion for surfing, being in the saltwater serves as a form of therapy for his condition.

Because cystic fibrosis compromises the lungs, Venditti needed the help of a Jet Ski to save energy and allow him to catch more waves, which was one of the purposes of the fundraiser.

Venditti best describes cystic fibrosis by explaining the amount of energy he would need to run 1 mile is equivalent to the amount it would take for an individual with healthy lungs to run two. But despite suffering from the disease, Venditti has continued to pursue his career in surfing. He continues to tackle new obstacles and surf even bigger waves.

According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, past studies have led scientists to conclude that inhaling a hypertonic saline solution provides benefits to individuals suffering from the disease. Additionally, a study completed by Australian doctors showed that young surfers with cystic fibrosis had significantly healthier lungs.

Being by the saltwater acts as a natural hypertonic saline solution that helps alleviate bad congestion, one of the main symptoms of the disease. For Venditti growing up by the water has significantly helped reduce the amount of times he has had to visit the hospital for his condition.

Venditti and Laham, both 24, met around the age of 14 through what they described as the close knit community of surfers on Wrightsville Beach. Over the years their friendship has turned into an inseparable bond that feeds into one another’s passions, Laham said. While Venditti was tackling the massive waves, Laham pursued his passion in film.

Laham who started shooting photos around the same time him and Venditti became friends, graduated from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington with a major in film. He now owns a company called Brown Bear Visuals, where he publishes his many works.

Laham said he plans to have the documentary completed by 2019 at the earliest and plans to take it to film festivals and the Los Angeles film market, where he hopes an outlet like Netflix or ESPN will find interest.
“I still love to surf, but my passion for surfing now is more about film,” said Laham.

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