Slow Dancing With Weedmaps On The North Shore

Marijuana has entered surf. Wait... actually, it’s always been here. But it’s just become a little easier. In November – along with the strangest election the States has ever seen – California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine joined Colorado, Alaska, Oregon and Washington in legalising recreational use. Prohibition is on its way out, and the general acceptance of recreational and medicinal use are at a high. Twenty percent of the United States is clear for recreation, and in 28 states medical marijuana is legal.

Back in May 2016, Weedmaps began dipping into surf. By the time December rolled around, they’d scooped up Bruce Irons, Nathan Fletcher, Joel Tudor and Dustin Barca, rented the most magnificent mansion on the North Shore’s Sunset Beach for a week, and hosted their “Pipe Experience”. I flew out to cover it, unsure of what to expect, and what transpired was unlike anything a “surf” brand could do.

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Nate’s one of the two team riders (Joel being the other) on WM who actually smoke the plant regularly. Barca recently quit, though if you were to find him without a spliff between his fingers last year, it’d be a rarity. Here’s Nate enjoying his morning meditation.

However, before we dive in; You might be wondering what Weedmaps is. In short, it’s a privately-owned app. They don’t sell pot, but they are associated with it via medical dispensaries. I’ve been familiar with them since obtaining my medical marijuana card in California in 2008, at the tender age of 18. They’re essentially the Yelp of weed: If you need a dispensary, they tell you where to find it. Eight years later, a $200k-plus power move was switched into gear with sights set on becoming an entity similar to Red Bull. But according to Bruce Irons: “The thing is, they’re going to be bigger because it’s not toxic like, say, Red Bull.” With a skate and moto X team also stocked with some of the best in their respected genres, a new face, and multi-tiered team graced the North Shore this winter. And it had surfing’s most photographed stretch in broad discussion about the “weed” house. 

Before covering the venture, we were curious (and honestly, sceptical) about what Weedmaps would be doing in surf. We were told of a grandiose plan. And in our industry, a lot of people talk, and too often, don’t deliver. Going in, we didn’t want this piece to become a Weedmaps ad. We wanted to tell the facts, for better or worse. Luckily, reality trumped fiction. What transpired was beyond the realm of surf. They had nightly parties. The first featured doctors prescribing medical marijuana recommendations to locals (the line ran out the door – even Eddie Rothman got himself a card). Someone rolled a 12 paper joint. Each party was a little bigger than the last, and the final one was the best of the winter.

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Fresh bloodies, blue bird skies and unsubstantial surf make for the breeziest of mornings.

This is the first time a company associated with marijuana has stepped into our niche. We thought the story was worthy of our Style cover, and thus, needed a stylised shoot. The barbershop scene was based on the chopping, use of wax, and cleaning up of marijuana’s image (we’re suckers for metaphor). I called Phil’s Barbershop in Honolulu and booked us in after closing hours on a Tuesday night. It happened to be a day of decent surf – not all-time, but after a slow start to the winter, our photo subjects were on it. Plus, getting three pro surfers to a barbershop in Waikiki for dress-ups and modelling after a long day of surfing isn’t a breeze. Our publisher’s half-joking last words of “Good luck Morgs, don’t get too high and fuck it up,” echoed anxiously. The weed didn’t help. 

Our photographer Max Reyes and I got to Waikiki the next day and battled the masses of Asian tourists on the sidewalks of Oahu’s imitation Vegas. We found Phil’s Barbershop tucked away in a strip mall inside a larger women’s salon. The room was no more than 10 by 15 feet. It was 6:30 pm and the shoot was scheduled for 7:00. So we set up, then found the nearest bar, drank an hour’s worth of Mai Tai’s and returned around 8:15 – a half hour before everyone showed. Dustin Barca was dressed like a Hawaiian horse wrangler (but looked clean), Nathan Fletcher wore a black Vans tee (a true Fletcher), and I had a newly-purchased black collar and pants for Bruce Irons.

"Actually, it would be embarrassing for me to take credit for those haircuts,” said the barber. Nate, whose hair was the tamest it’s ever been, looked him dead in the eyes, smiled, and massaged it back into its usual mad scientist state.
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The last time Nathan Fletcher will sit in a barber’s chair.

We were there for a cover. We put Bruce in a barber’s chair, turned off the lights and lathered his face in shaving cream. Then handed a razor to comedian/ actor/rapper/whatever Simon Rex (who travels around with the Weedmaps crew doing social media stuff between getting high and watching episodes of Ancient Aliens with Action Bronson for Viceland), and asked him to shave Bruce’s face. “Tell us a joke Simon,” smirked Nate in an attempt to ease the awkward claustrophobia of eight men packed into an antique barbershop. Simon smirked, and told him to fuck off, which was enough to make us laugh. Bruce looked at me with white cheeks, wondering how he found himself in this situation. “You aren’t going to make me look lame are you?” “Have we ever?” I responded, and he stared into the camera, unassured. Nate left to roll a joint, Barca hit his CBD pen, and Phil, a tweedy man in his mid-40s with a neat, dark beard – whom the shop is aptly named after – stood by, perplexed. At one point he cleaned up everyone’s hair, then jocularly suggested giving him “hair and style” credit in the story... he quickly followed it up with, “Actually don’t, it would be embarrassing for me to take credit for those haircuts.” Nate, whose hair was the tamest it’s ever been, looked Phil dead in the eyes, smiled and massaged it back into its usual mad scientist state. 

Back at the “weed” house, what was going on wasn’t about getting stoned, or stereotypical pot-related behaviour. As Eric Sorensen, head of the action sports tier, puts it: “We’re creating the LA Lakers’ locker room on the beach.” And that wasn’t far off – if the Lakers’ locker was also green-scented. The house became a community, a hub welcoming anyone on the North Shore. It turned into an eclectic assemblage, different backgrounds and demographics all coming together for the cause, all gathering around an acceptance of marijuana. “It’s great,” quipped Bruce. “Typically on the North Shore, every team has a house, and it’s segregated. But (Weedmaps) have opened up to everyone. We got Barca doing some MMA shit, yoga classes every morning, chefs cooking breakfast and dinner, it’s pretty much a spa retreat.” In addition to this, they had masseuses in for the athletes, doctors giving IV treatments, ice baths, non-GMO breakfasts and dinners courtesy of Hawaii Fresh Farms. 

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“The Hawaii Fresh Farm guys put emphasis on using local ingredients as much as they can,” says ex- CT surfer, Dustin Barca, who as an advocate for organic, sustainable living, actively fights Monsanto and the spread of GMO’s. “It’s what I’ve been pushing for people to do in Hawaii.” It’s worth noting, for some of these reasons, that Barca ran for mayor of Kauai in 2014, though he was unsuccessful. “It’s cool to share that goal with the guys who have been feeding everybody and promoting it together.” 

Part of Weedmaps’ North Shore presence involved bringing in their biggest advertisers – companies that are considered the Coca-Colas of cannabis, like FlavRx, ShowGrow, Flower of Life CBD, California Unified and West Coast Cure – all of whom sponsored a night and brought along goodie bags for the guests. While THC gets you high, the ending of prohibition is focused on Cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound found in marijuana with significant medical benefits. It’s the reason why pot’s prescribed to cancer patients, but it also serves as a relief from inflammation, pain, anxiety, psychosis and seizures. 

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Every few days “The Hangover Doctor” appeared at the manor with a bag of IV drips. This day he showed around sunset. What could be more luxe than watching the sunset while hooked up to an IV? Problem was, there was only one stand and upstairs the skate team were receiving their treatments. The sun was setting quick, so to get the shot I held the skate teams IV’s above my head so Max could shoot Barca outside. I was holding their rejuvination; it was strangely intimate and very awkward.

“I’m a big supporter of CBD oils,” Barca told me. “That’s one of the big reasons I jumped on board. More than anything, I want to help promote the medical side of marijuana because I’ve seen the proof. I have a friend whose kid has terrible epilepsy and was having 15 seizures a day. They got a really good CBD oil from Colorado and their kid’s seizures have stopped. I support the recreational use of marijuana, but more than anything, I support the CBD side of things.” And this story is no one-off; Parents all across the US are turning to CBD oils (which contains no THC) to treat their children’s epilepsy. 

“A lot of companies that advertise with Weedmaps have sent the medical side here,” continues Barca. “We’ve been able to help a lot of people on the North Shore with the oils. People have been coming by with different ailments, whether physical or mental. We had a big week of helping people out.” 

The marijuana industry is huge – as is the money. In 2016, Colorado (the first state to go recreational in 2012) topped $1 billion in sales, which has resulted in over $150m in tax revenue. Fifty million of which directly funds school construction projects, with $40m earmarked for other school projects. Marijuana has always been present in the surf industry, from the smuggling days of Thai sticks in the 70’s to helping fund the birth of major surf brands, but today it’s coming full circle. Weedmaps’ entry to surf is a moment in history; it’s a movement toward alleviating the stoner stigma and bringing to light the benefits of the plant. And until now, something like this would’ve been unthinkable. 

BRUCE IRONS

"Typically on the North Shore, every team has a house, and it’s segregated. But (Weedmaps)
have opened up to everyone. We got Barca doing some MMA shit, yoga classes every morning, chefs cooking breakfast and dinner, it’s pretty much a spa retreat.”
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“In the 30’s they made Reefer Madness,” says Barca. “It criminalised marijuana and put it in the same category as meth and heroin.” Today, weed is still considered a schedule one drug by the DEA – in the same category as heroin, LSD, mescaline, MDMA, GBH, ecstasy and psilocybin (mushrooms). “It’s hindered this country from the use of hemp, amongst other things,” Barca continues. “I think we’re at a pinnacle and we can make a U-turn in time. I know a lot of people would rather be smoking weed or taking CBD oil than some of the pharmaceutical drugs presented. It’s cool to have that option today.” 

“The pharma shit is the biggest government scam,” says Bruce, who lost his brother, Andy, to a cocktail of prescriptions. “It’s disgusting, toxic and bad. The CBD stuff relaxes me and mellows me out. It centres me, and I like that. The marijuana plant has so many uses. I don’t even smoke it, but I love looking at it, trimming and smelling it. The pills get you hooked. Even if you don’t have an injury, it’s so easy to get a pill prescription from a crooked doctor.”’ 

DUSTIN BARCA

“I think we’re at a pinnacle and we can make a U-turn in time. I know a lot of people would rather be smoking weed or taking CBD oil than some of the pharmaceutical drugs presented. It’s cool to have that option today.”
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In a sluggish start to the North Shore winter, during the Pipe Masters waiting period, the most engaging things were occurring at the Sunset Beach mansion. As Bruce put it, “This was the winter of the Weedmaps house.” And that’s something I typically wouldn’t be comfortable printing, but after being with them for the week, it’s a statement I can’t refute. 

As Eric Sorensen puts it: “This was just a test, and we were successful. We don’t need to be in surf, moto or skate; we want to. And this is just the beginning.” 

How high will they go? 

Article from issue 89.