Stab Magazine | "Murder Mountain" Is An Idealistic, Outlaw Surfer's Cautionary Tale
99 Views

“Murder Mountain” Is An Idealistic, Outlaw Surfer’s Cautionary Tale

There is no easy way out. 

cinema // Jan 17, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Murder Mountain, now streaming on Netflix, is ostensibly the story of Garret Rodriguez, a surfer from San Diego, California

Rodriguez went missing in early 2013, while working an illegal Marijuana grow operation up in Northern California. Over the course of six episodes, the filmmakers speak with his family, friends, private investigators, and local residents in an effort to determine exactly what happened to him.  

In addition to the Rodriguez case, the documentary touches on the difficulties experienced by former outlaw growers in the face of legalization and government oversight, the historical roots of marijuana agriculture in the area, and the myriad dangers of operating in a market which ranged from gray to black.

But, really, Murder Mountain is a morality tale about the naivety and danger inherent in looking for an easy way out.

The San Diego surfer’s foray into the hillbilly libertarian nightmare that is Humboldt County began as an attempt to earn enough to money to build his dream surf retreat on a property in Mexico. By all reports the income flowed in fast and heavy, to the point that friends cautioned him to exercise discretion when he would return to Southern California. Tens of thousands of dollars in illicit income begs to be spent. When it seems the flow will never cease, one tends to piss it away.

Manufacturing and selling drugs, even one as benign as marijuana, is a dangerous game.  The lack of legal recourse in the event of robbery, or other violence, necessitates a survivor’s mentality. You have to watch your back, protect your shit. Decide whether you’re willing to resort to violence or are willing to be seen as a push-over.  It’s not fun, it’s not easy and, in the long term, almost everyone is destined to lose.

Garret Rodriguez at home in San Diego, before his mysterious disappearance. Photo courtesy the Rodriguez Family/Lost Coast Outpost

 

Those who cut and run early, get in and out, make a bit then split while the gettin’s good, can pull together a small nest egg in a short period of time. Use it to travel, to move, to purchase some small amount of comfort. But money quickly earned is rarely appreciated and the temptation to go all-in, to stake your future on the chance of a better one, is too great for most. They get sucked in, keep chasing that last big score, until they flame out and everything crumbles around them.

Even those looking to keep it mellow, provide temporary labor on the fringes of the industry, face the risk of victimization and violence. Simple-minded sorts flock to the area in droves looking for work as trimmers—mindless labor that promises to pay well, avoid taxes, and possibly fund whatever leg in life lies next.

But, as the documentary series illustrates, the reality of working twelve hour days for as little as $150, while sleeping rough and contending with the possibility your employer may refuse to let you leave, or simply decline to pay, is hardly superior to a life inside society’s norms.

While many growers are decent sorts, there’s no shortage of scam artists, scumbags, and outright maniacs. The residents of Murder Mountain live outside the law, and so do not hesitate to make their own. There are no peaceful hippy types growing weed and just, like, chilling. Those types are long gone. Either fled over past decades, or metamorphisized into the same cash-hungry capitalists they once sought to leave behind.

At nearly four and a half hours Murder Mountain runs long, but covers a lot of ground.  In addition to the tale of Rodriguez, a story which takes an unsurprising and exceedingly violent twist, the documentary covers the struggles faced by former outlaw operations as they figure out how to deal with legality.  The decline of the black market means permits and taxes and ever shrinking profit margins.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/PZEH67Iy9i0

Murder Mountain also follows the actions of those who continue to refuse to operate with the margins. People who understand that a loss of danger leads to a decline in profit.  However, these are the same growers who allowed a film crew to document their criminal activities, which might lead the average viewer to come to the conclusion that the aforementioned growers are idiots.  Which is a fair opinion, because you shouldn’t ever let someone film you committing a crime.  And anyone with any sense will understand that a bandanna over your face does absolutely nothing to your identity.

The moral of Murder Mountain is a simple one: there is no easy way out.  Everyone grinds to get what they need; those who operate without the protection of the law run the constant risk of becoming victims. In the best case scenario it may cost you some money. In the worst it will cost you your life.

 

Comments

Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up

Advertisement

Most Recent

12:31

You’re Gonna Click On An Oscar Lungburne Video

Style that can't be denied.

Sep 29, 2022

Long Read: An Angel At My Table

From Stab Issue 15, October 2006: Chris Davidson has one more shot at the big…

Sep 28, 2022

5:07

Watch: Kalani David’s Last Dance

A final surf part from the Hawaiian surf/skate prodigy.

Sep 28, 2022

Taylor Steele Won’t Let Surf Filmmaking Die Without a Fight

Movies shown, filmmaking advice, punk rock at the 2022 Solento Surf Festival.

Sep 28, 2022

Wait, Are We Going To See Moana Jones In The Olympics At Teahupo’o?

Team USA (women) and Japan (men) should be able to choose anyone they want to…

Sep 27, 2022

Donald Brink and Matt Biolos Win Mick Fanning’s Electric Acid Surfboard Test

And we had a party in Oceanside to celebrate.

Sep 26, 2022

Kanoa Igarashi and Kirra Pinkerton Answer Call Of Duty, Win Medals Of Honor In 2022 ISA World Games

Teams Japan, USA, and France move into Victor’s Village.

Sep 26, 2022

The Best Euro Surf Trips That Mightn’t Be On Your Radar

Want to know which less-trodden nation offers the most potential?

Sep 26, 2022

Former CT Surfer Chris Davidson Passes Away At Age 45

A radical life tragically ends outside a bar in New South Wales.

Sep 25, 2022

Where You Should Be In Europe Right Now

An overview of the region's greatest hits.

Sep 25, 2022

The Team Ukraine Interview

“There are mines near the shore, and already a lot of people have died…so it’s…

Sep 24, 2022

Mormaii Founder Raided By Brazilian Feds On Suspicion Of Plotting Against Democracy

Curiously, he's the second surf brand founder to become entangled in a political scandal of…

Sep 24, 2022

The Electric Acid Surfboard Test With Mick Fanning, Episode 4

There are three boards left. Which one is Mick taking home?

Sep 23, 2022

Watch: Tresha

The Bella Kenworthy Edit.

Sep 22, 2022

Photos: Welcome To Vans Stab High Indonesia, Presented By Monster Energy

Welcome to Lakey Peak. Now do airs.

Sep 22, 2022

5:27

Taro Watanabe Is The Love Child Of Your Favorite 80’s Surfers

Watch his new edit 'Sonic Youth' now.

Sep 22, 2022

The Four-Finned, Carbon-Wrapped, Vacuum-Bagged Board That Won The 2022 World Title 

The minds behind Sharp Eye and Dark Arts break down Filipe's winning plank.

Sep 22, 2022

Selema Masekela Discusses The New Film “Sweet Adventure,” A New Love For El Salvador and His Not-So-New Music Career 

"It's literally the entirety of my life coming full circle in a way that I…

Sep 22, 2022
Advertisement