Along with the conscious realization that many existing laws were not fair or equal for all, the civil rights and women’s movements helped bring widespread change to the country’s conservative lifestyle. The cultural human transformation was in full swing and many surfers began traveling the world to find the perfect wave to go with this new attitude.
Cannabis use flourished in the 1960s, and though still illegal, people were smoking it all over America. California was the epicenter. With perfect grow conditions and great surf up and down the coast, a surfer could easily get primo smoke before hitting the waves. Laguna Beach surfers who were part of the LSD family, the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, sailed to Maui in 1970 and brought pot and seeds with them from Mexico. They stayed, shared their drugs, and became big-wave riders—as did many others who especially liked to surf Hawaii in the winters.
Artist Rick Griffin’s Surfer Magazine donning famous illustrations with pot leaves came out in 1967, and the image of the stoned surfer found its way into American pop culture.
Consuming and Surfing in the Black Market
Things blew up when fearless surfers started smuggling Thai stick from Southeast Asia. The price of marijuana was so inexpensive overseas that big money could be made getting it back to the states. Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade, a book by historians Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter, details the crazy adventures of many surfer pot smugglers during this era. “Unlike the Hippie Trail pilgrims, surfers had clear goals and destinations. Big-wave surfing legend Owl Chapman described the distinction: “They were like me, I wasn’t like them,” he said. “I was a hippie, but I was a surfer first.”
Not only did surfing provide excellent cover, but in a few nervous days or hours, one could earn enough money to pay for years of surfing dreams.
The transition into the black market was not a stretch for the thrill seekers who had traditionally come from the margins of American society. Not only did surfing provide excellent cover, but in a few nervous days or hours, one could earn enough money to pay for years of surfing dreams.”
Surfing today is not as intertwined with pot smoking as it used to be. Unfortunately, many surf icons have been lost to drug abuse (mostly cocaine, meth-amphetamines, and heroin) and the consequences were deeply felt in the industry. The easy-does-it days of the past aren’t as common. It’s coincidence that surfing in the Olympics and cannabis legalization happened in the same time period.
There is an incredible shift in consciousness that takes place when the surfer gets up on the board and is pushed by a wave. The surfer is one with the energy of the ocean as they carve a wave or ride through the barrel. Though the feeling surfing and the feeling from smoking herb are incomparable, the surf culture in Hawaii is likely to be toking today. Step out of the water at Honolua Bay and reach any direction and you can still grab a joint.
Illustration by Julia Sumpter/jossdim/iStock
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