Surfing and cannabis have had a long association, but in recent years the connection between weed and waves has become strained. After the professional arm of surfing, the World Surf League, adopted global anti-doping rules, cannabis suddenly became a prohibited substance for professional surfers.
The Spannabis Cup is one of Europe’s most notable cannabis culture festivals, and Weedmaps Sports team manager Eric Sorensen saw it as a good excuse to combine the two in an unprecedented journey. “Europe is one of the best places for surfing and skateboarding,” notes Sorensen, “so we chose to do a tour through Portugal and Spain and ended with the Spannabis Cup.”
The plan was to take in some of the most renowned surfing spots on the Portuguese Coast, including Nazaré, famed big wave locale. But the nature of travel means that plans change, especially when you find what you’re looking for. Pro surfer Bruce Irons told DOPE: “We actually weren’t able to go to Nazaré, the waves were too good at Supertubos in Peniche, so we spent our time there while we were in Portugal. When I see waves like that, I’m waiting it out. I’m not going to go back in until I can get the perfect wave.” A native Hawaiian, Irons was not accustomed to the icy Portuguese water: “It was cold out, and it was hard to get used to how cold the water was. I had to wear booties for the first time in a long while.”
The Road to Spannabis tour combined Weedmap’s skate and surf teams, resulting in an extraordinarily unique experience. “It was sick checking out how skaters find their spots,” Bruce recalls, “seeing things from their points of view. It’s a different element, but at the same time it’s very similar to what surfers look for when we’re catching waves. In the end, it’s cool to see the other sides of extreme sports and what the different athletes look for.”
Chasing waves and experiencing culture in a foreign country often means the things that come easy at home take on a new, more difficult, dimension. “We had a long drive,” remembers Irons, “and every two hours it was supposedly mandatory that the bus driver took a break. We were in the middle of nowhere in Spain during one of those breaks, stopped at a gas station where they had a barber. My hair was really shot, so I was just like, ‘Fix my hair, please,’ but the barber didn’t speak English. So then I pointed to one of the hairstyle pictures on the wall and he just went whack with it—kind of butchered it, really.”
Weedmaps is the first cannabis brand to sponsor pro surfers, and DOPE asked Eric Sorensen why the company sought out a surf partnership. “It really comes down to this: Our athletes aren’t just ambassadors for the Weedmaps brand, they are pioneering a whole new way to look and think about marijuana. Surfers are typically holistic and have a deep appreciation for the natural world. They’re bringing awareness to all the benefits of the cannabis plant, and a whole new way of looking at marijuana as medical treatment.”
While pro surfing’s governing body, the WSL, continues to ban cannabis use among its athletes, the public rift between surfing and cannabis will continue. For Sorensen, the real issue is that competitors don’t have access to beneficial medicines. “Surfers have stories to tell about knee injuries, ankle injuries and severe problems with their lower back,” he explains. “Their pain is real and often excruciating. For too long, opioids were seen as the only answer. Cannabis is a serious alternative for a serious problem.”