The First Spark

Like all of us, even the biggest original smugglers had to have a first time experience with the Green Angel.

Learn about Skip’s first experience with the blessing of marijuana and how it inspired him to get involved intimately with this wonderful plant.

A New Perspective

It has always amazed me how time seems to warp depending on the intensity of your focus in the present moment. An hour can slip past like a brief after-thought when it is spent in focus of something that you love to do. Conversely, when the personal passion for an activity wanes, the hand of time seems to drip slowly like molasses from a table spoon. Like most people, school day afternoons in High School seemed to be particularly excruciating.

Early 70's surfing.I can clearly remember one particular school day afternoon as though it happened just yesterday. The regular curriculum of afternoon studies in Biology just couldn’t hold a candle to what I knew was happening just down the street. Since we lived in a beach town, and our house was a simple throw away from the public beach access, most mornings were spent riding my bike by the lookout to catch a glimpse at any potential wave action before pedaling on to school to make the first morning bell.

As a fifteen year old, surf stoked teenager, what the waves were doing for the day was my utmost concern. On this particular morning, the waves were reeling across the sandbar directly out from my local beach park. Unfortunately, due to one too many truancies for skipping school to surf, I knew that I was going to have to make my way to classes for the day.

Throughout the course of the day, my buddies and I couldn’t do anything except talk about how good the surf would be that afternoon. Lunch was particularly rowdy as all the surfers that were forced for one reason or another to come to school for the day were grouped together just pushing one another to do anything to get them sent home for the day.

At this point in my life, I was still a little bit young to be driving, so my friends and I put together a little trailer that we could tow behind our bikes that would hold our longboards so that they could be easily transported down to the beach for after-school surf sessions.

Finally to the beach

As the bell finally rang, triggering the end of the school day, I couldn’t be contained as I whipped past other students, down the halls and out into the warm blue skies. All I could think about were the great waves that I had witnessed in the morning. I pedaled faster and faster toward home, throwing up dried leafs and loose pebbles in my wake. Once home, my fingers couldn’t work fast enough to keep up as they struggled to get the trailer attached to my bike for the quick trip down to the beach. After what seemed like an eternity, I pulled up to the beach only to find most of my friends in the parking lot.

“Hey! What’s Going on?” I asked my friend as I glided my bike next to his.

“Surf totally crapped out. We definitely should have played hooky to go surf this morning.” They told me, shaking their heads.

“Wait…” I said in astonishment. “You gotta be pulling my leg, there’s no way it could have totally gone flat!”

Being a surfer in Florida can be a trying experience. Conditions can change at the blink of an eye to make what seem like exceptional waves disappear without warning. After a quick run down to the beach path to check the conditions for myself, my fears were confirmed. The surf was less than stellar.

With that, I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to kill a little bit of time before seeing if the conditions cleaned up to allow us to head out for a surf just before evening. After surfing the entire day in my head while in school, it was easy to say that I was a bit frustrated that the surf had changed so much since that beautiful morning.

Skip Steele and his friends during a surf check in the early days of pot gigs.As I jumped back on my bike and decided to head toward home, I looked up to see our friend John pull into the parking lot in his 57′ Chevy Bel Air. John was a little bit older than I was, maybe a year or so at most. He went to a different High School than I did at the time. He had just received his driver’s license and his parents had given him the old family Chevy. Now, instead of towing his nine foot longboard on a bike trailer, John just threw his boards on the top of the car and made his way down to the beach.

With the new wheels came a welcomed addition to our beach scene: girls! John pulled up next to my buddy Mike and I, waving as he slowed the car down and put it in park. As the car got closer, I noticed that everybody in the car seemed to be having the best day ever. The two girls in the backseat seemed to be laughing uncontrollably.

As I slowly got off my bike and wandered over closer to the car, all of my friends began to pile out. As they did so, I began to smell an interesting new odor begin to emanate from the interior of the car. As I watched, my friend John opened the door of his car and slowly got out with one of the biggest smiles I had ever seen. As he approached me, I noticed that he was holding a small cigarette between his thumb and pointing finger. He brought the small burning ember nearer to his lips and I watched as he inhaled deeply, exhaling just before reaching Mike and I.

As the smoke from the cigarette drifted towards us, the odor was so unique, so potent, and so inviting that my curiosity was peaked. I knew that John didn’t smoke cigarettes, so what was he doing with the cigarette in his hand.

“Hey John, how’s it going? What are you doing man? I didn’t think you smoked?” I asked him.

“I don’t smoke cigarettes man, but this stuff is great. Wanna try some?” My friend John replied.

This posed a bit of a moral dilemma for me. I had never smoked a thing in my life at that point and was proud of that fact. I watched so many people smoking cigarettes but I didn’t feel like it was for me. On the other hand, most of my surfing buddies were all standing around waiting to see what I would do. Adding to the pressure was the fact that the two girls from school had by this time jumped out of the car and were quickly approaching.

That first hit…

“Try some,” The one girl said in front of everyone. I felt like the world was crushing in on me forcing me to make a decision now. “Don’t be scared, it’s fun!”

John reached out his hand to pass me the lit cigarette and I extended mine almost in programmed response. I held the little burning cigarette in my hand and brought it nearer to my lips. As I inhaled deeply, the smoke hit my lungs and immediately my chest heaved outward, burning as I expelled the smoke from my body. Everyone around me started laughing, but I just kept coughing uncontrollably.

“Come on, do one more toke man and hold it in.” John encouraged me. “You’ll never feel it if you only do that much!”

“Ok man, I’ll try it one more time.” I said, speaking through broken words as I choked. The joint came back to my lips this time and I inhaled a little more cautiously. I held the stinky smoke in my lungs until I felt like my chest was going to explode. Almost immediately, I started feeling a bit light-headed.

“What is this stuff?” I asked as I passed the lit cigarette back to John watching as he passed it on to one of the girls.

“It’s pot man. Best stuff ever. It’s crazy but you’re gonna love it, somehow makes everything better…” John told me with a huge Cheshire grin. “Just wait a minute, you’ll see.”

At first I didn’t believe him. “Yeah right”, I thought. “It’ll be nothing”, I said with confidence.

Before I knew it, things started changing. I was beginning to see things a bit differently. Suddenly I felt the breeze a bit more on my skin. The sky seemed more intense than I had previously realized. Time seemed to slow down just enough to barely notice.

The afternoon slips away

Early 70's surfing on the beach at 8th street

The afternoon had disappeared while my friends and I sat on the beach waiting for the possibility of an evening surf session. The time passed so quickly that I couldn’t believe it. My friends and I spent most of the time together on the beach. We told stories, laughed at the most random things and shared smiles in a truly connected state.

As the sun began to approach the horizon towards sunset, the wind began to die slowly. The small waves that had been beaten by the afternoon winds began to take on a more classic shape. When the surf started looking better, John, Mike and I grabbed our boards and headed down the beach towards where the remnants of the waves lapped up against the shoreline. As we studied the lineup, my mind focused solely on the funny little cigarette that had provided such a welcome feeling of euphoria during the afternoon with my friends.

“That stuff was pretty fun, huh?” asked John.

The sun was slowly going down. My friends surrounded me and I had just been turned on to something that made me think wholly outside of myself. Only one response to John came to mind.

“Yeah it was man….Where can we get some more???”

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Featured Image of the Green TR4 Story by Skip Steele