The skyline of Austin, Texas, rises behind Town Lake. (Via Lucas Dean Fiser, The Cannabist)

Weed Sport: Struggle in wind-chopped water yields a revelation

We set off the sandy shore of Town Lake in Austin, Texas, each seated in a beat-up rented kayak and trying to collect our thoughts after smoking the Texas ditch weed we’d scrambled to find at the back of my friend’s kitchen drawer. It was in a Ziploc bag, faded, and had turned into dust.

This was my third day in Austin, following the South by Southwest music festival, and my ears were still deafened. Immersing ourselves in the soothing sounds of water, a recommendation by my friend whose name I’ll leave out, seemed like a perfect idea. We had stayed up well past the witching hour the previous nights, listening to Julian Casablancas, Kishi Bashi, Polica and many more.

On this day the winds had climbed through the hill country, turning up splashing waves and making our river expedition a wavy affair. This was all new for my friend, who had never paired weed with physical activity. At first she seemed withdrawn, nervous almost, but once we reached the center of the river and settled in, listening to the water lap beneath our boats, she was lit up and smiling, with plenty of body language.

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Paddling, we surfed beneath the reaching arms of Lacebark Elms and Bur Oaks, still bearing the carcasses of kites from the previous week’s festival. Joggers pushed off-road baby strollers, a chatting couple shared a latte, and various men sat along the river’s benches with phones pressed to their ears. My physical labor, pulling and pushing the paddle through the cool water, became lost in the internalization of my people-watching. This Texas ditch had gotten me high.

Our adventure, although physically brutal (due to the intense headwinds), was more about the high than the actual process of water sports. I was lost in thought and I felt guilty.

After last week’s article (my bike ride through Denver) a flurry of e-mails stating the distaste for my anything-but-sober bike riding had made some readers angry. I was not following the laws. I was putting our city’s citizens in danger. Sure, there were also e-mails from bikers showing their passion for weed and long rides — their 30 to 40 years of experience with the combination, their applause.

But truth be told, many of the arguments in the angry e-mails were right. I had broken a law. As I chatted with my friend through the chilly Texas wind, fighting the waves and our life jackets, she told me something that I won’t soon forget: “That’s the point, isn’t it? To make people angry … to stir up a conversation. Writing weed this way is going to make people talk, good or bad.”

In the future I will make an effort to be more conscious of my decisions about smoking weed and playing sports. Decisions that I will try to base off of how I’d want my home state to look under the public’s eye. Colorado is setting an example for the nation, and all I am trying to do is start a conversation, while playing sports, competing and being active in my altered states.

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As we paddled through Town Lake the high made me even more at peace. Behind us the Austin skyline hung in a fog. We were away from the madness of SXSW, and I was with an old friend whom I hadn’t seen in months, suffering through the same wind and fading hangover. After kayaking maybe a mile, we headed back and turned in our boats.

Standing on the shore, we watched turtles, one after another crawl onto the tree branches and crawl off. My friend mentioned that she’d rather be watching TV, shopping, or anything but being high. Speaking in terms of athletics, she’d told me, weed and sports aren’t for everyone.