Pro snowboarder Mark McMorris chats with pro surfer and restauranteur Benji Weatherley about Jake Burton, Momentum Generation and caddying for Travis Scott.
Mark McMorris leads with love. The Saskatchewan native seems to be one of the more “in the moment” people we have encountered. Maybe that helps him do things like 16 backflips in a row 20,000 feet off the ground on a snowboard or maybe it’s all part of the style of being one of the most decorated X Games contestants on the planet. Regardless, Mark is great and he decided to sit down with his good friend, maybe even better person, professional surfer, and one of the biggest golf geeks, Mr. Benji Weatherley for this Interview Issue. Next time you are on The North Shore, stop by his restaurant Breakers and say hi.
For those unaware, a good friend of Mark and Benji was Jake Burton who passed away a year to the date of this interview taking place. Ride On, Jake.
Mark McMorris: Well, shit. I think, first and foremost, we should start with our boy. Benji, can you tell me: What’s your favorite memory with Jake Burton Carpenter?
Benji Weatherly: Gosh, there’s so many. But there’s one that stands out, because I was going through the photos the other night for his book. There was one trip, I would say it was like four or five years ago, and he flew me out from Hawaii to New York. The first night we got there, like straight off the plane, we went and saw Fleetwood Mac. And he always knew that was one of my favorites. We probably saw like four or five songs, front row, and he’s like, “All right, that was fun. Let’s get out of here.” And I’m like, “Oh, but this is my favorite song.”
So, we ended up busting out of that place, going out for one of the best nights in the city, waking up super early, which is a new thing for me but really it’s the standard when you’re with Jake, and went straight to a New York Giants football game, straight into the VIP, met the mayor of New York City. It wasn’t Giuliani. It was the other cat, Bloomberg. And I got a photo with Jake in the back where they both had their Giants jerseys on, it was pretty awesome.
It’s not over. Later in the afternoon, we went to a hockey game, the Rangers, because I’m the only guy that likes sports as much as Jake. He teaches me how to do the goal song when they score. And if you didn’t do it right, he’d make you do it again in front of the whole crowd, like, “Goal. Goal.” This fucking tradition they have, this silly thing. And so, after that game, we rushed into a limo, fly across town to Brooklyn, and we watched the Brooklyn Nets play the Celtics. And we were courtside, of course, right? And Beyonce, Jay Z are there. And this is all in one day.
Like, I mean the New York Jets were behind us, the whole team, at the hockey game. And Jake’s heckling them, like, “Boo.” Making fun of them and shit. The great part is, I have it all on video and in photos, but it’s in my memory bank for life. And it was probably the best two days of my life.
Mark: One of the best fricking trips ever. He definitely fit in as much as he could in a day and loved to share it with his friends.
Benji: It was like that movie. Brewster’s Millions with Richard Pryor. He gets like $500 million dollars, and he has to spend it all. So, he just goes and takes his friends out, and he just has the time of his life. I swear Jake was Richard Pryor in Brewster’s Millions. It was surreal. And you couldn’t have done it with a better person. He was teaching me lessons in the middle of having the time of my life.
Mark: Oh, of course he was. I love that. Fuck yeah, Benj. Switching direction: What was it like getting the opportunity with Momentum Generation to really like relive your early career days?
Benji: The coolest thing for me is I had three different careers in my surfing career. And my first chapter was Momentum Generation—from when I was 12 until like mid- or late-twenties. I would say I met Jake in the third chapter of my life.
Watching the movie with all my friends that were in chapter two and chapter three, that was one of the coolest feelings I’ve ever had in my life. Not to bring Jake up every single minute of the day, but I remember taking him to the premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, and he was the guy that reached out to sponsor me when I was 24. And that’s kind of right when the movie ends. He didn’t even know anything about my surf career. So, for friends like Jake, and all the snowboarder guys, they got to see the beginning, the first chapter of where I ended up.
It was so cool to be able to show all the people in my life, like, “I was cool, man. Look, I was pretty cool. Like he was the best surfer in the world. And they all slept on my floor.” And people are like, “Your mom is the coolest person, not those other jackasses.”
Mark: Oh my gosh. I love that.
Benji: The real positive thing that came out of the Momentum Generation was “the thread.” The thread was the thing. On Christmas, 2014, Kelly just sent out a text thread, saying, “Merry Christmas,” to, basically like 20 of us—all the Shane Dorians, Ross Williams, and it goes deeper than that into friends that are just part of the pipe crew and whatever. And then that evolved from being just the thread to being something that we have used as therapy. I know that sounds kind of funny, but we’ve lost some really, really close friends, especially just a few days ago. And the thread has been the savior for all of us.
It’s the place where we all get to open up and talk real like, fuck. If the public got to see what we say on that thing, we’d all be in jail. But more than anything, it’s helped me with dealing with the loss of friends and family.
Benji: I think everybody needs to make a thread with all their best friends, and have that thing on silent, because you don’t want to hear the constant ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. We lost Jack Johnson in the first 30 minutes because of the dings. He didn’t know how to mute it.
Mark: Oh, yeah? No doubt. It’s such a great way to keep in touch with everyone.
Benji: The photos. They’re relentless. There are so many childhood photos that are priceless. But I would say what Momentum Generation really did is bring light to Kelly’s progression through life. I mean, to be honest—and it says it in the movie, I’m not saying anything that’s new—but he was a dick. He was so driven and so focused that he was actually not rad to be around. I remember times where we would be in a car in France and I was like 18, 19 trying to film. And he was so intense, and there were so many fans, it was a nightmare. I hated it. I was like, “I don’t want to ride in that car, man. I don’t want to be around him.”
I hated being around Kelly. I mean, that’s the truth. But it was always fun. Because it hits you so hard, and it made you nervous and stuff. And then to see where he came after that Momentum movie, and see where he is now, he’s the most grounded, like without being boring. He’s the most grounded friend I have. And he’s definitely the most interesting. So, for him to have made that turn, it’s made the whole Momentum crew make that turn with him. We’re all way closer now. And we’re way better off because Kelly’s down for therapy. And that movie, to see him go through all the changes in front of millions of people. It’s pretty hard.
Mark: Those interviews were pretty insane.
Benji: I was at the premiere with his daughter and him. And just seeing him chewing on a fucking toothpick, and just to see how intense it was for him to go through it—it was scary. The first night we got to see it, me and Dorian were bawling our eyes out, because it was so emotional. And it’s so revealing, especially for me and Kelly, because me and Kelly had put it all out there.
Benji: We’re like, “Here, we’re naked. I know it’s shriveled, but it’s me.”
Mark: It’s such an incredible story. I’m so glad that it was told so well. And you guys are psyched on it. I would recommend it to everyone. If you haven’t seen it, please go watch.
So now, how the hell did you get so good at golf?
Benji: My dad was in the NFL, so he would go to NFL alumni tournaments. My mom divorced him when I was young, so that’s the only thing I did with my father. I’d see him once a year, and he’d be like, “We’re going golfing.” And I was like 7, 8, 9. I just knew how to do it, right? When you’re little and you do a sport, you just get it or you don’t. Right? So I was really good right out of the gate, and then from 9 until 14, I didn’t golf at all.
And then all of a sudden in Kahuku, I saw a thing in my gym class, and it said, “Golf, Wednesdays, out of school, nine-hole tournaments,” whatever. I was like, “Fuck yeah, I’m doing that.” So I never had to go to school on Wednesdays.
I was friends with Jack Johnson and all my surfer friends, we’d take a bus to school, and I had my little golf clubs and they’re like, “Where are you going?” And I’m like, “Well, I’m going golfing, guys.” And so I was on the golf team for Kahuku for a year and I got super into it. But then I got sponsored by Gotcha, which was like my first surf sponsor. So I was, “Well, golf can take a break.”
Mark: Something you can always come back to.
Benji: Exactly. So I started taking my clubs when I was 19 to South Africa and all over the world with Kelly watching me and saying, “What are you doing? Why are you bringing golf clubs to go to these places?” And Reunion Island, I’d leave when it got windy and I’d go golf by myself and I was doing this for like a year. And then Machado was really into golf because of his family, so we started kind of getting Kelly into it and we started moving along and then Kelly started getting good right out of the gate as well. And I just wanted everybody in surf to know, this is fun.
I just got deep into it because it’s just like surfing. It’s literally the only sport that I can relate to, like snowboarding and surfing and all those sports, golf is just like it. It’s just you and there are no excuses, I love it.
Mark: Except you can’t get hurt.
Benji: And you can’t get hurt. Exactly, no sharks are going to bite your balls off. When I first got into it, I met Pat Perez, I was 16 in La Hoya and he became a pro golfer as well. So meeting him got me really into it, and then when Kelly got good, it made me want to get better.
Mark: He’s insane, huh?
Benji: He is incredible.
Was he serious? Are you going to caddy?
Mark: Tell us about the time you caddied for Adam Scott.
Benji: The cool thing about that story is that it started in New York City at a dinner with Jake—of course, Jake was involved.
Benji: We’re at dinner with Adam Scott, and he goes, “Hey, what are you doing next month? Be in Hawaii?” And he goes, “You want to caddy?” And Jake was the one that was like, “Yes, he wants to caddy. Yep. He’s going, I’m coming too. We’re both caddying.” But Jake thought he was kidding. When we left, Jake’s like, “Was he serious? Are you going to caddy?” And I go, “Fuck, it seems like it, right?” So a month later, he calls me when he’s in Maui, right before he comes to Oahu and he’s like, “Hey, are you still on? Because my team, my manager and my swing coach, they’re really scared and nervous, but I’m not.” He’s like, “Are you into it?” I’m like, “Of course I’m into it.” I go, “Let’s do this.” One of the coolest experiences you could ever have, and the best part about it was Freddy Patacchia, Slater, Dusty Payne—every single pro surfer that loves golf came and they followed me and Adam.
Mark: Oh, sick.
Benji: So, they’re yelling my name on the tee box louder than any golfer. They’re like “Benji! Benji!” Adam Scott is looking at me like, “What in the actual fuck is going on? Why do you have more fans than any golfer out here?”
Mark: Oh my gosh. That is the best story I’ve ever heard. And then, oh, you all signed a major.
Benji: That’s right. Okay. Now that actually is worth talking about. That was full circle. That’s what I meant when I said I wanted to get the surfers into golf because together we can all travel the world and golf together and it’s so much fun when the waves are shitty. When I got to drain that last putt in front of all the golf geeks, all these young pro surfers, and take them all out was the highlight of my golf career so far. It was fun.