Travis Pastrana is as well-versed about injuries as any human who isn’t a doctor. The way he rattles off the injuries he’s suffered and still deals with is rather incredible, and he knows exactly how they’re all connected and impact how he feels on a day-to-day basis.
Dealing with pain has been something the action sports superstar has had to figure out since he was 16 years old, and now, he’s getting into that space as the co-founder of Just Live, a CBD company that he’s starting along with three other top athletes: Klay Thompson, Alex Morgan, and Paul Rodriguez. For Pastrana, this is something extremely personal to him, as he explained passionately to Uproxx this week to discuss the brand’s launch and why he got involved.
How did you come to be involved with Just Live and when did you decide that CBD was something you wanted to get into, not just as an ambassador, but something you wanted to be part of launching an actual brand?
Well, to be honest, I didn’t know a lot about it and considered CBD or anything like that a drug, and was always kind of a little anti-[CBD]. But I’ve seen some of my friends go downhill with painkillers and sleeping pills and everything they tried to do to mask the pain of, even … so many of my friends were military and they came back with injuries or had whatever was going on, back pain and bulging discs and whatever, but they couldn’t sleep through the night. So they start taking sleeping pills and then they got drowsy during the day, and then it kind of escalated to pain medication and other substances just trying to mask pain to be able to do what they loved to do. Or, the option B for them was to stop doing everything, but then depression set in. For me I saw a lot of downside to the modern medicine ways they could kind of accomplish what they wanted to.
And, for me, we had a CBD sponsor for the Nitro Circus tour and I was making a last ditch effort trying to make a race that my orthopedic, he said, ‘Godspeed, you’ve got too much swelling.’ I had basically a big bruise, for lack of a better term, but a subdermal hematoma of the right quadriceps, and I couldn’t bend my leg far enough to get to the foot peg and if you did, it would explode the quad. And with the artery right there they couldn’t drain it. So I listened to some of the skaters and BMXers on tour and started taking some CBD and it was incredible. Maybe it was timing, maybe it was whatever, but all of a sudden I’m sleeping better through the night, I’m not waking up. I stopped taking Advil. Since I was about 16 years old, I have a lot of stomach issues because of the Advil consumption. Taking six Advil a night to sleep, waking up at 1 or 2 in the morning and taking six more, and that’s been since I was 16.
So, even the over the counter medicine, the anti-inflammatories and everything, you can’t keep taking them. In order to keep doing what I wanted to do, you either have to take stuff that’s worse for your body that masks the pain more, or you just have to quit doing what you love. I started talking with other athletes and this was going on more and more. There was depression setting in for the guys that are trying to get off that stuff.
My dad after his third back surgery a little over a year ago now, he called me up – you know, military family, it’s a little different than most families – he said, ‘Hey, I love ya, I love where I am in life, but if this next surgery doesn’t work I’m gonna put a bullet in my head. It’s not that I don’t appreciate everything, I just refuse to live in the fog of painkillers and I physically am not tough enough to live without it.’ And we started him on some CBD and he, still being the East Coast guy that he is, was like, ‘Well it helped me sleep a little bit, and my mind’s clearing up, but I mean, it’s not that helpful. But I’ve got my life kind of sorted back out.’ And I’m like, well, if that means you’re, instead of sleeping 1 to 2 hours a night, you’re getting through the night. The inflammation’s going down, at that point I was like, literally CBD, hippie medicine, has saved my dad’s life, who was the last person on earth you’d expect to take it. But at the end of the day there’s so many people out there that are at their wit’s end, that may or may not of been an athlete – could be construction, could be a desk job, could be anything – and they’re just tired of living in pain and they turn to stuff that’s very unhealthy and leads to stuff down the wrong direction.
As we were talking about this, we realized there were so many people that tried CBD and there’s so many upstart brands and the quality’s not there. So they’re like, ‘I tried CBD and it didn’t work. I have to go back to painkillers.’ And it’s like, well it does work, the stuff you’re using is not quality enough. It’s not getting that inflammation, that relief and helping you calm down and giving the stress relief that CBD is capable of without the downsides of THC. So, for me, it was really important to not only get the message out about CBD and it’s health benefits for inflammation and peace of mind, it’s also that’s something that if you take the right CBD it’ll work, and if you take stuff that doesn’t work you’ll never try it again. Unfortunately that’s deterred people from going a route that’s much healthier. Sorry for the super long-winded explanation.
No, that was great. You mentioned that you talked to a bunch of different athletes, and the four that are at the head of this are from all over the sports spectrum from Klay to Alex to Paul to yourself. How did you link up with them and what did you hear from them about their experiences as well?
Yeah, P-Rod has been a friend for a really long time. I’ve known Alex a little bit, more through my wife Lindsey, who is a big advocate of the Women’s Sports Foundation. Klay was a little newer for me, obviously Alex had known Klay, but just kind of coming together and starting this. And P-Rod was kind of last one to the table, but also the person I was happiest to bring because he’s a guy, they’re all great athletes, but coming from action sports that’s more where my ties are. But with Alex, the cool part about this with her is, as a mom, just to let people know – like all athletes are taking CBD, and some folks are like, ‘Well, I’m not an athlete, why would I need to be 10 percent better?’
And that’s why we came up with the name. It’s Just Live. If you want to live healthy and live a more stress-free life, if you want to live to your fullest, this is going to help you. It doesn’t matter if you have back pain because you’ve sat at a desk your whole life. Sitting for me is the most difficult thing I do. Being inactive is where my inflammation and my back starts shooting pain down from my sciatic nerve down to both fused SI joints, but you don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from it.
So I think that was what was really cool about Alex, is she reaches a completely different group of not only female athletes, but of moms. To have some of us being not necessarily out of our sports, per se, but past our prime and it’s not about, at least for me, and performing at the highest physical level, it’s about being able to sit in a car and be strapped in for 16 to 18 hours at a time in a rally and be able to feel my feet. To be able to go through a rally and not be distracted. To be able to listen to every note my co-driver is telling me so I don’t make those silly errors. So I think that’s what’s so important to me, and then talking with folks who are in construction or truck drivers or anything, it’s hard to do your job when you’re in pain. And when you’re in pain, what you think is, well I’m off, I’m gonna go drink this away. Or I’m gonna go take some Percocets. It’s not, hey, I’m gonna work out because I feel pretty good, or I’m gonna go play this sport I love and haven’t been able to in awhile because my knee hurts too much or the arthritis is too bad.
This gives people who want to get back active enough relief that they can start doing physical therapy. Like my dad, it wasn’t that he wanted a free ride or anything, he just wanted to be able to get back to the point where he could start working out so he could start helping the muscles strengthened so he could start getting his back stronger and start sleeping better. The CBD allowed him to do that.
I know one of the stated goals of this is to bring attention to the issues of opiods and painkillers and those things, and this is something that’s been going on for awhile in sports, but really in the last decade is something athletes are really starting to become aware of. When did you start to recognize in action sports the issue of painkillers and the issues of guys trying to self-medicate and over-medicating their pain?
You don’t realize it’s an issue until it’s already too late and it’s already affected your body, your life, your income, your everything you do. And that’s what’s tough. If you look at even in Nitro Circus the two guys, and not athletes, but the two guys who have run Nitro Circus both kind of got into … they came from an action sports background or surfing or motorcycles or snowboarding and that kind of stuff. And being in a desk job all the time, they were just trying to get better rest. And it went downhill so fast for our CEOs and at the time both of them had to basically restart their lives, and that’s something that’s tough. And you realize it more as you get older how many people this effects.
I had a couple friends actually overdose on painkillers, and that’s not something you hear a lot of, but besides being expensive and ruining your life, it’s actually killing people. So for me, it’s something that, you know, being someone that has a lot of injuries, it concerns me. I want to be able to continue riding my dirt bike. I want to continue riding mountain bikes. I want to, when my daughters say they want to go for a run – well that might be a far stretch for me – but I want to be in good enough shape to at least be able to go with them. To go mountain biking and do the things that I love and share it with my kids, and that is honestly the biggest reason that I took this initiative if you will. Because, basically, I want to be able to help people understand there’s a solution out there.
I want other people who are in pain to live their fullest life and to be able to do it with their kids. If it was just a money grab, there’s a lot of products out there to instead of putting in money you could be taking money. But at the end of the day I think this is something that needs to be out there, that people need to know there’s a reliable source they can go to that’s the highest quality possible to where, if CBD is going to work for them, this is the company they can trust.