Transbay Challenge: A View From the Judges’ Table

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When I pulled up to the 4th installment of the Transbay Challenge, presented by Jimi Devine & Chronic Culture on Aug. 13, I didn’t expect to be met by Mister Woods With The Goods himself, greeting me with a smile and a judges pass. He led us to the judging table, which was covered in mason jars of ultra-frosty cannabis, little jars of hash and rosin, rolling papers, dab rigs and notepads we could use to assess the entries. The race was on, and it was a test of endurance. Between the heat of the day and the heat in my rolling tray, I knew our only chance of making it to the end would be by pacing ourselves.

The Transbay Challenge began in the fall of 2019, a friendly competition for bragging rights as the best cultivator in the San Francisco Bay Area. Nearly three years later, the event has come to garner an almost cult-like following of craft cannabis connoisseurs willing to travel far and wide for a chance to rage with like a champion with Jimi Devine. The 91 Club, a private social club located in the Arts District of downtown LA with deep ties to the legacy market, was home to the event. A space once occupied by legendary cultivator AJ, creator of AJ’s Sour Diesel, the vibes were just right for judging a competition of this caliber.

With my handy-dandy rolling kit in hand, the judging began. We inspected the nugs by shining our cell phone lights into the jars to illuminate the trichomes. We inspected the bud structure and pinched the flowers between our fingers to gauge the density and stickiness of each offering. We stuck our noses into the jars, searching for the one that made us raise our eyebrows and reach for the prettiest nug of the bunch. 

Strain after strain, joint after joint, we made our way through the entries, five of which absolutely blew us away.

Fidel’s KMZ took home the win with almost half the judges’ votes. An immigrant from Saudi Arabia, Shawn Damirdijan (Fidel) has been a staple in the California cannabis market for over a decade. A pioneer of the beloved hash hole and cultivator extraordinaire, Shawn has built his flower brand on clean growing practices, consistent flower and achieving the maximum potential of each strain. His brand motto “Possessions Don’t Make You Rich” echoed his humble demeanor as he personally served cold beverages to guests who visited his booth.

As the sun went down and the day began to cool off, I couldn’t help but reminisce. The excitement and camaraderie paired with the cordial rivalry of who had the best stash brought me back to a time when the fun of cannabis events came from simply being together. It warms my heart that even in 2022, when corporate cannabis is operating full swing, some of the best cannabis can still be found tucked away in a lonely graffiti-covered warehouse—surrounded by friends.

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