‘‘A sweet friendship refreshes the soul”
– Proverbs 27:9
Introduced in 2004, The Case has become the soul, or glue of TGT. In tandem with, and guiding us through the Honored Mate ceremony, The Case facilitates remembrance, adulation and camaraderie. The first question asked when reunited each year is always, “when is the ceremony”?
“Be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou art in, continue firm & constant.”
Regardless of the destination each TGT is a highlight of our year. We reassemble in a new place and the party starts right where it left off. Life is too short so don’t tell yourself you can’t afford TGT. Ask yourself how can I afford TGT – you’re not getting any younger. Now is the time to reconnect and create memories with friends through shared experiences.
35 Years of TGT
Each trip is a special treat that interrupts toil and routine and calibrates the soul. Looking forward to the next trip offers anticipation, an expectation of reunion, laughter, and pending discovery. Reflecting on past trips always pulls a grin across our faces – even decades later. Check out a few special memories and stories from the boys.
Joining an Established TGT
Oh the stories he would tell…
For years I heard the tales of a group of friends, mates, family or, whatever you want to call them. Travelling the world, harvesting memories and building life long bonds.
Jof would often share with me his accounts of TGT adventures. The excitement that it brought to his eyes was enviable. He would describe the history of the trip, way back in his youth, how the common bond of a wave and a board motivated the boys to gather and celebrate a shared passion. I would listen to these tales and try to imagine the feeling of brotherhood, complete acceptance and just plain love that these guys have for each other.
Then it happened, I got the call, I was invited!
Jof, whom I consider to be my best friend, was selected to be the “honored mate”. He was in charge of the next trip and he asked me to join. I had recently moved away from the town that we both lived in and so I was excited to have a chance to hang out with him for a week. And I was really excited to experience a TGT.
As the honored mate, Jof was in charge of all the details, including the location. Cuba! With the change in diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, we Americans were now able to travel to Cuba directly and experience the culture of such an amazing Country.
But, before any of that was going to happen, I had to get the blessing of my wife. I knew this was not going to be hard to do. She had heard the stories, seen the pictures and envied the crew for their connection and shared experiences.
She said yes! Off to Cuba we go. First stop for me was Seattle, I lived in central Oregon and planned to meet Jof in Seattle since he was coming from NW Washington. I rushed from work and got on the plane heading for an adventure I could only imagine. We stayed the night in Seattle and boarded a flight to LA the next morning. Time to meet the crew.
Not gonna lie, I was a bit nervous to meet these guys that I had heard so many stories about. This was Jof’s family and I had been asked to join it. Right away I knew that these were the kind of friends that would go to the ends of the earth for each other. Quickly nicknames were being shared and old jokes seemed to be rekindled. We all boarded the plane, next stop Cuba.
Flying in over the island you could tell that this was not going to be a typical holiday. After landing, we all made our way through the maze of checkpoints and customs and then off to exchange our currency. Already the bonds were forming, the familiarity becoming easy. These guys were now my family.
Now you must remember that in all families, we all have roles. In this family, on the first night of the trip, Jof’s role was that of Priest. He was going to baptize me in the holy waters of the TGT. By waters I mean Rum, to this day I have not had a drop on my lips (thank you father Abshire). The ritual was begun, the scroll was read from and the shots were poured, and I’m not talking watered down casino shots! I made it maybe an hour? Next thing I knew it was morning and Havana was calling our names.
If you want to see a culture that looks at an adverse situation and rises to the occasion, then study the cab drivers of Cuba. You may never know what’s under the hood, if the brakes are anything more than Fred Flintstones feet or if there is even a bolt at the other end of the seatbelt. What you will know is that these drivers are good people who work hard for the little they make. We spent lots of time in these cabs, I may still have carbon monoxide poisoning from them. But when you have seven full grown men all of which range from 5’10 (benefit of the doubt, Ian) to 6’3”, you are going to be friends by the end of that trip.
Four days in, we are in Trinidad, and it is time to test the bonds that I feel I have made. Rooftop deck bar, live music and what the hell I will have a Pina’ Colada (yes I was wearing a skirt), overlooking this amazing city seeing and hearing the flow of the locals. We walked the town and experienced an amazing thunderstorm from a little hole in the wall bar, the guys enjoying cigars and the tales from a local. Next morning, I am sick!!! I know in Mexico it’s called Montezuma’s revenge, I am guessing that in Cuba it may be Castro’s reckoning! I slept, and emptied my body of all its contents for 40 hours straight. I thought I might die. All through it though were my new brothers. A head would pop in, a drink would show up on the bedside table and a general sense of concern was felt. This was an amazing comfort.
I could write for days about what we saw and the adventures in cigar buying. The lady who welcomed strangers into her home just to show them what life was like. Drinking Rum with the grain merchants in their shop while waiting out a shower, and the cars, that could be days. But what I will always have and photos will never capture, is the feeling of being part of a family. A family that chose me, where it is your individuality that makes you fit in so well with the rest. A family that may only gather once a year and not all may make it, but will have a place at the table, a seat in the cab, and a beer in the cooler with your name on it.
Oh the stories I will tell….
The Darkest Night in Baja
It was around June, 1986. We had been to Quatro Casas a couple times, indeed it was the location of our first legit Baja surf trip just a few years earlier. Quatro was a great spot, surf had always been fun but we’d never had it bigger than 3-4’. There was no Surfline, no internet… we just had stories about how great it was, and the setup was pristine, you knew it would be epic if swell and conditions were on.
Jeff Olson, Danny Neumann and I struck out to give Quatro another shot, summer wasn’t the best season but a strong South would do the trick… We headed down in Jeff’s ~1980 Toyota pickup with a two-toned yellow/white aluminum camper shell. We’d sleep in the back, or just on the bluff if weather was agreeable. Quatro is near San Quintin, Baja, a 12+ hour drive from Santa Cruz. We arrived late, slept in a bit then surfed all the first day. It was, as usual, about 2-4’… mostly 2’. The adventure and comradery alone was priceless, but the sun and waves made the day fabulous.
The sun was going down and all three of us were exhausted and content. We had setup our lawn chairs near our new campfire, a mere 20’ from the cliff edge. There were a couple other groups of surfers on the bluff, each gathering around their respective fires. When you’re far from home and no one is at their local break, surfers are fabulous – respectful, sharing waves, happy… it is an odd phenomenon, an inverse to the normal grind. The guys next to us yelled over an invitation to join them for a beer, and we accepted. Standard chatter ensued, we exchanged stories of surfing and compared credentials. Not more than 45 minutes had passed and the night had become very dark, there was no moon. Suddenly we heard, “Somebody went off the cliff”! My first reaction – it was a joke, my second, it wouldn’t be Jeff or Danny… that just wouldn’t happen. We all got up and ran to the edge of the cliff. Someone had a flashlight and shined it straight down as the high tide surged up and back over the rocks 30’ below. There was Danny’s body sprawled across the rocks, face down.
We were in shock, we didn’t know if Danny was even alive – he sure didn’t look like it. If he was alive, how we could get to him, get him back up the cliff… get him help… we were hours from the U.S. and at least two hours from the closest real city, Ensenada. One of the other guys sprang to action, demanding that we get down the cliff to Danny. Someone, I don’t recall who, said to take a sleeping bag to use as a hammock to carry his body up. Another guy (who I believe was a lifeguard in LA) and I found a goat trail of sorts on the cliff face and scampered down to Danny. He was still breathing, in a gurgling fashion. Without regard to back injury or possibly exacerbating any trauma, we rolled Danny into the sleeping bag. Each of us used one hand to gather an end of the sleeping bag and lift Danny’s weight, and the other hand to help scale the cliff edge back up to the top. I have no idea how we had the strength to do it.
Once up top, we tossed Danny in the back of Jeff’s two-wheel drive pickup and tore off onto rutted and washed out dirt “roads” back to the main highway – the only paved road in Baja was about eight treacherous miles away.
Jeff drove for what seemed hours until we hit Baja’s Highway 1. At that junction was the tiny town of San Quintin where we found a closed pharmacy, we knocked wildly until someone came to the door. They escorted us SOUTH to a clinic. No doctors were there. Upon checking Danny’s vital signs, they suggested we wait until morning when the doctor should arrive. We declined, we knew there was no way Danny would make it without attention. Just then, an “ambulance” (old Ford van with the rear seats removed and a rusty bar to hang an IV) pulled up. We rushed the driver as he got out and asked him if he could take us to the border. He said he could for $75 USD, the exact amount Jeff and I had. We loaded Danny up and sped off, North to California. We drove through the night, reaching the border at dawn. Crossing was fortunately uneventful, we transitioned vehicles and rushed up to UCSD’s Trauma Unit.
Danny had a subdural hematoma (a collection of blood outside the brain), and multiple broken bones. They induced coma where he remained for about two weeks. He was hooked up to nearly every machine they had in the Trauma Unit. The doctors said it was a miracle he made it to the hospital…. The first couple days were touch and go, would he live? When he made it through those first days, his next hurdle was brain damage (which we all say he has, of course ;). He was in the trauma unit for ~6 weeks. He gained 20 pounds, then he lost 40…. Two months later, and to this day, Danny is 100% and awesome.
I give God the glory, this was miraculous. If you buy me a beer someday, I’ll give you the entire story that is even more incredible, full of divine coincidences. So many things could have gone wrong that night – but did not. The Toyota could have failed on those roads. We could have stayed too long at the Baja clinic. The ambulance could have required $100. Danny could have struck the rocks differently…. Thank you, Jesus for watching over us that dark night in Baja.
The One that Makes You Smile
Often when I tell loved ones and friends I’ll be gone for a week, heading to see my bro’s on our annual TGT trip and adventure, I get inquisitive looks followed by countless questions. When I reply, my spirit and mood are lifted because I’m remembering good times shared with my TGT brothers. I smile and think of far-off places with adventures, laughter, and even an occasional illness or injury. These bonds last a lifetime. Each year we pick up where we last left off and it brings a renewal that’s contagious.
So, when asked what my favorite memory is, I really can’t pick just one. Maybe it was the time when Brough waltzed into an El Salvador cinder block barbershop and in his broken Spanish said, “take a little off the sides.” What followed left the top of his mug looking like a cue ball. Maybe it was that same El Salvador trip when Jof jumped in to save me after I took a wave, I had no business or experience surfing. Ian’s chocolates, climbing a glacier in Alaska and Bob getting the paddling of his life at a Hof Brau in Las Vegas are events that come to mind, or maybe Joe sharing the value and meaning of brotherhood, or eating termites with Wyatt in Belize, sharing a taxi in Cuba, suffering from illness in Oregon, reeling in fish next to Olson, an outdoor restaurant flooded by a rogue wave, and the countless sunsets and evenings with the greatest guys on the planet!
So, If I had to pick my favorite memory it would be followed by my biggest disappointment. Being invited to TGT remains my greatest TGT memory and privilege. I regret wasting a few too many invitations because of work and other obligations. My concern of not knowing everyone also weighed heavily, not knowing if I would even “fit in.” I missed out on opportunities that I can only enjoy through photos and videos shared each year. I am humbled to have been invited and welcomed by every brother in the group. Second only to being invited is the honor of being chosen as the “Honored Mate.” During TGT – Grand Canyon, Ian placed the Honored Mate monkey necklace around my neck. What followed was the great privilege of determining how to fulfill the extraordinary TGT tradition.
The older I get the more I understand that no amount of money can bring long-term contentment. The value of memories and the brotherhood from one week out of each year will forever remain priceless. The TGT archives continue today, filling up with the traditions that carry on because the memories, the brotherhood, the families, and the investment were always worth the time and effort. While blowing the dust off old homemade movies and digging into the treasure trove of memories, we see younger versions of ourselves, fallen mates, and a tradition that can never be bought or sold.
The greatest memory is the one that makes you smile, laugh out loud or shed a tear. It can only be understood deeply by the ones you shared it all with. I can’t wait to make the next greatest memory with my TGT brothers.
The Opportunities are Endless
Now it’s YOUR turn to plan the entire team trip. What if, during your trip, all the stars and planets aligned? What if, your trip becomes bigger than you and your team? What if, this trip was destined to change lives beyond your control. That is what happened to us, during the 2007/2008 Baja 3000 trip. This was my year to plan a trip. After a few beers with some of the crew, discussions kept circling around to “our roots” and “giving back”, to the wonderful people of Mexico.
This was was to become, by far, the most challenging TGT trip to date. It included purchasing and donating vehicles, clothing, school supplies and money, to those in need along the Baja peninsula, and soliciting donations from our community that we would pass along directly.
A local paper caught wind of the trip and wrote a great article about us, which opened the gates to overwhelming and generous community support. We filmed the entire trip with four cameras – the editing took me months to complete. We submitted our finished film to the Monterey Film Festival, where it took the Peoples Choice Award. Visit baja3000.com for the full story. This was by far the most emotional TGT I have been on, to date. I am so proud of all my brothers and our community, all of which stepped up and made this successful trip a “Once in a Lifetime Adventure”.
Looking for a way to add a bit more adventure to your…adventure? Why not plan a trip-long trophy contest! It can be a simple as racking up points throughout the trip or a single day competition. For Baja 3000, we had a trip long list of items that would amass points throughout the trip (best wave, who got stuck….), which would be tallied on the final night, and the Grand Prize Trophy was presented to the winners! No, not everyone gets a participation trophy, this is an all-out, big time wrestling in the bedroom-competition. Trophies are also a great way to pass along trip-by-trip, think College Football “The Big Game Axe, Stanford/Cal”. When we headed to Bend, OR., we had another contest, the winner of unmentionable activities (Bob) received this custom beauty! How about a Poker Rally, or a scavenger hunt? It is endless on what you can bring to the trip the will help bridge the down time with the main trip events.