In college we loved to surf. We spent every day chasing waves on the Santa Barbara coast. We should have been studying but the energy we had at age 18, combined with our addiction to the water, kept us together more than apart. We didn’t plan to be friends, because there is no planning for that sort of thing, but our daily immersion into surfing turned out to be the backdrop, one that created the coolest friend-maintenance scheme ever!
Back then we had little on our minds other than homework, ladies and surf – none of which we had much talent for. We met randomly in unplanned interactions – Murphy’s Law perhaps. Many of us were Californians, from different cities and backgrounds. Surf was the catalyst, but it could have been any hobby.
That first year of college in 1983 was epic, so much so that a few of us decided to rent a home in Santa Cruz the following summer. We figured we could just as easily commit to the work-n-surf thing as the school-n-surf thing. Five of us under one roof – but not all five of us from the same friend click. That summer was a continual party, surf – work – surf – sleep – party, with a lot of friends stopping by. There was always action at what we fondly named our pad, the “Eaton Street fun house”. We were sort of cool back then, or so we thought. We had such a good time each night with people coming and going, but to avoid the overload we found ourselves turning out the lights or locking up the house and just heading out for some down time. We’d often head to the Boardwalk for ”10 cent Tuesday’s”, or just head to the beach to play volleyball. Anything to get out and decompress.
On one of those nights we wanted to hang low, we grabbed some beers and walked to Seabright Beach. There was so much driftwood that night we decided to start a bonfire. The normal glaze in the eyes staring into the fire with typical laughs and mindless conversation is what filled the evening, we always had fun. We engaged in the usual exaggerated story telling and jokes. Further into the night and more than a few beers into our bromance, Jof began talking about the great qualities of someone in the group. He was, in essence, honoring this person – in the magic of the moment others stepped in and did the same. This honoring went around the camp fire one by one. It was so unexpected almost magical – antithetical to the normal digs and bashing everyone typically received in those days. It was by all accounts this single event that spawned the deeper purpose of the future TGT.
During our time at the Eaton Street Funhouse, we always made little weekend adventure surf trips. They were unofficially the start of what became The Guys Trips. We would pack up our boards on weekends and head from Santa Cruz to Big Sur. We did this regularly but even Big Sur, in all its glory, wasn’t enough for our adventuring spirits. Lack of money kept us close to home but the search for surf without crowds motivated us to travel farther. We mostly traveled around California and Baja in those early years. It was close and cheap enough for our budgets.
As we aged, got married and our careers grew, the frequency of our trips reduced as we wrestled with life’s commitments. The early days of no ties to anything slipped, and gave way to the responsibilities of adulthood. Trying to keep our little trips together became a challenge.
One of the guys would make some calls or send an email to the group with a great trip idea only to receive lukewarm enthusiasm. A suggested adventure would trigger a myriad of varying suggestions. If someone didn’t like the location they would offer up another and that too would be cautiously critiqued. The reasons were many but usually someone wouldn’t have the money or just couldn’t get the time off. In the end many would lose enthusiasm and choose to simply stay home. There seemed to be no way to make the destination, timing and activities line up for everyone.
Social interaction is a fundamental part of humanity, a building block to our personal health, but it seems to require some structure to work properly. The bottom line is we all want social interaction and great friendships to grow, but changes in life simply make it hard to maintain. Our little group was a testament to this fact. After years of push and pull and missed opportunities, a change was coming. What was the simple secret that helped us continue to build new and maintain old friendships? Commitment, with a little law and order baked in.
On a trip to Troncones, MX in 2004, the masterpiece was unveiled – an idea incarnate, created by Rob n Bob. A ceremony that combined honoring of a single person with the help of a sacred object that was imbued with spirit and a godlike aura (not really). This object was a secret, humble box filled with historic significance (actually historic significance would fill the box into the future). If you chose to partake in the sacred ceremony you would seal your commitment to attend these trips and commit to building a lifelong membership with the others. This was not a cult. You weren’t obligated to return the next year or ever, unless you were chosen, and agreed to be the “Honored Mate”.
As Honored Mate it is your responsibility alone to be the single and sole controller of all travels for the next year. A monarch of sorts who chooses the destination and creates the agenda for one single year. Likewise, by the virtues granted in membership, through partaking in the ceremony, the rest of us are obligated to honor and support the Honored Mate in those decisions. Oh the pain and glory of being the Honored Mate. On one hand you can choose any destination you want and on the other it’s hard work. You are the alpha for a year but the servant to all. What a humbling combination that is … once chosen there is no way out … for one year. There’s one other little piece to the puzzle. It is the Honored Mate who has the sole power to designate the following years Honored Mate. Ouch!
The TGT ceremony was a surprise and it has worked flawlessly. The old struggle of finding a destination compatible to all was over. The old friendships, and new ones are growing stronger every year. People have a desire to join and be a part of something – to belong. Perhaps you and your friends are at that place, that tipping point where current challenges are taking over and the past good times slowly fading. Don’t let it happen! Life is short and the reward we have experienced from the continual investment in new and the old relationships can not be emphasized enough. The yearly trips have become highlights in our lives as our bonds grow stronger. We wait eagerly each year for the Honored Mate to announce their chosen destination knowing we get to enjoy one another and the vacation as it’s provided … maybe praying just a bit, that we’re not chosen to be the next Honored Mate (it’s a lot of work). Oh the glory and the pain of strengthening relationships!
What is the ceremony?
Ceremonies often conjure up memories of momentous occasions like a baby dedication, bar Mitzvah, weddings, graduations, even funerals – and an endless list of others, surrounded by all the typical pomp and circumstance. These ceremonies can be a once in a lifetime experience never to be forgotten, and they can also be difficult to detail and even appreciate unless you were there. Old home videos and photographs help recall, but it can’t recreate, especially for someone who wasn’t there.
What started out as a few good friends gathering around a fire on the beach back in 1984, led to a collaboration of ideas and eventually became “The Guys Trip,” often referred to as “TGT.” TGT loosely started as an alibi to surf and remain connected each year. As time passed, the TGT traditions evolved and became as important as beer on long hot summer days.
While not everyone in the TGT family is a surfer, we all share common bonds that create inseparable connections. We are a brotherhood that celebrate bonds each year with a trip that officially kicks off with “The Ceremony.”
Shortly after everyone arrives on a new trip, the anticipation for the ceremony is palpable. Commencement cannot be avoided and everyone gathers for the big event. The Case clearly outlines the ceremonial process:
The large, dated, and awkwardly heavy TGT Case is an important tradition that archives who and what TGT is. Just some of The Case contents include, shot glasses that carry the initials of each TGT brother (who has been on no less than five TGT trips), The ceremony rules and procedures, plaques of all HMs, a journal of yearly attendee signatures, traditions, vessels for the local hooch, the dial of doom, receipts of extravagant and expensive feasts in far away lands, TGT t-shirts, and so much more. Hidden deep within the case – beyond the map, old beer koozies, and the vile of salt-water surf from years past, are memories captured on video and photos. The case is a time capsule holding our treasures, and memories of young guys getting older but living life to its fullest.
During the ceremony, the new HM is honored by his TGT brothers. Nothing is off the table, and each of us take the proverbial soap box mantle to share what specifically makes them special. The evening is always filled with laughter and memories from the treasured past. The new HM is properly respected for the duration of the trip. They now carry the privilege and heavy burden of choosing where we’ll all be going the next year, and what the itinerary will be. The ceremony and celebration carry on, typically into the wee hours of the morning, setting the week off on the proper trajectory.
The details of the ceremony may appear like a secret society but what has evolved resembles more of what we all need and want; a place to belong, to be ourselves, to be reminded how precious life is, and how lucky we really are. TGT is not an annual frat party with some outlandish initiation. TGT makes us better husbands, better fathers, better business owners, better employees, and the best versions of who we want to be.
More recently we have gathered not just for TGT, but also for funerals and our kid’s weddings. We’re not getting any younger, but our regrets are few.
I personally wasn’t there in the very beginning, but I am grateful to have been invited and now to be included among the greatest guys in the world. I’m thankful to be part of something bigger than just me.
What is the Honored Mate (HM) and what are their responsibilities?
The new HM is person selected by the current HM during the ceremony – passing the baton for the planning of the next year’s adventure. In order to be eligible to be chosen you must have attended a minimum of five “TGT” gatherings. It doesn’t have to be consecutively as long as there is not and absence rate greater than five years. Generally, someone is chosen who has not been the HM for awhile – but not necessarily, there can always be a twist.
The future HM is selected by the current HM usually on the first or second evening of a trip during the HM ceremony. Upon the announcement of the “future” HM there’s a ritual celebration where the future HM is praised (honored) with past stories, memories, experiences, that illustrate admiration and/or love for the new HM. This celebration is the most important time during “TGT” because it’s a moment in time to show your appreciation, gratitude and love – strengthening the bonds or connective tissues that tie everyone together.
The HM is responsible for selecting, planning, coordinating, budgeting and creating the itinerary for the trip. We found that having one person plan all aspects of the trip/excursion eliminates indecision. After a few months the HM has usually taken care of all leg work and is ready to announce the upcoming destination. The HM will announce the location and the trip costs (transportation, lodging, excursions, as well as rough fees for tips, guide service, etc). They also provide several date options so the collective can determine what works best for all.
Side Note: When the HM is selecting a trip he/she should consider a few key factors:
- Where – choose somewhere you want to go. There is no pressure to accommodate, this is your year. Be a bit selfish, this is your trip to choose!
- Time – select a time of year that generally works for a majority of the group. We find that February – May works best for us.
- Cost – This can be a challenge…. If you want more members to attend, then budget accordingly, if money isn’t an issue, go big! We tend to go big every few years, then swing back to a budget destination. Remember, TGTis about reconnecting with buddies who don’t see each other as often and while the trip selection is important, the most important factor is camaraderie and building lasting memories.
- Announcement – The earlier the better! We tend to announce ~six months before the trip. This allows for the boys to plan, budget and talk plenty of smack. If you delay much more, attendance and stoke will suffer.
The good, the bad and the ugly
To be selected the Honored Mate you know you have reached the pinnacle of your experience with the TGT Group. This does not mean its down hill from there. It’s like your are now a true member of the TGT Clan. If memory serves me correctly you need to have been on at least 5 trips. I remember being chosen by Wyatt Wolfe while in Alaska and was overwhelmed with the recognition.
The Good: AS HM you are the center of the conversation that evening where the others share their thoughts about you. I always thought it would be interesting to hear what people would say after I am gone and what they really think about me. Well this gives you a window into what that might be like and it’s a real special time. In the hustle and bustle of life we tend not to take the time to reflect on our lives and friends. This, I believe, is the core benefit for the entire group and what the TGT trips are truly about. As HM you have full authority over the next TGT destination and the experiences for all those that attend.
The Bad: As honored mate you are in charge of next year’s trip. You choose the location, time and arrange and all the details while also trying to keep costs down as much as possible. It’s important to organize a fun and interesting trip to help create future memories. Getting a group of 8 to 15 guys can be a scheduling nightmare. You simply can’t pick a date that is good for everyone, but you still need to pick a date that works for the majority. The date is also contingent on the destination. For example, the trip I scheduled (Grand Canyon Rapids/Las Vegas 2015) had to be booked in season and at least 9 months in advance. While on the trip you take on a quasi fatherhood position. You have to keep all the adult aged children (TGT Mates) happy and focused on the scheduled activities. Sometimes it’s like herding cats.
The Ugly: The only real downside, and what I feel is a “right of passage,” is that you are now in charge of The Case. You must keep track of our beloved case for the rest of the trip. This also means the HM packs it up and then returns safely home with it. The TGT case is heavy and it’s an additional piece of luggage that it will cost a bit more if you are traveling by airline. Lugging the TGT Case around is NO easy task and it must remain in your possession until the next trip. Until then, it is your responsibility to keep it safe and make any needed repairs necessary.