-Words by Ryan Divel
One year?.. Really? Just like that..? They say ‘time heals all wounds’, but it still seems pretty fresh to me. My mind flashes back to your memorial surf paddle out. Where hundreds gathered from our hometown and all around to pay their respects to you in our traditional surfing style—paddling out on our boards with leis and prayers. Holding hands in a large circle, joining only a fraction of all the friends you made in your short time here on earth. Flashing farther back we reminisce of some of the great times you helped to create. I guess in the 27 years on this planet, you lived about 10 lives worth of stories and memories, far greater than almost any other 27 year old I know.. Flipping dirt bikes with the Mulisha crew at X-Games.. Surfing Hawaiian mountains of water along side world champion friends.. Pitching the shortcourse truck sideways, ripping fenders off, as you cross the finish line.. Racing high speed, barely on two wheels across the baja desert, in run to a SCORE season title.. Any of these individual memories would be enough to last any person a lifetime. But this was just what happened last month for OX. They say it’s the miles on the odometer, not the year of the car. That’s the kind of go-getter Jeff was. Never took anything for granted and lived life like each day was a gift. Maybe that’s why he connected with so many of us.. So many of us eager to be like Jeff.. Wishing we could just go ahead and DO EVERYTHING we ever wanted to do. Not let anything hold us back—for any reason. Excuses are just that.. F*#KING Excuses. Take a life lesson from someone that really lived life. Every ounce of it. I could go on for hours and pages talking story about everything OX had to offer everyone. All the amazing selfless things he would do for everyone else, for no reason other than that is what was right. But this all really comes down to one thing, and that is motivation. Motivating everyone who knew him personally and everyone else who knew OF him.. Simply put.. …‘LIVE LIKE OX’.
This past weekend I was lucky enough to join a group of riders and friends creating the newly erected memorial site down Mexican highway 3. Huge props have to go out to Steve Martz of Martz Masonry for grabbing the reins and getting this project going. It was fitting for OX, a ‘larger than life’ personality, to get a larger than life memorial 30 feet across complete with polished plaque and time capsule capable of receiving notes and thoughts from well wishers to be read aloud many years from now. Cameron Steele and Johnny Campbell led with words of encouragement, both having to wrestle with inner turmoil of what Baja has given them over so many years, and what it has also taken away.. All agreed sulking in negative thought would not be what Jeff wanted us to do, so classic stories were exchanged and jokes shared of “OX-isms” that brought grins and hoots.
“Five drink minimum!” This infamous OX phrase was on the minds of most as we cut through the desert and into the mountains en route to Mike’s Sky Ranch. This little piece of Baja real estate history harbors more off-roader stories than desert hours to list them, and was the departure spot for OX’s last ride. Lucky for those who come to stay, it harbors a fully stocked bar as well.. The serene mountain terrain far off the beaten path is filled with wildlife making the perfect getaway for some wild-hearted friends to howl out their emotions over some large tequila shots chased with cold Coronas. Don Julio 1942 was Jeff’s favorite.
If you find yourself heading down Baja highway 3 towards San Felipe, take time to see what some great friends have created. Turn off around KM 163 onto the grated dirt road, (about 20 miles before highway turn to San Felpie), head South towards the Diablo dry lakebed, then left underneath the power lines along the race course path across the sand whoops section. Just past the second power pole, out on the north side, sits one of the coolest most meaningful places you can see in all of Baja. Not because of the majestic volcanic mountain in the background.. Not because of the absolute deafening desert silence which forces you to focus on your own thoughts and feelings.. But really because the man memorialized here shares an ironic representation with his own spelled name, symbolizing the love that he brought to so many of us while he was here.. “OX”