Turf n Surf 2019

by Thomas Johnson

The Toyota Land Cruiser Association (TLCA) has been bringing Toyota 4×4 enthusiasts together internationally since January of 1976. For 43 years, people have been gathering at TLCA events around camp fires, swapping stories, some true, some embellished, about land cruisers they have built, or wheeling trips of the past. Old friends reunite, and new friendships are kindled. No matter where you come from, as long as you have a passion for Toyota 4x4s, you will always have a spot by the fire.

One of the main staple events hosted annually is the Turf-N-Surf event at Pismo Beach, on the central coast of California. Traditionally held over Veteran Day’s weekend, this event unites all cruisers, both bone stock and built to the max, in a weekend of friendly wheeling through the dunes. This event has been continuously hosted by the Central Coast Land Cruisers, a chapter of the TLCA.

In 2002, famous Land Cruiser personality Pismo Jim hosted the first “Surf N’ Turf” event. It started with him calling some friends and inviting them to Pismo for a cookout and some dune wheeling. 9 vehicles showed up. From humble beginnings, the event has grown to hundreds of vehicles, and certain key events- the group photo, the poker run through the dunes, the infamous dune jump competition, the light parade at night, and other key events.

This was my first year attending it. As a new member attending, I went into it with a fresh and open mind. Dune wheeling is not my forte. If given the choice, I’ll always pick rock crawling over anything else. However, I’ll never turn down a chance to gather with like-minded people, all united by our love of Land Cruisers and other classic Toyota 4x4s.

I should note that I attended this as a passenger. The following testimonial is my persona experience, as seen through the eyes of me. While I do have a 60 series Land Cruiser that I love wheeling, I decided to take the train from Oceanside CA and link up with friends who were already there.

Saturday morning started with breakfast and coffee cooked over the fire. While some focused on cooking, others were either recovering from the night before (hanging out with fellow 4×4 enthusiasts can be hard work) or prepping their rig for the day’s activities. The day started with a group photo with all the rigs lined up together on the dunes. I mean, come on- you can’t have a car meet of any kind without lining up all the vehicles for a group photo! Following the group photo, everyone took off in different directions for the poker run. Our crew consisted of 3 Land Rover Defenders, and a fj40. Loaded down with friends and kids, we all took off, peeling our eyes for the checkpoints. All of our vehicles became separated, and what started as a group effort quickly became an “every rig for itself” ordeal.

The phrase “every rig for itself” couldn’t be farther from the truth. FJ40 enthusiast Ben Jacobus (who, by the way, is who invited and hosted me for the weekend) grenaded his rear axle during the poker run. Instead of people focusing on the poker run, people went out of their way to help assess and recover the rig. Now, most people would view a catastrophic break down as a depressing, weekend ruining experience. Not Ben. And not most 4×4 enthusiasts. After assessing the damage, developing a game plan, we decided to drive the broken rig backwards, being that that was the only direction it could drive, back to camp, and continue the festivities.

Following the poker run came the dune jump competition. Everyone lined up to watch, and at first people were hesitant to participate. Everyone wants to watch people jump, but not many want to jump their own vehicles-and rightfully so. Luckily for us, Jeff Kaufman took one for the team, and was one of the first to jump his 80 series. Not just once, not just twice, but multiple times, and shortly thereafter, more rigs, from built dune rigs to bone stock cruisers started jumping, and each jump added more energy to the crowd.

As the sun started to go down, people returned to their camps, hungry, tired, and excited from the full day’s events. Campfires started popping up, both for people to cook on, as well as to keep people warm. As the night went on, the classic light parade began. Trucks were quickly decorated in holiday lights, blow up figures, and all other sorts of decorations and began systematically weaving through camp. Kids who were tired quickly became energized yet again to watch and participate in the parade through camp.

The next morning brought an end to the event for a vast majority of people. While some stayed for more wheeling action, many people packed up camp, said their goodbyes, and hit the road. While no one enjoys leaving these events, the good times and memories are enough to last you until the next event, where you will meet old friends, make new friends, and create more memories.

Until then, air down and push on!

Words & Photos: Thomas Johnson

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