Happy Birthday to Me!

Friday, December 5th was my birthday. Not just another day, but a day to celebrate life—a life of abundance! Exactly a year prior, I woke up in Swaziland where I volunteered at a Christmas party hosted by Children's Cup. This year, I woke up to Chemex coffee and a home-cooked breakfast then got ready to go to the first Christmas party YEBO Life has ever been a part of. The amount of ground our organization has covered in six months is a testimony to God's calling on our lives, and spending my birthday with 3 to 6 year-olds has become a tradition that I hope sticks.

Just when I thought my morning had been "made" by a big, delicious meal, Julie slipped me an envelope. I opened it and this is what it read: "On December 17th at 10 a.m. you're going on a SUPERCAR DRIVING EXPERIENCE at Killarney Racing Circuit." Yew! I'll get to take my pick from a Ferrari F430, Lamborghini Gallardo, Nissan GTR, Porsche GT3 or McLaren MP4-12C and haul it around a racetrack. What more could a man ask for? 

YEBO Life was accompanied by eight volunteers at the Christmas party. The entire thing was a huge success, and we're so thankful for those who took time out of their day to invest in the lives of the children.

At 2 p.m. Julie and I arrived back at home and had lunch in our pebbled courtyard that overlooks Noordhoek's grandiose mountains. We watched massive birds of prey soar through the sky as we enjoyed cheese, bread, olive oil and sunshine. Then, I was about to indulge in an afternoon nap when my family pulled up. My sister Lauren, who later gave me a tear-jerker of letter tagged with a "Tony the Tiger" sticker, flew in from Mossel Bay to celebrate my day with me! I was so stoked to spend some quality time with them. For the first time in five years, my entire family was together for my birthday.

Without even realizing, the day had come and gone, and it was time for a wonderful dinner with my wife. On the menu were our choice pizzas, blueberry cheesecake and a bottle of 2011 Cabernet Shiraz blend that we'd purchased during a previous trip to Franschhoek. The day had been a long one, and we barely made it through dinner without falling asleep.

"Babe, wake up. You've got to get ready."

"What time is it?" (thinking it was around 8 a.m.)

"It's 5:25. You have to get up and get ready."

"Huh?" (very confused)

"Here, open this." The envelope read, "My Love."

Dear Tony,

Today we celebrate 25 years of your wonderful life, and I want you to know how much I love you. You're so special to me. For your birthday, I'm sending you on a surprise scavenger hunt to do some of your favorite things with your closest mates. Your bag is packed and ready to go at the front door where you'll find your first clue for the day.

Your wife,

I moseyed my way to the front door and opened Clue #1.

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Long Beach, of course. And I knew only one person that would be up at that time of the morning: the down-home country, Nashville-born and bred Taylor Nash. I arrived at the beach at 6 a.m. on the dot, and there he was, champing at the bit to charge the backend of a storm swell—three meters high with close to 5,000 kilojoules of power. It was on.

We timed our paddle out, and by the grace of God, we found ourselves breathless on the back line within a few minutes. After sitting out a few sets, it was time to get in the game. And there it came: the prize. The bomb set had rolled through, and somehow, I was the only one left to take the last wave. A gift! 

I paddled into a wave so big that I screamed like a banshie then double-clawed down the face of what turned out to be my favorite ride of the year. At the same time, Taylor was paddling back out and gave me a good ole rebel yell when I skipped past him like a stone, smooth on water. It was unbelievable. I felt very alive. What a way to kick off the day! 

7:45 a.m. came quick, and it was time to open Clue #2.

Clue 2

Surely, my brother. The little sneak had mentioned that he was sleeping over at friend's house the night before, a friend who happens to live minutes from Espresso.kom, one of my favorite coffee shops. I could see that Chase wasn't into early morning breakfasts, but he soon got into the swing of things! We had such a fantastic time together catching up on life, speaking about our futures, googling a few Etsy shops, and basking in each other's stoke. 

Time with my brother is always priceless, and I'm so glad I got to share those quality moments with him. After breakfast, we had some time to kill and decided to head back down to Long Beach to watch the Western Province Champs surf contest. The waves had dropped off since 6 a.m., and all of a sudden, it was time to open Clue #3.

Clue 3

"Justin or Derek," I thought to myself. Cecilia Forest or Silvermine Nature Reserve, I just wasn't sure. Luckily, Julie had written the answers to her clues on the back of each card… just in case I struggled to figure them out. I took a peak, and Cecilia Forest it was!

I flew over the Ou Kaapse Weg mountain range with my arm out the window, howlin' to some of Kenny Chesney's greatest hits. I even stopped on the side of the highway to open the boot (aka the trunk) to get out the biltong snacks that Julie had packed for me then headed on to Cecilia. The trail running machine himself, Justin Rowles, pulled in behind me. It was on… again!

I begged him not to run me up the mountain, so we embarked on an awesome hike into our favorite forest instead! We meandered along the river then headed north to a lookout point where we sat and reminisced on the times we'd had and on the plans that lie before us. We made it back to our vehicles with 30 minutes to spare, which meant only one thing—time for a quick dip in our old high school pool!

I was able to cool off and wash up before getting into one of the changes of clothes that Julie had packed for me. My stomach was starting to grumble, and it was time to open Clue #4.

Clue 4

Sushi it was! Food Lovers Market was only about 10 minutes away, and I was sure that I would be meeting one of the groomsmen from my wedding, Derek Sackville-Scott. Sure enough, there he was, waiting at a table for me when I arrived. I was delighted to see that smile! Lunch came together perfectly with a Castle Light and two platters of sushi. Veggie pieces first, then crab and tuna, and the best for last, salmon fashions and roses. (I'm getting hungry just writing about it!)

Derek is one of my best mates, and we've walked through too many memories to mention. From J-Bay with Uncle Phil to late night cups of tea to pre-sunrise trail runs through the Cape, we've done a lot together, and we can always shoot one another straight. After catching up and having many uncontrollable laughs, it was time to open my final clue. Clue #5.

Clue 5

This one was obvious. Two of the biggest guys I know: Matthew Raubach and Charlton Kirk, and I was definitely meeting them at Virgin Active in Constantia, our old stomping ground. It had been over a year since I'd stepped into a gym, and I was stoked to get my sweat on. Unfortunately, Charlton, being the boytjie that he is, got a terrible sunburn the day before and wasn't able to handle the sweltering sauna. So it was up Matt and me against the world!

We decided to do a pre-sauna warm up in the gym. Looking back, I wish I went straight to the sauna. As I sit here writing this blog, my arms are literally stuck in 90 degree angles. I'm so sore that I can't sleep through the night. Trust me, I'm in desperate need of some anti-inflammatories. But as you know, boys will be boys and a "little warm up" never turns out to be little. I was so glad to finish off my amazing day with Matt. He's one of the most loyal people I know!

After our gym escapade, Matt and I headed to my parents' house where I was met by 13 other family members and friends. We enjoyed time together around a scorching-hot braai fire, prepared some quality meat, laughed a ton, and shared an amazing evening. The party was topped off with Julie's southern gem of a dessert—banana pudding. The entire bowl was devoured in minutes, and many people are still waiting for that recipe!

My birthday weekend was incredible. I want to thank everyone who played a role in making it happen, and most of all, I want to thank my amazing wife who spent six weeks planning it. I can't believe how much Julie loves and supports me. I definitely don't deserve her, but I'm thankful that God was graceful enough to give her to me… to share with her a life of passion and adventure.