My last article on RDP was for the Long Beach Sprint Nationals. If you read it, you’ll know that the weekend didn’t necessarily have a happy ending. It turned tragic when our friend, Greg Duff, was critically injured in an accident on the first turn of the second race of Sunday morning.
At that time, I was informed to believe that while he had suffered serious, even life-altering injuries, he was going to make it. Sadly, on August 15 we were notified that he did not. On that day, Greg was removed from life support where his body ceased to support itself after only 10 minutes. On that day, the boat racing community lost a hero.
Simply writing these words floods me with deep feelings of sadness. Greg Duff was a kind and gentle soul off the course, and a fire-breathing dragon while on it. Anyone that knew Greg has a story to tell of his fun loving, generous nature and willingness to help anyone who crossed his path in need. And those same people would also warn you of his tenacity in a race boat. How else could you explain his back-to-back 2016 and 2017 World Championships with his team, Dark Horse Racing?
Last weekend was Greg’s celebration of life – a gathering of family and friends from all aspects of his life – which was held at the Dark Horse Racing shop in San Clemente, CA. Greg spent most of his waking hours outside of work at that shop tinkering with his race boats, so it was a fitting place to gather in his memory. The last time I was there, in May of this year, he was showing us his new K-Boat and let us sit in the cockpit to get a feel for it. I could never have guessed I’d be writing this story just a few months later.
Greg’s sister, Carrie Ann, his parents, his girl friend, Sierra, along with John and Laurie at Dark Horse Racing did an amazing job putting the celebration together. With an estimated turnout of approximately 350 people, it was clear that Greg was loved. From friends, family and fellow racers, to team members, sponsors and even his employer, there wasn’t a seat nor a dry eye left in the house. It was a beautiful celebration for a guy that touched so many lives. Mine included. How my image came to memorialize his life, I'll never know. But I am truly honored.
Was I a close friend of Greg’s? Well, no. Not as close as so many of the others in attendance. But every time I saw him – whether in the pits, at the shop or at a bar celebrating a win – that big “Hey Buddy!” smile I got when I walked up never would have let me know it.
By all accounts, Greg was a hero to his close friends and family. But as in life, Greg proved to also be a hero in death. In a surprise revelation even to some of his family, Greg had at some point become an organ donor. Within minutes of his passing his organs were rushed to hundreds of other patients in need – including his own cousin who was in desperate need of a kidney. Yes, Greg was a match, and in an ironic twist of fate, saved his own cousin’s life.
Hero’s come in many forms to many different people. But on August 15th 2018, this hero rode out on his Dark Horse wearing number 640, still changing lives in his wake.
Race in peace, buddy. You will be missed.
Special thanks to my good friends, Scott Shanklin ( @stryderphoto ) and Daren Van Ryte ( @OCphotographics ) for their photo contributions to make this video. They were very good friends with Greg and have been deeply affected by his loss.
Fast Loud Photography