As an action sports athlete, Jeff “Ox” Kargola was a monster on both two and four wheels. The 27-year-old from San Clemente, CA and member of the Metal Mulisha FMX team was on his way to becoming a legendary name in the sport, but was unfortunately taken away by the thing he loved most. On April 29, 2011, Jeff “Ox” Kargola passed away on the second day of the grueling eight-day and 1,376-mile Desert Assassins’ Monster Energy “Rip to the Tip” motorcross event in Baja, CA.
Just weeks before the tragic accident, we were lucky enough to spend the day with Kargola in Joshua Tree, CA shooting his feature. During the few hours we spent with him, it was enough to witness how much of a remarkable guy he truly was. Funny and outgoing off camera but shy in front, there was never a dull moment with him around. Constant jokes and laughs between takes made it clear that “Ox” was still a big kid at heart.
Kargola started riding when he was 12 and became a professional FMX rider at 16. From 2001 to 2010, he competed in Moto X events at X Games (both summer and winter) and at the Winter X Games in 2005, won a silver medal in the “Best Trick” competition for pulling a one-handed, no-footed flip to one-handed, snowy landing. Edged only by fellow Metal Mulisha Brian Deegan, who threw the same trick. Kargola was actually given nickname “Ox” by Cameron Steele’s brother, Grant, which was based on John Candy’s character in the movie Stripes.
Kargola also recently took up racing SuperLite trucks in the Lucas Oil Off-Road Racing Series. Back in April, he won Round 2 of the 2011 series at Firebird Raceway in Chandler, AZ, and was in sixth place overall after only four races in the series. While trucks and bikes were his profession, surfing was his passion, and he was often found in the water as much as he was on land. He was also a popular TV personality and commentator and was the “Big Huckin Chicken” in a Burger King ad campaign that was a huge viral hit.
Despite not being able to finish our interview with “Ox,” we were able to learn more about him through three of his closest friends: Cameron Steele, who was Kargola’s closest mentor; Sunny Garcia, who was often Kargola’s surfing partner; and Ryan Hagy, one of Kargola’s oldest friends.
TECH SPECS: 2008 TOYOTA TUNDRA
TIRES & WHEELS
• General Tires Grabber 35X12.50R18
• 18-inch Method Race Wheels
• ICON Vehicle Dynamics
• Front Remote Reservoir Front Coilover Shocks
• OMEGA Series Secondary Bypass Front Shocks with Remote Reservoirs
• Billet Aluminum Upper Control Arms
• OMEGA Series Bypass Rear Shocks
• 1.5” Lift Rear Expansion Pack Leaf Spring
• Flowmaster Exhaust System
• Injen Cold Air Intake System
• AMP Research retractable steps, bed step & tail gate extender
• Custom-built roof rack with spare tire rack & jack holder
• Expedition One front bumper
• (6) KC – HID floodlights
• (4) KC – floodlight pointed at truck bed
• PPG custom camouflage matte paint job
• 3M matte paint protector on entire truck
• Custom-built bed toolboxes
• Under bed water tank with shower nozzle
• Line-X spray-on bedliner
• WARN M12000 winch
• (2) VIAIR Compressors & (2) 3-gallon air tanks to fill tires
• Custom Black Leather & suede interior with red stitching and “Ox” logos
ENT. & VEHICLE SECURITY SYSTEM
• Viper 5901 alarm
• Whelen siren & PA System
• Chameleon 7-inch headrest monitors with DVD
• Chameleon 10.2 flip-down monitor
• Kenwood DNX6180 head unit with navigation system
• (2 sets) Diamond Audio D-662 component speakers
• (2 sets) Diamond Audio Hex S104 subwoofers
• Custom subwoofer enclosure
• Diamond Audio D-600.4 amplifier
• Diamond Audio D-1000.1 amplifier
• Monster Cable wiring
• (3) U.S. Battery
REMEMBERING JEFF"OX" KARGOLA
Considered to be the most influential person in Kargola’s life and career, Steele is a TV and X Games commentator and personality, desert motorcross and off-road Trophy Truck racer, former FMX rider, as well as part of the Metal Mulisha team. He was also with Kargola when the accident occurred. Steele met Kargola 14 years ago, when he and his wife moved in a new neighborhood and made friends with a group of kids who liked dirt bikes. What started out as a couple of guys from the street turned into a group they affectionately called “The Kids.” Over the years, they’ve all stayed very close; Kargola being the closest. Their bond grew tighter after Steele and his wife, Heidi, supported Kargola when he lost his father while still a kid and mother, just a few years ago.
What are some of your best memories or times with Jeff?
There were a lot of good times from the early years where we road tripped as a group and spent tons of time in the desert. But there are a couple of trips that Jeff and I had some really memorable times.
About eight years ago, we made a trip up to NorCal, and we rode in Coarsegold (near Yosemite) with our good friend Jeremy Carter. The riding wasn’t the absolute best, but the friendship and camaraderie among the group was really awesome. Jeff and I continued later in the trip to a surf contest in Santa Cruz and ended up having a really good time just cruising together; the bond between us was growing strong and it was something I really loved.
More recently we made a trip to Cabo San Lucas. It was August and hot out, and we just spent time being slackers. We hung on the beach at Zippers, surfed, hung with some buddies and had a couple sodas. During that trip Jeff, my long time buddy Greg and I went jumping off the rocks in the Cabo bay, which is a special day that I always think of. The photos are on our Facebook pages and it was one of the most epic days ever. We had been planning to make this August trip an annual happening and bring more of our brothers on it.
What type of person was Jeff?
Jeff always had a smile for everyone. He was a bit shy, but no one would have ever known it, as he would just overwhelm everyone with his infectious smile and happiness. Jeff made everyone around him feel special.
What will you miss most about Jeff?
Everything. I miss him smiling and laughing. I miss him heckling me, and I miss our time sitting on the deck doing nothing.
What type of legacy do you think he has left behind?
Jeff made our group tighter and kept us all a family, and he made everyone he met feel special. He leaves a legacy of love and friendship.
Legendary surfer and one of the best in the world, Sunny would often hit the big waves in Hawaii with Jeff by his side. Each shared a love for sand and sea and became close friends throughout their surf and riding trips. Sunny met Jeff through mutual friends at a freestyle show, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that the guys grew close. Sunny admits that he isn’t one to have a lot of friends, but Jeff was one of the most special guys in his life—an everlasting friend that not even death can break.
How would you describe Jeff?
He was a great all-around athlete. He could surf, drive a car, ride—anything you gave that guy he could do. He was one of those guys that could pick up anything. He was so incredible to be around because he was so willing to try anything and everything, which made him so much fun.
What’s your favorite memory of him?
The winter before last, he got hurt pretty bad in Baja and almost died. Right after he had surgery, he wanted to come to Hawaii since it was time for my annual big wave event. He wasn’t supposed to fly, but got on the plane anyways and came out to watch me surf. We hung out and he told me he wanted to try surfing Waimea Bay. Since he was hurt, he obviously couldn’t do it. After that he came back to California and I ended up coming out last August to go riding with him.
Then this past winter, he flew back to Hawaii to see me in the event again, but it got cancelled due to inconsistent waves. He again told me how much he wanted to go out and surf Waimea Bay. I ended up taking him and he was surfing, like, 25-foot waves. It was the real deal and he was mastering it! I just remember him saying how it was one of the best days of his life and that big smile on his face during the remainder of the trip. He loved surfing as much as I love motorcross and that was the common thread that brought us really close together.
What will you remember most about him?
What was an admirable trait of his?
He was truly the guy who lived life to the fullest. He lived every moment. It sounds so cliché, but he really did. I wish I could have spent more time with him. He was truly a great person and an angel.
How do you think he’d want to be remembered?
The Jeff I knew didn’t care about being famous. He just wanted the opportunity to just be great and didn’t want anything more than that. He was a really simple guy with a modest house, drove a truck and was just so humble.
As a Metal Mulisha FMX rider and the VP of Metal Mulisha clothing, Ryan knew Jeff all his life. For the past 10 years, Ryan and Jeff were travel partners for 80 percent of FMX events and they were even stepbrothers at one point (his father was married to Jeff’s mother before she passed away). Both came up in the circuit together, and he was also in Baja when the freak accident happened. “We’re definitely brothers regardless if it’s through marriage, friendship, or blood; he’ll always be family to me,” Ryan emphasized.
Does any one memory of your times together stand out?
We’ve had a lot of great memories together. Too many to count. Our relationship went beyond just riding together. We shared everything with each other. We did all those things that come with having a really strong friendship.
How would you best describe him?
He was kind of shy when he was younger, but really started to come out of his shell in the last couple of years. He’s also the most humble, generous human I’ve ever met. He’d always go out of his way to help others.
Would you say he was just peaking career-wise?
Yeah, he was very hungry to excel in his career. He was doing a bit of everything—riding, racing trucks, and even surfing a lot. He’d go out to Hawaii a lot to surf with Sunny Garcia. He was well on his way to being a pro surfer if he wanted to, too. He was a man of many talents. He accomplished a lot, but he still had a lot left in him. He’ll be missed by all, and I’m just so proud of him.
DUB would like to thank Cameron Steele, Sunny Garcia and Ryan Hagy for providing us with a greater insight into the man Jeff “Ox” Kargola was, especially during the difficult time when all they wanted to do was mourn the loss of their good friend.