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Commentary: Tom Newby And The Honor Of Not Wasting Time

Today on the San Joaquin/Sacramento River Delta in Northern California, a group of performance-boat owners is giving rides to veterans. Dubbed Veterans Day On The Delta and started in 2013 by Dale Rayzor of Discovery Bay, it is one of countless events happening today in remembrance of those we lost on September 11, 2001, and—at least in the case of the Veterans Day On The Delta happening—those we’ve lost defending this great land of ours.

Tom Newby understood the value of time and lived his too-short life accordingly.

I was supposed to be in Discovery Bay this morning, but instead I am supporting a September 11 remembrance event a couple of miles from my home in Napa. This is my community and I need to be here. But I’ll be thinking about Rayzor and my other friends in Discovery Bay who are using their time to do something wonderful this morning.

Time is our most precious commodity, right? It cannot be replenished or replaced.

That was something I learned from Powerboat magazine photographer Tom Newby, who was all of 50 years old when he died 14 years ago today in a helicopter accident. Newby had a lot of rules—hell, he came with a damn manual—but one of his favorites was, “Don’t waste time sitting in your hotel room when you’re on the road and have downtime. Go out and do something you can’t do at home.”

That fine, life-affirming rule led me to go mountain biking with new friends in Vermont last month two days before the Lake Champlain Poker Run. It was the same rule that had me catching kingfish off Florida’s Emerald Coast with Newby in the late 1990s, the same one that had my friend and speedonthewater.com cohort Jason Johnson and Newby catching an Afroman concert (above with their Colt 45 beers) in rural Georgia the night before a tunnel-boat race in 2007.

Not knowing it would become the most iconic photo of his incredible career, Tom Newby captured this photo of powerboats racing on the Hudson River in New York in 2001.

And, OK, it was the same rule that got the Powerboat magazine crew banned from most go-kart tracks in the Lake of the Ozarks area during the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout in the early 2000s.

Newby, as I’ve written before, inhaled life in a way like no one I’ve met before or expect to meet again. He helped teach me the value—strike that, the honor—of not wasting time and being 100-percent present in the moment.

Twenty years ago today, time ran out for more than 3,000 innocent people murdered in New York City. Fourteen years ago, time ran out for one of Johnson’s and my most cherished friends.

The highest honor I can pay all of them—the highest honor we can pay all of them—is not wasting time.

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