When you’re using Tinder, it’s a small victory to get a match to respond to your first message, unless of course she’s one of those bots that directs you to a prostitution site. It’s a medium-sized victory when she agrees to meet you in real life and she actually looks like she does in her photos. And the championship is when you bone her and/or enter some sort of romantic relationship, depending on your Tinder endgame, of course.
Clayton Wood, 34, pulled off the Tinder Triple Crown with his now-girlfriend, Alina Trigubenko, a 25-year-old producer and Russian native who lives in Los Angeles. This is a pretty positive story about how Tinder can bring people together. Which is something of a rarity when it comes to Tinder. You tend to hear more about the awful experiences so many have had using the app. Like the awful Tinder date I had with a woman who works in my building. (The less said about that, the better.)
What makes Wood’s story interesting is the way he achieved his endgame, which is much different than how your or me or pretty much anyone else we know goes about it.
He took his match on a first date. To Tel-Aviv.
This happened approximately one hour after they met face-to-face.
At an airport.
And the date lasted two weeks.
You can’t make this shit up. Seriously. When Wood first told me the story, I was somewhat skeptical, and so was my editor. It seemed too good to be true, like something from a rom-com—though I admit my jaded views on love and gut-level hatred of Tinder may have been a factor. Wood and Trigubenko showed me screenshots of their early conversations and the flight bookings and trip information. Their story looks legit.
Wood, a marketing director and brand expert, spent the past few years living and working in the Philippines. When he moved back stateside to San Francisco, he did what most single dudes do when they enter a new area—he fired up Tinder.
But Wood went about it differently than most. He set out to hack it the best he could to get what he was looking for while exerting a minimal amount of effort.
First, he decided to base his search in the Los Angeles area, specifically because there are a lot of good-looking women in LA.
Then he shelled out the $9.99 monthly charge to subscribe to Tinder Premium, the recently released iteration of the app that allows you to “like” as many women as you want. Then he downloaded Flamelite, which is a Chrome plug-in that enables you to automatically like all of the women in your area. This is a pretty cool idea, because to be even moderately successful on Tinder you have to cast a wide net.
From the pool of matches, Wood sent one of three template messages, all of which said a few things about himself and asked each woman if she’d like to get together. He then followed up with respondents whose answers he liked.
It seems like a strange way to find love, because it is, but love is inherently strange. The last time I fell in love it started with me sending a Facebook message to a woman telling her I thought she had good taste in music because we were both heavy into Jack’s Mannequin. That relationship changed my life.
When Wood’s system got him a match with Trigubenko, he found he really liked what he saw. Instead of sending her a generalized message, he started a legitimate dialogue.
Trigubenko said she decided to respond to Wood’s introductory message because he was handsome and his profile didn’t include any gym or restroom selfies or any pictures with babies.
“I was like, ‘There’s something about him,’ and when we started to chat he made all the right points,” she said. “Everything was 100 percent spot-on.”
“In our first couple of minutes talking, it went, for me, way beyond, ‘Hey, she’s hot.’ I could tell there was a lot of substance there, that she had a brain,” Wood said.
I suppose this is how most successful Tinder discussions begin. The guy reaches out. The girl is vaguely warm for his form. They message back and forth a little bit and then they meet for drinks or a quick bang or whatever.
So, why deviate from that format? Why would you want to meet someone for the first time at an airport and have your first date be an international trip that lasts a fortnight?
Well, they had been messaging back and forth a lot over a period of a couple weeks, and Wood was hoping to make a trip to Los Angeles to meet Trigubenko. But their schedules weren’t matching up, and Wood was due in Israel to speak at a digital marketing group event.
“It was going to be a few weeks before we were going to be able to meet, and I didn’t want to wait that long,” said Wood. “So I said to my roommate, ‘What should I do? Should I invite her?’ And he said to go for it, that the worst she would say was no.”
As you may have guessed, Trigubenko didn’t immediately say yes to Wood’s proposal. It took some convincing, as is to be expected when a stranger asks you to travel overseas. He had to convince her she’d be safe, and they had to come up with a contingency plan for if they didn’t end up liking each other.
“I said if we didn’t like each other we would just have a nice vacation and then both go home after that,” Wood said. “We had a couple of phone conversations before we booked her flight, because that’s something you have to talk with someone about a few times. We had a strong connection verbally, I think, and eventually she was like, ‘OK, let’s do it.’”
Trigubenko flew to San Francisco International and waited to meet Wood. When he arrived, she experienced the opposite of what so many of us have experienced when it comes to online dating. She found him to be more attractive than his pictures had led her to believe.
“I was sitting there in my black dress waiting for some guy to appear, and I already knew he was super charming, and I was like ‘Oh, god, he looks amazing—there has to be something wrong with him, something weird,’” Trigubenko said. “I was actually texting my girlfriends saying that I was pretty sure he was going to have some sexual problems, because it seemed too good to be true.”
Wood said the first meeting went smoothly, but that the trip to Israel was kind of weird. They had about an hour to get to know each other before boarding the flight, and since they’d booked Trigubenko’s ticket just a few days before the trip, they hadn’t been able to find seats next to each other.
“So we were on this 12-hour flight sitting in totally different seats, and I was worried the whole time that she was going to freak out, that she was going to think she made a mistake,” he said.
Trigubenko wasn’t freaking out, but she did have a contingency plan for if her date/vacation ended up being awful. She’d checked into flights from Tel-Aviv to LAX and was ready to buy a ticket and get the hell out if things didn’t go well.
When the plane touched down, the real marathon date began.
Wood realized upon entering his Tel-Aviv hotel room that he’d booked a hotel with just one bed, because his arrangements had been made when he thought he was traveling solo. He didn’t know how Trigubenko would react to this because it could be construed as a forward move—insofar as any move can be considered forward in the context of this relationship—but she rolled with it, and they slept side-by-side from the first night on.
It took Wood a while to make a move, though.
“I was like, ‘I’m not going to fuck this up. I’m going to play it cool and stay on my side of the bed,’” he said.
Trigubenko found this a little strange, and it didn’t do much to allay her anxiety about the possibility that Wood either had a sexual problem or was into some really funky business. But ultimately, after five days, they banged one out, and there was nothing abnormal about it (that she revealed to me, anyway).
She says that although she found his approach odd at first, it made her respect Wood more in the long run.
There are a lot of interesting facets to this story, of course, and they extend way beyond what Tinder can do for someone who is looking for a partner. I was interested in what Trigubenko and Wood thought traveling together to get to know each other had done to create and ultimately solidify their relationship. I mean, they were moving pretty quickly in comparison to my standards. It’s only been a few months, and they’ve been professing their love for each other for a while. It’s disgusting, really.
They both say that having the guts to go on a trip together immediately was a fantastic idea and that it expedited the development of their relationship, a relationship that may not have happened otherwise. I asked them what they foresaw in a scenario where Wood had gone on his trip and had been unable to meet for another few weeks.
“[The relationship] might have happened, but in a different dynamic. I would have had my walls up, for sure, so it would have taken so much longer. I don’t know when we would have gotten the chance to open up at the level we did. I don’t know how long that would have taken if we had met in Los Angeles…but right away, I was able to see him from a very right and real perspective. It was definitely a smart move,” said Trigubenko.
Said Wood, “Spending this much time together really helped us skip a lot of time. We didn’t have to pretend and play all the social roles that come with the first few dates or the very beginning of most relationships.”
Since they’ve started dating, Wood and Trigubenko have continued traveling. They each still live in San Francisco and Los Angeles, so they travel back and forth to be together when they can, and they’ve gone to other destinations in California, like Mt. Shasta.
When I interviewed them, it was via phone, because they were in Tokyo.
Next up is a trip to Moscow so Wood can check out Trigubenko’s native country.
“We both love to travel, and we like to make bold decisions and go to some unique and strange places, and we’re going to keep doing that,” Wood said.
Now when he lands in a new city, the last thing on his mind is firing up Tinder.