Just over a week ago we lost our great mate Chris James.
Chris was the third member of our paddling team, and with his paddling skills forged in the heat of heaving seas & crunching surf, his attention to detail and endless reserves of optimism we had pulled off a couple of memorable trips, and had many more in the pipeline.
Chris was an incredible guy, fit & strong, a technician on the water of the highest order, and a mentor to so many paddlers. He was one of those rare people who'd take on a new challenge with relish, immerse himself in it, only happy when he'd well & truly conquered it, and then use the experience gained to build on the next big idea. And man did he have some big ideas.
His brilliant entrepreneurial skills had seen him establish a long line of successful businesses, always working away on some new deal or plan, seeking out that elusive win-win point where everyone could walk away happy. Our trip meetings were often held at one of his beautiful restaurants, where as Rob pointed out in his touching eulogy to Chris at his funeral, we would bemuse Sydney's glitterati as we spread out nautical charts across a vacant banquet table and debated plans over a cold beer or three.
He was a great Dad to his little girls Kasey, Darcy & Lucy and his eyes shone when he spoke of his beloved soul mate & wife Sally.
We shared the modern affliction of busy business & family lives, & I considered Chris to be the bloke who had best managed to find the balance that we all seek. I've reflected on the way he went about things & realise that there is nothing wrong with seeking excellence in anything you do, it seemed to be the way Chris naturally attacked life. He was the kind of guy you just wanted to be like.
Rob & I shared some unforgettable moments with Chris & we are both devastated by his loss, so unfairly in the absolute prime of his life. I wrote about him after our One Degree paddle earlier this year 'the next time I paddle anywhere with him I'm going to sneak some Kryptonite into his day hatch. That'll stop him…!' My lasting memory of that day was the final couple of hours where we were getting belted by breaking seas in the dark, after more than 100km of paddling. Chris started to laugh as one by one we'd get our go at being swept sideways by a hissing wave, and something that was probably quite grim suddenly became a bit of a boys game of roulette. It was typical Chris, a man who thrived on the idea of consequences and lived life as an adventure.
We have shed too many tears over the past few days, too many for a guy like Chris anyway who would be looking at us a bit annoyed to have caused such a fuss, and doubtless be willing us back out to the sea.
Farewell Chris James, we promise to keep up the adventure.