Chris Muller: A Tribute

Tuesday 26 April, 2005

Chris Muller died on 22 April 2005. Hugh Miller pays tribute to a brilliant pilot and a good friend

A video tribute to Chris, featuring paragliding, BASE and kite boarding. Video: DMGlaroc

LAST FRIDAY, Chris Muller died while flying a low-level grab the bag stunt at the end of the Flytec Championships, writes Hugh Miller. The news has left many in the free flying world reeling. Chris was an exceptionally gifted hang gliding and paragliding pilot and a warm, generous, kind soul with maturity well beyond those of his 29-years of age.

Chris was an inspiration to me, from the start. Soon after I started flying aged 16 I saw pictures of the fresh-faced Chris in Cross Country, breaking the Canadian record with his Dad Willi, and I thought, “Wow, someone my age who’s a bloody good pilot”.

I first met Chris in 94 when I was travelling the world, working the Australian hang gliding nationals in Hay as a tow and retrieve pilot for some quick cash. We were both 19-year-old kids, but while I was the geeky teenager, unsure of myself around so many ’famous’ pilots, he carried the air and confidence of a much wiser man.

While playing pool I was moaning about one of the snotty pilots I was driving for. I then defended his behaviour, saying he was a top pilot. Chris swigged his beer, shrugged his shoulders and said, “you can be world champion, but if you’re a dick, you’re still a dick”. I envied his self-assuredness among our older peers, but it was backed up with humility and a sharp sense of irony and self-effacing humour.

In fact the man was a rack of charm and wit. Turning up to rain at the 1997 paragliding worlds, he greeted Jocky Sanderson and myself by gesticulating at the leaden skies and pouring rain and enquiring with his broad Canadian accent, “Hey, what’s with the MONSOON!”. It’s a phrase Jocky and I still laugh at today.

While he possessed the talent of a champion, Chris never really took competitions seriously: he raced hard, often a speck way out in front of the rest of us, and he took his bomb-outs in his stride, laughing at himself in the bar later in the evenings. Consistent results or having fun? This was never a question Chris wasted a second thinking about.

To be honest, I was always in such awe of Chris’s superhuman stature I often felt quite shy in his presence, and it wasn’t until we met again in the 2001 paragliding worlds that we really clicked. He helped Matt Taggart, Pete Brinkeby, Kiwi Johnston and myself throw an impromptu party, and after wrestling drunk Norwegians out of the bar and cleaning up after Hans Bollinger’s little tantrums (yep, that party was quite a success), we continued the party three days straight, driving over to Algodanales to join the fiestas at the closing night of the hang gliding worlds, then onto Tarifa to go kitesurfing. Chris was psyched on life and just made every day shine.

My heart goes out to Chris’s mother Vincene and his many close friends and family in the flying community and beyond. I am utterly gutted that Chris is no longer with us, but one thing is for sure: Chris would want nothing more than happiness, a 20,000 ft cloudbase and endless good times for the rest of us. Mourn his passing by paying your respects: fly your tiny brain out this summer.

-Hugh Miller

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