I am sad to have to advise our members, past and present, of the untimely passing of one of the Club’s well-loved past member, Christopher (Chris) Pinto.
Chris died on 26 November 2020, aged just 32, as a consequence of a skateboarding accident in Mudjimba on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. I have included a note I received from Chris’s father, Frank, earlier in the month, which also attached his eulogy, which beautifully sets out his testimony to Chris.
For my part, I recall Chris being one of those kids who personifies why we swim and have a community Swim Club like DASC. Chris may not have gone on to compete at the Olympics, but it was at DASC where he squeezed all the juice out of every day, whether it was in the Saturday races, or in squad training with the legendary Norma Gerribo.
His name will be repeated on many of the Club’s trophies.
There was no better memory I have to evidence Chris’ can-do approach than when he swam 204 laps (many more than anybody else) in a swimathon to raise money for the Leukaemia Foundation in 2005. Leukaemia was a known and real threat to the Club’s members at the time, as our favourite member and past president Michael Corry was diagnosed and ultimately lost his life to leukaemia, shortly after the swimathon.
Frank Pinto’s response to my email and his eulogy is set out below:
Thanks for your note. I really appreciate your kind words. It’s very sad and still hard to believe but I know Christopher will always be with me. We spent so much time together and I enjoyed so many experiences with Christopher that he’ll always be in my heart.
Christopher had a great time at Swim Club and he made many good friends and also had great role models from the dad’s and mum’s. People like Michael Corry, Arthur Fogarty, you, Fred, Alan and others who I can picture but can’t remember their names.
They encouraged Christopher and they appreciated how he did his best to improve his swimming and loved being in the club and a team, eg. winning the Sydney Harbour Swim for Drummoyne and also all the beach swims with Evan, Anthony and others.
He took a lot of what he learnt from his friends and their families into his teaching. It was like he played the love and encouragement forward.
Here is Frank’s Eulogy to Chris:
Now I’d like to talk about my best mate Christopher, also known as Ptera to us. I’m going to tell you lots of anecdotes about Christopher so apologies if this is a bit disjointed.
Christopher’s mum called him Pterodactyl when he was a baby (no idea why). We started calling him Ptera (P T E R A) for short and once he started to play soccer people would hear us call out Ptera and they’d think that it was because he was a Red-headed Terror. It was a perfect Aussie nickname as he was the exact opposite of a Terror.
Christopher was born empathetic and we saw it even when he was a toddler. He’d always worry about other kids. I remember one day when he was in Year 1 telling us about a kid that had upset him and then in the next breath he said “but he’s just sad dad”.
Ptera was very social and loved people from an early age and this trait continued for his whole life. I remember when he was 18 months old offering our friend Helen a cup of tea as she was leaving so that she’d stay longer.
Even before he started school Christopher used to come to the school presentation day to watch his sister. Marissa won an award almost every year so she was going to be a hard act to follow. When Chris started school he didn’t win any awards up until Yr 5 and we always felt sorry for him but he couldn’t care less. Then in year 5 he won an award for Library and we were so happy for him. Then he won 1 for Italian and we thought that was great and then we were totally blown away when he was named School captain. He really blossomed in year 6 as school captain.
Christopher wasn’t a natural athlete but once he had a goal he just worked harder than anyone else to achieve it. He followed on from my love of sport and took it even further. I’ve lost count of how many Rugby tests and World Cup Soccer qualifiers and World Cup matches we went to together
He loved his soccer from the first time he played when he was only 4. I was his coach till he was 18. Christopher loved playing but didn’t like to run and didn’t like the fitness work. I tried to push him to get fitter by taking him down the park for extra sessions. I’ve just found out that he told his mum that he used to dread the sound of me opening my sock draw as he knew that we were going to the park and he didn’t want to do these extra sessions. Over the years his fitness came from just playing soccer for fun with his mates and in spite of me. He was a natural coach and was great at it. He even coached his U10 team to a Premiership in only their second season together. In 14 years I didn’t manage that once.
I bought him a little Man Utd Jersey when I went to London for work in 1993 and he became a lifelong Man Utd fan from the age of 5. He loved shit stirring his friends and teachers if they supported anyone else. Even a few weeks ago he was stirring his year 2 kids about state of origin. That was at least until Qld won and then the kids got their revenge. I told his Yr 1 teacher Ms Cremin recently that I think that she is at least partially responsible for Chris’s great ability to shit stir.
Ptera always loved being in a team. At his first swim carnival he swam 50m for the first time and he almost drowned, but he made it. Afterwards he said to me that “I’m never going to do that again”. Then about an hour later they needed someone for the house relays and he volunteered. He was the youngest in the team and the other boys towered over him. He swam so much better in the relay because he didn’t want to let the team down and they ended up winning. I still can picture how proud he was walking with his team after the race.
Christopher started to go to Swim Club and I started taking him to swim squad 3 times a week at 6am. He didn’t really like going to squad at first but I found the magic key to unlock his swimming ability. Some may call it brilliant motivation but it was just plain old bribery and corruption. I promised him $2 for every time that he beat his personal best time and he managed to do it by a little bit so often that he ended up getting $200 from me and bought himself a Walkman. After that year he was self motivated which saved me a lot of money. When he was 16 he ended up winning the U16 Boys Championship and also the Point score Championship. He also did about 10 ocean swims with his mates one summer and his team from Drummoyne Swim Club won the Sydney Harbour Swim Classic. Christopher got us to hang around after the rest of the team went home as he thought they’d done well. He ended up accepting the award for them.
He made lots of great mates at Swim Club and a lot of the Dad’s used to do squad training and they took Christopher under their wing. One of these dad’s was Michael Corry who unfortunately contracted leukaemia so the club organized a Swimathon to raise money for the Leukaemia Foundation. When Christopher found out he said to me that he’d do 200 laps. He ended up doing 204 laps, that’s 10.1 km, and he raised hundreds of dollars in sponsorship. The next closest was 106 laps. At Michael’s wake we overhead lots of people talking about this kid that had swam 200 laps. Little did they know that the chubby kid standing within earshot was the one who did it. We just smiled to each other.
One year he did the swim leg for the Corporate Games Triathlon for Diageo. He was second at the end of his swim leg and he was so proud of himself. After the race he said that on the Pontoon at the start of the race there were all these super fit looking adults who were looking him up and down as if to say “what’s this fat little kid going to do and then I whipped their arse”. He’d never said something like that before. I loved it and I just smiled and did a fist pump on the inside.
His commitment to and love of sport saw him win the Pierre De Coubertin Award from the AOC in 2006 for Sportsmanship. This award usually goes to the best sportspeople in their school. In Christopher’s case it was a reward for his contribution to his teams in Soccer, Water Polo and Swimming and his incredible effort and improvement more than his great results.
Believe it or not Christopher was also a great dancer and got right into shuffling. He used to send us videos of him and his mates practicing in shopping centre car parks late at night. I was amazed at how nimble he was on his feet for a big guy. He was so proud of his dance moves.
Christopher loved being in Winters End with Marissa and they achieved so much together. They drove each other crazy at times but their sibling bond strengthened so much and they were always there for each other. They won an Australian Indie Music Award for Mayfair and they toured, Canada and the US. They played during SXSW in 2019 and they toured around Australia 3 times. I remember Christopher saying how much he loved performing in front of an audience and one day he’d love telling his children about what he’d achieved. He was a fantastic drummer and people were amazed by how dynamic he was. Their CD producer was amazed how Christopher could naturally keep a beat on his own.
It was always interesting and never dull living with Christopher. I remember many late night calls from Marissa when I was in bed or even when I was away overseas. The calls would start with “Dad, Christopher’s alright, but we’re at the hospital”. There was many of these events and Marissa was usually the first to know. The following are a few highlights –
- He contracted Meningococcal disease and survived even after he was sent home for two days before the diagnosis (apparently he was the healthiest Meningococcal patient they’d ever seen),
- He was Mugged with his mate Adrian one night, he crashed his bicycle after flying down a hill and hitting gravel as he turned. He also crashed his bicycle into the side of car that turned in front of him and flipped over it.
- One night he had Micro sleep, 5 mins from home, and crashed his mate’s car into three parked cars, He even had a Scooter crash at SXSW.
- Even as a baby he pushed himself off the change table and fell into a waste paper bin head first and as a toddler he rode his push car down our back stairs. I’m sure that there’s more but these are just a brief selection.
Christopher lived the beach from the first time we took him when he was one. And he loved body boarding and recently just loved surfing.
- Since he moved up to the Sunshine Coast in January, Chris ditched the body board for a surfboard and he was improving every day. Christopher’s surfing mates were amazed at how quickly he was picking it up and how fearless he was and how powerful his swimming and kicking was. They also couldn’t believe how much stamina he had. He was surfing at least 10 times a week every week.
- In typical Christopher style he even managed to get bitten on the toe by a turtle one day.
- He absolutely loved surfing and was obsessed with improving. He was only skate boarding to improve his surfing.
- The Sunday before he died he surfed 3 times for a total of 7.5 hrs. He surfed most mornings and would meet his mate Adam at 4:15am and he would aim for “5 before 5”. That’s catching 5 waves before 5am. At 5am he said to Adam that he had just got his 9th wave and they had a great laugh as Adam had just got his ninth too. That was on the morning of his accident.
Christopher had an incredible passion and zest for life. Since he moved to the Sunshine Coast and, in spite of the COVID curveball, I have never seen Chris so happy, healthy and fit. He was so in love with Jess and he made every second count. He loved meeting and chatting with new people. He was like a sponge when he met new people. He learnt so much from just chatting to people. He had lots of mentors in life. His teachers, his coaches, people from soccer, from swim club, his mates he worked with as a life guard at Drummoyne pool, Dawn Fraser Pool, Cabarita pool and Leichhardt pool, his mates that he worked with at various pubs, his teacher mates and his extended family. Christopher loved people and learnt so much from them. What made Christopher so special was that he cared about everyone and he used what he learnt. It was like he was playing the advice and love forward.
Chris was the ultimate quiet achiever. He was unassuming, he was selfless, he was never boastful, he could relate to anyone and he always wanted to help. He used what he learnt to become a great coach, a great teacher, a great friend, a great partner, a great brother and a great son. As a teacher he cared about all his students and in particular those that were struggling or were just misunderstood and ignored. He worked hard to include everyone and help those who needed the most help. This is borne out by how many ex-students have told us about how Christopher changed their life. Christopher was a special soul and we’ll all miss him immensely.
Lastly I’d like to share a very personal story that shows us how much he loved his family and even in death he wanted us to know he was thinking of us.
We knew that Christopher had a big heart and it showed even at the end. His heart kept beating strongly for much longer than the doctors had told us and longer than any of us expected. As it finally slowed down it stopped in a sequence of 30 then 28 then 23 then 0. We were speechless as this was a message for us. 30 is his mum’s birthdate, 28 is my birthdate and 23 is Marissa’s birthdate. This was his final message for us.
I could go on forever but that’s a good place to stop.
THANK YOU ALL FOR BEING HERE TO CELEBRATE PTERA’S LIFE.