Longboarding death: Tristan Hunter farewelled

By Cloe Willetts

Freeriding down the steep stretch of Paekakariki Hill Rd, longboarder Tristan Hunter glided past hills towards surfacing views of the Kapiti Coast sea, his board waving with the curves of the left lane.

Captured as a four-minute video Raw - Chilling on Paekak, the downhill skate was the first caught using his new GoPro, which was mounted on to the car travelling behind him and a progression from his days of sticking a camera to the car using duct tape.

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The video shows the experienced 21-year-old longboarder take to the quiet rural road with his hands behind his back, gripped in leather gloves, the wind rushing past the video lens as quickly as he hits the corners.

Tristan, who died on Friday, March 25, while skating a similar path down Paraparaumu's Maungakotukutuku Rd, was recognised for his love of adventure at a funeral at Southward Car Museum, in Paraparaumu, on Friday afternoon.

Hundreds of people gathered from around New Zealand, the US, Canada and Australia to honour the guy with the wicked and quirky sense of humour, who was set to travel to California in a few months to pursue his pro longboarding dream.

With a full leather suit almost complete, top industry connections and dozens of experiences riding some of New Zealand's highest slopes, Tristan was set for big things.

"There is no way to dress this up - it's tragic, it sucks," Tristan's father, Shayne Hunter, said.

"It sounds cliche, but he died doing what he loved.

"When I reflect back on being 21, I realise there were a few times I was on that right side of the split second between life and death.

"It's gutting Tristan didn't make it through."

Days after his death, about 30 skaters completed Wellington's largest memorial skate on Wellington's Hunter's Hill, as a tribute to the influential skater who was in the middle of plans to test a new secret run down Mt Taranaki.

Having hosted a string of well-known New Zealand and pro US skaters on road trips to skate the likes of Mt Ruapehu, Tristan had spent hours perfecting his skills in the fast-paced sport.

Known for his love for the outdoors, computer gaming and music, Tristan studied a Diploma of Adventure Tourism Management at Queenstown Resort College after leaving Kapiti College, which he hoped would lead to running his own business in the field.

Having worked hard and played even harder, he completed an internship on Australia's Magnetic Island, where he gained a masters course in open water diving.

"When he came back he'd grown up a lot," said Mr Hunter.

"He decided he needed more practical skills to get work while he travelled afar to further his interests in boarding and diving, so started working for a close friend doing property maintenance.

"When he was into something he'd set himself the goal and tenaciously work away at things until the challenge had been sufficiently conquered."

In a series of vibrant photographs shared by the Hunter family and his partner, Izzy Herstell, full of the outdoors and family and friends, a 7-year-old Tristan appeared with a skateboard-themed birthday cake - an early sign of his passion.

Tristan, whose mother, Kim, and sisters Maegan, Aimee and Melissa also spoke of their "beautiful and kind-hearted boy", was remembered in the same way he enjoyed living -- with his favourite music and a hall echoing with laughter.

"We've been completely and utterly overwhelmed, first and foremost with losing Tristan, but also the extent to which family, friends and the community have supported us.

"There's been so much love."

A physical reminder of his memory now rests at the spot where he shared his last longboard pursuit with close friends, as a skateboard engraved with a cross.

Having summed up his love for adventure on Twitter, Tristan described his life in one sentence.

"Good people, good music, good beer, good fun ... good life".

- NZ Herald

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