To my right sat one of the most decorated paddlers in history, to my left, a Molokai, Coast-to-Coast and Ironman veteran. While this was not unfamiliar company, the venue was anything but familiar. Instead of our normal backdrop of stunning oceanscapes, beaches and natural beauty, we sat surrounded by stained glass, bricks and timber. Yesterday we buried one of the fiercest competitors and most committed life-lovers I knew. Mike Snell, 36 years old and taken too young.
In a large Anglican church in Sydney, several hundred people came together to say goodbye. Known as ’Snelly’, he was one of us. He was a paddler, a runner, a cyclist, and like so many in that church, someone who glared hungrily at life from behind the wheel of a well-trained, hardened engine. As happy in the mountains as he was in the big oceans, Mike was a multi-sport athlete and seemed to never have a slow day. When he showed up, it was on, and if you rolled-up with your B game you knew all about it. The harder the event, the better he went. He told me on many occasions that Molokai isn’t a tough event and that I needed to harden up, and he meant it.
I wasn’t Mike’s best mate, just a mate. Someone who wanted Sneaky (as I knew him) around for years to come. His absence weighs heavy on anyone who knew him.
As he was carried from the church yesterday, we stood. The back row of the church, a line 20-deep of seasoned oceanmen, guys who shared similar dreams & loves, united in respect. Respect for Mike; his life, his talents, his choices and unique balance of intensity and playful spirit. A cheeky grin set against a steely glare.
To his best friends Matt Blundell and Chistie Sym, you did him very proud yesterday and helped all of us mange this tragedy more than you know. His life was better for you both being in it.
RIP Sneaky, with great sadness, your memory lives on for so many as inspiration. #poweredbymike.