In a world increasingly governed by fear, rules and pressure to conform, a world where we are bombarded by wave after wave of distraction from the beauty of the moment, Lucky Chance stood against the incoming tide. With his recent passing the world lost a truly unique individual.
Lucky was known the world over for his incredible stunts and mind-blowing physical abilities across a huge range of disciplines including rock climbing, BASE jumping and circus. He was a great friend and constant inspiration to many. His tenacity, discipline, passion, creativity and energy, coupled with an unrivalled ability to overcome fear, was truly mind blowing to behold. Lucky was a true adventurer, constantly pushing himself mentally and physically, accomplishing countless amazing feats, all accompanied by his trademark quick-draw grin and fun-loving, free spirited attitude.
We were privileged to hang out with Lucky for a day of adventures not too long ago and gain an insight into his world. DSM would like to thank Lucky’s family for allowing us to publish some of his words here. We hope they serve as a tribute to and celebration of his spirit. His words serve as a reminder to us all of the amazing person Lucky was and the affect he had on so many people the world over in his tragically short but amazingly full life.
“You can never regret optimistic endeavor.“
Words by Daryl Jones, Pictures by Russell Horton.
DSM: Explain growing up Lucky. Were you always the kind of kid that was up to mischief and clambering up trees and such?
LC: Yeah. For me, for some reason, it was always about getting to the tops of things. I loved roofs; garage, home, school, wherever. I guess I was always adventurous growing up and exploring and often in a bit of trouble. I had three distinct ways to get up on to my roof, leveled for difficulty, by the time I was eight years old. I can still remember some of the brick-gap crimps on the hardest roof route. And I was always doing stuff like making flying foxes between my back porch to the cubby house and just all sorts of shenanigans.
I’d never been to a climbing gym ‘til I was about thirteen when I moved to Emu Plains and there I got into climbing with a bunch of friends from Blaxland High. From then onwards I just climbed. I’d be training at least two or three times a week and climbing every weekend. I couldn’t get enough.
DSM: Lots of people dabble in climbing and other adventure sports. What pushed you to take it all to the next level?
LC: I guess I just had to be good at whatever I was doing. We were very competitive, us young guys from the start. It was a really good scene at the time.
“All the guys that are the top names in Australian climbing today, that was the scene at Penrith Climbing Gym back in the day, and we were all psyched to climb hard stuff.”
DSM: You’ve diversified your pursuits a lot since then and you didn’t really follow the path your typical elite climber. Not everyone sheds the ropes, and even their clothes, like you’ve been known to do.
LC: Yeah I guess so. I was already an independent personality I guess back then. For me it’s always been about overcoming perceived risks and irrational fear. Irrational fear was such a big thing. If I’ve climbed this climb a million times before with a rope and not fallen then why should I doubt myself? I should be able to do it without a rope. It’s stupid to hold any fear. It was much more a mental progression than just purely physical.
DSM: When we met, you were on the end of a 5metre long plank of wood, standing on the end of a plank, in a straight jacket, on top of a 100 metre high sea cliff with nothing but a friend (ED: actually Lucky’s cousin Ben) standing on the other end for safety. I saw this little dot in the distance while I was climbing and I thought “What the fuck is that?”
LC: Yeah it was just a beautiful concept. At the time I was into a thing I made up called “Physical Image Creation”; creating beautiful physical images just by doing awesome stuff, ‘cause by then I’d been in the circus for a number of years. I loved the concept of a plank of wood perfectly balanced, one guy on each end, one completely safe and one whose safety relies on the trust he has in the other. The balance between life and death.
DSM: After you walked back in off the plank you asked if we could help lower you into a huge abyss above crashing waves and rocks, off a slack-line between two arêtes, tied by the ankles to an 8 metre length of chain while wearing your straight jacket…
LC: And I did the escape, oh yeah I remember!
DSM: And just watching you do what you did, the planking, the escapes, the high lining, was more scary and more adrenaline than I got the entire day out there climbing myself!
LC: Yeah that’s probably because you don’t have the same mental awareness as me. I’m 99% sure, for example, that if I fall off the line I can grab it. It’s just an awareness of your ability, and aligning your two sides, your spiritual and physical, good and bad, God and the Devil. This is the highest achievement one can obtain in their life, mastering their primal side and their Higher Self.
When I’m doing these things that’s not what I’m thinking though. I just like to do it! I just see it as a mental progression. That was a fairly typical weekend for me yeah, head down somewhere amazing like Point Perp and solo some climbs (climbing entirely without safety equipment such as ropes and a harness), do some handstands on the edge and some slack lining.
“It turns out having adventures isn’t very expensive at all. It’s actually one of the cheapest things you can do in all the world. You’re not going to a bowling alley and paying money to throw a ball down a piece of wood; it’s free!”
But I’ve done various things, working on farms for food and stuff, but things have a way of working themselves out. You’ve just got to put yourself out there. But yeah, I’ve done rope access, abseiling and cleaning windows on high-rise buildings, working at climbing gyms, lots of things.
A fun story: When I was nineteen I worked for a year and bought myself a round the world ticket, which was like a dream I’d had. I wanted to travel around to all these amazing climbing destinations. I saved up $1000, which wasn’t much but was for me, and headed off for a year to see all the hot spots, by myself. First I went to the States, Smith Rocks, Bishop. Hitchhiking everywhere, living off a dime, eating food out of dumpsters out the back of supermarkets. Then I went to Europe and England where I was soloing on gritstone and was super psyched for hard stuff. At the time when I was eighteen I ticked my first 32, ‘Staring at the Sea’. So yeah, I was over there and every one or two days since I was thirteen I’d trained and climbed and I was in the UK, living my dream and bam, tendonitis. My forearms would swell up so much I couldn’t climb. So I’d have three days off then try again and then, bam. It would swell up again and I was like “This SUCKS!”
“So all of a sudden I had to sit down and think. “I can’t climb any more. I don’t want to climb if I can only stay at the level I’m at and every time I try get better this happens. So what else have I ever wanted to do in life if I can’t climb? That’s what led me to BASE jumping.”
So I came back to Australia for another year, kept climbing, then went back to the UK to try climb again, but then tendonitis hit again. So I searched for the most isolated drop zones for skydiving. I found Madrid. So I hitch-hiked down there and turned up and was like “Hi guys! I don’t have any money but I really want to learn to skydive! Can I do some work somewhere in exchange for learning?” And people took pity on me! I was a 21-year-old Australian, in the middle of nowhere, so they let me clean the pool and work in a café in exchange for feeding me. Then they let me take photos of the people that came there to learn to skydive. So I did that ‘til someone else took pity on me and was like “You’re here all the time anyway, I may as well teach you how to pack parachutes.” And once I started packing that was it, I wanted to get awesome at it. So I got super quick, me and this other young Czech guy. We were super psyched for it! And you make heaps of money that way. We’d pack 40 chutes and get eight euro per chute so then I was able to pay for myself to get through the course by packing everyone else’s chutes. Then I met these people; Ollie and Paula, and Paula wanted to start a BASE school and need a guinea-pig-student. Perfect! So off we went to Portugal and I did five or six jumps and I was like “SWEET! This is it!”
“I never liked the system and rules of skydiving, but BASE jumping was so much more free. I just loved it. I didn’t like playing by the rules.”
DSM: I used to see you dressed as your alter ego, Stunt Monkey free climbing buildings and doing other crazy shit. How did Stunt Monkey originate?
LC: It was just fun! It was a monkey climbing a building. It’s FUN! It’s novel, just making fun out of life! What else can you do in life? Yeah there’s the bare necessities; eating, sleeping. Is that all there is? Just stop trying to prolong life and actually DO something with it! Make fun of it! All society and all the rules just make life longer and you end up crippled and old and you can’t do anything for yourself any more. But hey; you’re alive. Live your life to the fullest when you have the full capacity to live it like that.
I’m always repeating these mantras to myself to reinforce them. Like preaching to myself. Lately it’s been “Less speed more pace” and “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast”.
DSM: How’d you get into circus stuff?
LC: So I’d just finished my first BASE stuff in Portugal and I spent my last parachute packing money on a ticket to New Zealand. So I flew into Auckland, hitch-hiked my way down south ‘cause I thought that would be an adventure (Got to be in it to win it!) and looked for places to jump on the way down. I was always hunting as I went and eventually I spotted a big bridge. I told my ride to drop me of, I jumped out of the car, and jumped off the bridge! Unfortunately the bridge was over a flooded river, which I proceeded to land in and had to swim for my life before the river turned into an epic canyon about 20 metres downstream from where I landed. But I made it and ended up totally alone, soaked, by myself in the middle of nowhere, walking ‘til I found a farm house. But again, things have a way of working out.
So I eventually got to my mates place down in Christchurch. I asked him if there was somewhere around where I could do flips, like a gymnastics centre. He said “Not that I know of mate, but there is a circus just down the road…” So I was like, “Sweet!” and rocked up and again was like, “Hi guys! Can I jump on your trampolines and run around and stuff?” And they were like “Not really! But we do have a two year Diploma you can enroll in…”
“Alright, I’ll do that!”
Really, just off the hat! That’s the story of my life, just taking it as it comes for the adventure! And I LOVED circus! LOVED it and did that for the next two years; aerial straps, tight wire and slack-line which I preferred. Diablo as well. Then I joined the Lennon Brother’s Circus and traveled with them for a year. Trad circus taught me a lot about Physical Image Creation; doing those things that can get a big response from people. I learned that you can do the hardest trick you know how to do and get no response but you do something that they can relate to and they lose their shit.
“I love giving people big images that make them react and feel something. I do these things as self-expression but hopefully also things that elicit a response from other people! That’s what it’s all about!”
I’m always trying to find the coolest thing I could do in the world. I’m always trying to think of cool things, and especially beautiful things that say so much.
DSM: Anyone can sit around and bullshit with their mates, imagining epic things to do, and that’s as far as it goes. We don’t do it. What makes you different? What makes you actually do these ideas that you imagine?
LC: Once I’ve thought of up an awesome idea, that’s it. That is life, that’s the highest attainment, to do it.
DSM: Fear doesn’t hold you back?
LC: My whole life I’ve been quite absent of fear. I don’t have any irrational fears. But I’m still not good in social situations. Maybe that’s one that I’m trying to break through but it’s not fear exactly I guess.
DSM: Its amazing to me that you still hold these values and have a fearless approach to life and your pursuits after coming through so many near misses, including the huge BASE accident that you had not too long ago.
LC: Yeah. I don’t have much in the way of memories of that incident. I literally broke everything in my left side of my body. I was in a coma for six to eight weeks and had brain damage. The accident happened basically because I didn’t believe what everyone said about the nature of the jump. I like to do acrobatics, so instead of taking advice and tracking clear of the rocks, I did a triple front flip and collected a ledge. Fortunately my parachute opened. I was a rag-doll but it landed me safely.
The physical injuries weren’t so bad. They forced me to rest, which I never did. Before I was driven by that mantra, “You’ll never regret the things you do as much as the things you don’t do” so I’d do stuff all the time.
The brain side of things was the most affected. I was knocked back to my primal self. Totally selfish, without higher conscious thought, so it was quite hard to learn again how to operate. I was socially isolated because I was in such a state. I had to relearn all those rules of society. It was really hard. It was like discovering how to live all over again. It’s been like being born again and having to learn everything again.
My original mountain friends were great. They never give a shit and never judged me whenever I did great things or bad things. They didn’t think I was awesome or an idiot. They’re so great like that. But I did lose a lot of important relationships. And that was completely me. I was an arsehole. I feel so very bad for it. I was totally selfish. This injury has effected much more than me. I was unable to be aware of things from anyone else’s perspective at all. I’m still learning it. I was doing a heap of physical rehabilitation but the mental was the hard part. And I feel so bad for hurting so many people. And because of the way I’d led my life previously, it’s been an ongoing trait of me, living my life selfishly and it’s something I need to work on. I guess it’s good and bad in some ways. I wouldn’t have done all of the things I have done if I wasn’t like that but there was a big cost. Man’s greatest strength will also be his greatest weakness. That’s especially true with me.
“This has become more and more apparent to me, I feel God and the devil in me, the primal side and the higher side. These are the stories, the good and the bad, your light against the dark. And they are fighting all the time and the more intense the battle, the more life! Because life IS the battle. And this is the energy. The more ferociously the two sides are fighting, this friction of them fighting, it creates life, creates it all.”
I tried to write a poem about it but I haven’t finished.
“The battle it rages,
The battle it flows,
The battle it burns like fire.
Between where I’ve been,
and where I will go,
My Primal Self and my Higher.”
So yes. I’ve lived my life super selfish, but a man’s greatest strength is his greatest weakness and this has allowed me to do some cool things.
DSM: Is living the way you live like a drug addiction, where you have to go harder every time to get the same thrill?
LC: I dunno, I just need to do it. For me it’s just fun! You’ve just gotta do something in life! I always wanted just to be happy and pursue happiness like everyone. That’s all it is. For me, nothing has a point and life is absurd. I am aware of this, so I do the most ridiculous things I can possibly think of to express the pointlessness of our situation!
“We humans have moments of brilliance but basically we have no fucking clue what’s going on!”
DSM: Through the highs and hardships your life has brought you seem to still be just as passionate and driven and positive as ever. What keeps you going?
LC: Heaps of things. Lots of amazing people. Mostly just enthusiasm itself.
Enthusiasm IS the most powerful force in the world. That is life! Everything you do in life, you can’t do it without enthusiasm. It is the essential ingredient in life.
The higher you reach, the further you may fall, sure. BUT, you may reach it!
When you’re at a disco, dance.
You can never regret optimistic endeavor.