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When not slicing through frigid Pacific swells or pounding down equally bone-chilling ski slopes, senior Chris Hyder spends his afternoons writing letters to his childhood friends in Canada, playing the violin, or wandering the aisles of local thrift stores.
Born and raised in Canada for the first 14 years of his life, Hyder loved the urban environment and unique French-Anglo culture of Montreal, as well as the infamously freezing winter weather. He attended a school that taught entirely in French – Quebec’s official language – and spoke English only at home; he didn’t learn to read or write in English until the end of his French-Canadian education.
Since moving to Los Gatos at the beginning of his sophomore year, Hyder has competed on the LGHS varsity swim team, and now also works as a lifeguard and teaches swim lessons at the school pool. He spends most Friday afternoons open-water swimming around the Santa Cruz pier, an experience he describes as “terrifying but very rewarding. It’s beautiful to be in the ocean and finally get to the end of the pier, then look back and see the coastline and all the people on the beach.” His aptitude for open-water swimming in places such as the St. Lawrence River led him to qualify for the Provincial Triathlon Championships in Quebec at age 13.
Discovering his burning passion for music at eight years old when he began taking violin lessons, Hyder joined the LGHS orchestra as a violinist during his sophomore and junior year. Back in Canada, he also played trombone for two years as part of his school’s marching band, and he regularly performed in string quartets and with his school’s concert band. Hyder’s decade-long devotion to music stems from its therapeutic power: “I love that I’m able to look at some symbols on a page and turn them into sounds. Every time I pick up my violin, I put it down feeling calmer and more at ease with myself; it really helps me relieve stress.”
Ever since his dad put him on skis when he was only two years old, the sport has flowed through Hyder’s blood. Spending nearly every weekend in a cottage near Canada’s Mont Blanc — about an hour north of Montreal — he ski-raced from ages six to 13. “I loved how I had a separate life in a completely different place [from Montreal],” Hyder commented, “and how I had friends from completely different places.” Now substituting the twin peaks of Mont Blanc for the jutting crests of the Sierras, Hyder day-trips to Kirkwood throughout the winter season. Getting up early to make the 5-hour drive with his family, he hits the slopes until sundown, and then heads back home to promptly collapse into his bed.
Hyder feels most at home in the mountains, especially the rugged, rocky coast of British Columbia. One day, he dreams of hiking the 2,600 mile Pacific Crest Trail, a desire which arose after reading his now-favorite book, Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Hyder has always had what he considers a “healthy obsession” with national parks, especially Yosemite, but Death Valley holds a special place in his heart: “Visiting Death Valley was my first experience being in the desert and it was like nothing I’d ever seen before. It almost felt like I was on Mars.”
With any free time he has, Hyder enjoys tending to his burgeoning vegetable garden and taking naps in the hot sun of his backyard with TJ, his sadistic and cold-blooded cat. Pioneering what some have described as groundbreaking and sustainable fashion, Hyder unearths all of his best finds from his local Goodwill: “I don’t like spending money on clothes, and I can find super original items at a thrift store — plus it’s better for the environment.” Continuing this tree-hugging streak, he hopes to study environmental policy, urban planning, or a related environmental science field at a Canadian university; he is especially passionate about public transportation, noting, “I think it’s important that we ensure accessible and decent public transit for every American in urban areas.”
Down-to-earth, genuine, and with a personality larger than life, Hyder is someone who you don’t want to miss; luckily, he’s six-foot-one and a smokin’ babe so you probably don’t have to worry about that.