Capt. Kristen Wray dies after spirited battle with cancer
By Chris Holmes
Heaven gained a kayak fishing angel with the passing of Captain Kristen Wray earlier this week. Kristen, 48-years-old, succumbed to a brutal battle with cancer, but true to her life-loving spirit, remained charming and courageous throughout.
Kristen and her husband, Captain Danny Wray, were coastal kayak fishing pioneers in Louisiana, founding the Ride the Bull kayak tournament. They resided on Grand Isle and are responsible for putting the island on the map as a premiere kayak fishing destination.
Their Calmwater Charters operation introduced many kayak anglers to the sport as well as the wonders of Louisiana’s Grand Isle. There is no telling how many kayak anglers got their start through Danny and Kristen. They were kayak fishing when kayak fishing wasn’t cool.
The Wray home had an open door and when the pair held the first Ride the Bull kayak fishing tournament in 2009, they even allowed a few kayakers to set up tents in their yard. If you knew Kristen, there really is no explanation necessary. For those that didn’t, she was the most invigorating, kindest, gentlest soul you could ever hope to meet.
A skilled angler and waterman, Kristen lived to share her passion with others. In addition to fishing charters, Kristen delighted in conducting eco-tours around Grand Isle, using her party barge to ferry kayaks for those that wished to get up close to the birds and dolphins.
Kristen never met a stranger and didn’t know the word “no.” It was rare that you would see her without a camera in her hand. Kristen was always ready to document the beauty of coastal Louisiana that always found its way to be near her.
As the driving and organizing force behind Ride the Bull event, she oversaw the tournament’s growth to become the World’s Largest Kayak Fishing Tournament for the last three years. With a top attendance of 733 kayak anglers, the one-day event has set the bar quite high.
At the 2015 tournament, the tremendous contributions of Kristen and Danny were recognized when the public kayak launch that they spearheaded on Grand Isle was officially named the “Kristen and Danny Wray Kayak Launch.”
“No one deserves praise more than these two. When my husband was stationed in Grand Isle, I found myself searching for any way to connect and embrace my crazy new bayou home. Kristen (and Danny) took me in and quickly we became family. They taught me how to kayak, how to fish, and how to take that bayou and make it my home,” Avery Royal told this writer. There are countless Averys out there.
An accomplished attorney, Kristen preferred the simple and satisfying life that was Grand Isle. Never idle, she spent every waking moment working as a volunteer for many organizations and causes.
“I have been forwarding info about Kristen Wray’s passing without comment because she meant so much to so many and it is difficult to express not only my loss, but that of her community,” said friend Ann Smith. “During the time I knew Kristen on Grand Isle she served on the boards of many organizations and was always seeking ways to promote Grand Isle. She never turned down the chance to head up workshops or clinics to educate folks of all ages about fishing, kayaking, birding, or ecology. Her sense of perfection, good taste, work ethic and generosity will be missed.”
Kristen’s passing is an immeasurable loss to the kayaking community and Grand Isle, where her family and close friends gathered to celebrate her life. She and Danny were an amazing team. We mourn her loss, we share his pain.