Book review: Crazy for the Storm by Norman Ollestad

I’ve just boarded my flight back home to Philly.  I’ve spent, literally, the last 20 hours in the western slopes of Colorado.  It’s my first time out here. It’s beautiful, the true home of my soul.  Halfway between sleep and dream, I crack open to the first page of this book Kristin lent me.  It’s been sitting stacked on my dresser for weeks. Ironically, the book begins on this day, thirty six years years prior.

This is a story about family, inspiration, and admiration.  11 year old Norman, just the day before, competed (and won) the junior Southern California Slalom Skiing Championship.  His father had hired a pilot to fly him, his girlfriend Sandra, and 11 year old Norman from the Santa Monica Airport over the San Bernardino mountains to collect his trophy.  It would be the last adventure Norman and his father ever go on.

Norman tells a beautiful story about what it was like to grow up in the 70’s with a father who was both equal amounts brilliant and crazy.  His father lived a life always in pursuit of adventure.  He was a surfer and skiier, a lawyer, an FBI agent, and an author.   Norman grew up in sunny SoCal with a father who deeply influenced him to ski the steepest lines and ride the sharpest waves. Ollestad recounts a pilgrimage to Puerto Vallarta where he and his father seek out the perfect wave.  Their truck breaks down, they run from bandits, and Norman falls in love with a girl named Papaya who’s dark eyes are “impossible to interpret.”   She describes the waves they surf as the doorway to heaven.  Norman only seeing the razor sharp reef, says to his dad, “But you could get crushed and shredded, maybe even die.”  To which is father replies, “That’s life, Ollestad.”

This is a story of one tragic day in February 1979.  Norman descends a steep icy slope of Ontairo peak, wearing Vans sneakers and a ski jacket, alone.  With each step he he shows a remarkable amount of insight, fearlessness, and spirit.  Everything he learned from his father.

“My father craved the weightless glide.  He chased hurricanes and blizzards to touch the bliss of riding mighty waves and deep powder snow.  An insatiable spirit, he was crazy for the storm.  And it saved my life.  This book is for my father and for my son.” -Norman Ollestad


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