|Born||May 30, 1967|
|Notable work(s)||Crazy For The Storm: A Memoir Of Survival|
Norman Ollestad (born May 30, 1967) is an American author. At the age of eleven, he was the only survivor of a plane crash that claimed the life of his father. He wrote about it in his 2009 bestseller Crazy For The Storm: A Memoir Of Survival. He has also written a novel, Driftwood, which was released in 2006.
Ollestad was born to Norman and Doris Ollestad, and was raised in Topanga Beach, Malibu, California. He was thrust into the world of surfing and competitive downhill skiing at a very young age by his father and later said that he resented losing his childhood to his father’s reckless and demanding adventures. He became a competitive hockey player and skier, winning the Southern California Slalom Skiing Championship at age 11. Norman was called "Boy Wonder" by his father.
Norman lived much of his early life at his mother's house, where his mom's boyfriend Nick also stayed; Nick was often drunk and yelled at Norman, punishing him, making him get in fights, and even hurting him. Norman tried to avoid Nick by spending time with his dog, Sunny, or down a canyon near his house where he had made a fort, or at the house of his unofficial godmother, Eleanor Kendall.
On February 19, 1979, a chartered Cessna carrying 11-year old Ollestad, his father, his father’s girlfriend, and the pilot, crashed into Southern California’s San Gabriel Mountains. Ollestad’s father died in the crash, and the pilot shortly after. Suspended at over 8,000 feet and engulfed in a blizzard, Ollestad descended the mountain with Sandra, his father's girlfriend, but she died after a fall down a shute. Norman was the sole survivor of the crash. He later told the Los Angeles Times that “My dad told me never to give up.”
Ollestad later traveled to St. Anton in the Austrian Alps, and decided to become a writer. He returned to Los Angeles and enrolled in UCLA Film School, where he also studied creative writing. In 2006, Ollestad began the process of returning to the painful memories of the crash in preparation for writing Crazy For The Storm. Returning to the crash site, Ollestad found pieces of wreckage, and reconnected with the family who had given him shelter once he reached safety.
Later on in his life, Norman got married and had a son. He treated his son like his father had treated him, teaching his son skiing and surfing, but allowing him to choose his own pace instead forcing it upon him.
Crazy For The Storm
Crazy For The Storm: A Memoir of Survival is Norman Ollestad's 2009 bestselling book. Set in Malibu and Mexico in the late 1970s, the memoir describes the bohemian surf culture of Southern California and Ollestad's conflicted feelings towards his father. The story recounts the tests of skill that prepared Norman to become a surfer and ski champion, and which later helped to save his life.
The Los Angeles Times wrote "The book alternates between a detailed account of the plane crash and Ollestad’s story of his parents’ busted marriage. Of particular interest is his charismatic, adrenaline-junkie father, whom the young Norman describes as a somewhat methodical, somewhat reckless “enchanter,” devotedly driving his son to early-morning hockey practices and faraway ski tournaments, but also dragging him along to Mexico, where they wound up stranded in the jungle without food or money after fleeing bribe-seeking federales wielding guns."
In June 2009, the memoir was released and quickly became one of the most talked about books of the summer. The book reached the top-ten bestseller lists for both The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. Crazy For The Storm was also selected as Starbucks June book selection, and iTunes picked it as one of the best summer reads. Most recently,[when?] it was chosen by Amazon as one of the 'Best Books of the Year...So Far'.
In early May 2009, Warner Bros. picked up the option to turn Crazy for the Storm into a motion picture.
The memoir “Crazy for the Storm” talks about the growing process of the author, Norman Ollestad, supervised by his strict dad, who asks him to surf, ski, and play hockey at his very young age. Norman resents about it at first, and describes his father as “reckless”, yet after the air crash, he realizes how much his dad loves him.
The book largely focuses on the growth of Norman’s inner world. He disagrees from his dad at first; he cannot understand why his dad wakes him very early in the morning to play hockey while he has firmly declared that he does not want to; he cannot understand why his dad insists in letting him surf frequently. Gradually, he accepts his dad’s demands. He realizes that his dad wants him to become a strong, confident and brave man. His inner world has grown more and more mature. The skill and courage developed in the surfing or skiing have greatly helped the author to survive through the air crash. He thanks his dad for his long-time training and teaching, and for what his dad has said: “Never give up”.
Norman Ollestad, Sr.
Ollestad calls Crazy For The Storm a tribute to his father. Norman Ollestad Sr. had been a child actor, appearing in the movie Cheaper by the Dozen. Later he joined the FBI, but soon grew disillusioned with J. Edgar Hoover and wrote a book called Inside The FBI, which did not endear him to his former employers. He later retreated to the hippie enclave of Topanga Beach, at the south end of Malibu, where he surfed and worked as a lawyer.
- Crazy For The Storm: A Memoir Of Survival (non-fiction, 2009);
- Driftwood (fiction, 2006).
- Crazy For The Storm official site
- Washington Post - "Making It Down Alone"
- New York Times - "A Tale of Family Life, Laced With Thrill Seeking, Adrenaline and Ambivalence"
- Los Angeles Times - "Lessons Norman Ollestad's father taught him"
- CNN - "A deadly plane crash, an amazing adventure"