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Tales From the Bonfire

By Pat Moorehead

Tales from the Bonfire | July 2019
Monday, July 1, 2019

I was a late starter when it came to skydiving. I began at age 37 in 1969 when several of my firefighter buddies and I were watching our 10-inch black-and-white TV in the station and saw a program about skydiving at Skylark Airport in Lake Elsinore, California. “What the heck,” we said.

I made two static-line jumps the same day that I took the ground school. Soon, I was hooked. I got my licenses. I learned new things every day. Then I heard about this group of older guys like me who had an organization named the Parachutists Over Phorty Society (POPS). Well of course, I wanted to join. At that time, I was one of the oldest guys on the DZ. (By the way, I am still one of the oldest guys on the DZ.) By joining POPS, I could flaunt that fact.

I began attending POPS meets in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where in 1974, I was on the first POPS 8-way star (from a Huey helicopter courtesy of the U.S. Army). I found that I belonged to a special group of jumpers that took the sport seriously but not too seriously. We were in it for the fun and camaraderie.

As years passed and my friends and I grew older, I began thinking about setting a new and never-before-attempted record of yet older jumpers: those over 60. On March 20, 1992, at the annual winter POPS meet at Jimmy Godwin’s Para-Gators DZ in Umatilla, Florida, I got my chance. I had turned 60 just a few months before, and so I asked around and gathered another nine guys for a fun jump to celebrate our age and my birthday.

The dive couldn’t have been smoother! We built a 10-way (a 4-way base, two wedges and two cats) and flew straight and level until breakoff. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a camera flyer, because we didn’t think about it as being anything more than a fun dive. There were no GoPros in those days, either.

Later, we realized that this first-time-ever dive was a very special one. And so, Skydivers Over Sixty (SOS) began. The current SOS world record formation skydive is 75, and SOS consists of almost 2,400 members from 29 countries.

Pat Moorehead | D-2962, SOS #1
Long Beach, California

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