ABOUT GRAVITY HAWAII
Our chief instructor, Pete Michelmore:
After a stint in the US Army 82nd Airborne Infantry I was looking for some way to get back into the air, so one day I saw some people flying parachutes off of a small hill in Newport Beach, Calif. I ran as fast as I could over there to find out just what the heck it was that they were doing. I was informed it was a paragliding class and that I could start the next weekend in Sept. 1988. Yes!
On my 1st day, I spent over 4 hours struggling with my dinosaur beginner wing, and the instructor told me that “Maybe paragliding isn’t for you, bro.” (He’s long gone!)
On my 15th flight (total) I took my dinosaur glider to Catalina island for the 4th of July weekend without my instructor knowing what I was up to. I climbed the mountain over Avalon harbor and leaped into the air that I thought at the time was smooth ridge lift. I was VERY wrong. Upon my descent I suddenly realized that I had not thought of a place to land. There wasn’t any, with the exception of a large concrete loading dock 1/2 the size of a football field. I made my turn downwind in front of thousands of people and proceeded to set up my final approach, when all of a sudden I experienced a huge sudden downdraft (rotor) and I plunged over 75′ to the rocks below. I was lucky in the fact that I was wearing a really good rock climbing helmet at the time. I hit the concrete pier, slid into the curb upon which I broke my back and was paralyzed from the waist down. Then I was thrown into the ocean (50+ feet deep), and I was under water. Luckily I landed near a rock jetty, where I managed to pull my head out of the water. I was rescued shortly thereafter and flown by medivac chopper to Saint Mary’s hospital In Long Beach. Thanks to Dr. David Morgan, and after 4 weeks in intensive care, and a nine hour operation, I was lucky enough to walk out of the hospital. Back in the those days we thought we didn’t need reserve parachutes, back protection, or for some even a helmet? Boy were we wrong.
I made a full recovery after three months, returned to the HG / PG shop (they thought I died) and continued my lessons. Two years later Brian Dahl and I bought out Hang Flight Systems and started our own school working out of Brian’s garage in Lake Elsinore, CA.
We taught many of the Ol’ Timers that still teach others to fly today. Here’s a few of our former students (that could teach me a thing or two): Rob VonZabern, Marcello DeBarros, and ‘Big’ Len Szafaryn.
Then Brian and I co-invented the Scooter Tow rig which has turned out to be one of the biggest teaching tools that has ever been invented for teaching paragliding.
I now have been flying paragliders over 28 years and thousands of flights — all of over the world — completely injury free! A claim not too many people can say they have ever done. Trust me when I say ” I have been extremely lucky, and I am very cautious, more than most of my equals in the business.”
Born: Santa Monica, Ca. 12/18/1962
Raised mostly in So. California, Vancouver Canada, and Hawaii.
Not one of my many hundreds of students has ever been seriously injured while under my supervision or training.
I am USHPA Master rating (P-5), and I currently hold a Tandem Instructor rating, Tow Administer rating, and an Advanced Instructor rating. I am the only pilot in the Hawaiian Islands to hold all of these ratings.
I now have my 1,000 accident Free Diamond Safe Pilot Award. ( I actually have over 5,000 flights accident free to date.)
I currently live, work, and play in Kailua Beach, Hawaii on the island of Oahu.
I have made paragliding my life’s work, and hopefully god willing and the sky doesn’t fall, I’ll be flying into my old age.