Crazy for the Storm
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Crazy for the Storm

3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  3,097 ratings  ·  674 reviews
From the age of three, Norman Ollestad was thrust into the world of surfing and competitive downhill skiing by the intense, charismatic father he both idolized and resented. Yet it was these exhilarating tests of skill that prepared "Boy Wonder," as his father called him, to become a fearless champion—and ultimately saved his life.

Flying to a ski championship ceremony in F...more
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Published June 2nd 2009 by HarperAudio (first published 2009)
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I love survival stories and this one is an amazing true tale. 11 year old boy and his father are in a small plane that crashes high on a snow-covered mountain. The boy alone survives. This is the story of how his relationship with his free spirited, yet demanding father gave him the tools he needed to make it down the mountain. I was initially irritated by the alternating chapters (I just wanted to stay at the crash site), but as the book progressed I became more and more interested in the under...more
Opening Line: “February 19,1979. At seven that morning my dad, his girlfriend Sandra and I took off from Santa Monica Airport headed for the mountains of Big Bear.”

Set amid the wild uninhibited surf culture of Malibu and Mexico in the late 1970’s, Crazy For The Storm is a fascinating memoir that was hard to put down. It centers around 11 year old Norman Ollestad and the complicated relationship he had with his father. Demanding, charismatic and free-spirited, it is ultimately the thrill-seeking...more
I admire Mr. Ollestad and I cannot imagine what he went through.

I don't mean to diminish his story or the insights he gleans and shares with the reader in any way. If I were a surfing or skiing enthusiast, I'm sure I would appreciate the exhaustive attention to detail afforded those sports.

I have been spoiled by reading the work of Jon Krakauer and Sebastian Junger. The chapter by chapter flashes back and forward are initially engaging but become tiresome rather quickly. Also, no matter how deep...more
So, I know this was supposed to be a phenomenal, amazing, outstanding account of a hair-raising experience. On the jacket cover it says, "May dads give it to their sons, may sons give it to their dads, and may all the mothers and daughters out there weep for the men they have known."

Well, pahleeeese. I hadn't read the jacket cover before reading the book, and that's good, because my deflated feeling would have only be accentuated.

I tried to keep an open mind as I read. I developed sympathy, at f...more
Alyce (At Home With Books)
Crazy For the Storm is a compelling memoir that reads just like a novel. The chapters alternate between his time on the mountain after the plane crash and his life leading up to that point. Norman Ollestad recounts his unusual upbringing and how he had to rely on his earlier experiences and lessons taught by his dad in order to survive on the mountain.

I was astounded by the activities that Norman's father made him participate in at such a young age. He was surfing and downhill skiing at a very y...more
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Though not quite as boastful or badly written, this book reminded me a lot of A Million Little Pieces (a book I abhor, and not for any of the reasons Oprah slammed it--please, all nonfiction is, to some degree, untrue, particularly memoir. I'm surprised that more people weren't offended by Frey's atrociously bad writing--I could barely read a quarter of the book, and I really tried to get through it. But that's another review . . . )

Crazy for the Storm chronicles eleven-year-old Ollestad's stru...more
I find myself disliking the subject of most memoirs, the author. This generally means that I don't typicallay read them ... why hang out with some self indulgent, egocentric, narcissist for hours and hours while they talk about their favorite subject: themselves? I didn't like hanging out with jeanette Walls, I really didn't like hanging out with Elizabeth Gilbert and, most recently, I ultimately didn't like the author of Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven because, of course, the book concludes...more
The reason I gave this book only two stars was because it was actually pretty boring. While I admire Ollestad and can't imagine surviving what he did, the infinite details about skiing and surfing were way above my head. I had no idea what he was describing most of the time, and he explains everything in excruciating detail. Every other chapter, for most of the book, describes the plane crash, and I found the chapters inbetween pretty boring, and after awhile it was really irritating the way the...more
I gave this book a lower rating than I normally would as I felt there was just waaay too much filler information. Just get to the 'real' story already!!! I find these types of books frustrating to read. Mr. Ollestad had more than enough information regarding his lone descent down the mountain after a plane crash and his subsequent rescue to make the book quite enjoyable. However, adding all the filler information in every other chapter took away from the drama of the real story.

All in all, still...more
As others have commented, this book can be a bit frustrating in its structure, given that it "bills" itself as a survival story, yet keeps alternating to chapters about the author's earlier childhood that are significantly longer than the survival chapters. Yet, perhaps this imbalance is a necessity, considering that the survival ordeal only lasted 11 (albeit harrowing) hours. But really, the book is centered around a compelling contradiction: it is his father's very reckless passion for life th...more
Obviously, if you read a memoir by a plane crash survivor there’s no suspense as to whether or not he survived but what Ollestad does so well is alternate short, concisely written chapters about key moments in his life leading up to this with the scenario he is faced with on the mountain. He really gets inside the mentality that was needed to believe that he could survive and how this was instilled in him, often in ways that he wasn’t so happy about at the time, by his dad who pushed him to exce...more
First, before I get to the praise, I have to confess a niggling skepticism about this memoir (thanks, James Frey! I didn't even read your "A Million Little Pieces" and its lies and half-truths are still casting shadows of doubt over the other memoirs I read.) In this case, my doubts stem less from riveting story itself and more from just wondering how an adult can remember events and interpersonal exchanges (that took place when he was a kid) so vividly.
That said, it truly is a GRIPPING story--a...more
Paul Pessolano
The book is sub-titled, "A Memoir of Survival".

This book is a memoir of the life of Norman Ollestad, however, very little has to do with his surviving a plane crash. Yes, he was in a plane that hit an 8,600 ft mountain during a blizzard. The crash killed the pilot and Norman's father instantly. His father's girlfriend, Sandra, survived but later died in an attempt to find help.

Norman, who was eleven at the time of the crash, was able to use the mental and physcial skills that were taught by his...more
James Korsmo
In this well-written account, Norman Ollestad tells the compelling tale of his own survival of a small plane crash high in the San Gabriel Mountains of California. As an 11-year-old boy, he was the lone survivor of the crash, and had to make his way down the steep face of the mountain alone in order to escape the deadly cold. Interwoven with this narrative is the larger tale of his relationship with his dad.

Normand Ollestad Sr. was a driven man, who loved to push the envelope in skiing, in surfi...more
Kathleen Hagen
Crazy for the Storm, by Norman Ollestad, narrated by Norman Ollestad, produced by Harper Audio, downloaded from

This is the true story of Norman Ollestad Jr. His father, Norman Ollestad, (Big Norm, to his Little Norm) was a dynamo. He was a child actor, (acting in the original “Cheaper by the Dozen” and other things, including the t.v. series “Sky King.” After he stopped acting, he went to law school and had a law firm with another good friend. He never saw a thrill he didn’t want to...more
In February 1979, a small plane crashed in the San Gabriel Mountains of California. The pilot and two passengers died. Several hours later, an eleven year-old boy walked into the village at the bottom of the slope, the lone survivor. How did he survive? Was it good luck? What kind of eleven-year-old can make it down the practically-vertical face of a snow-covered mountain by himself? Ollestad tells his story, both how he survived, and how his father (who died in the crash) prepared him, with a c...more
I've had a copy of this one for a while, but finally picked it up yesterday morning. Couldn't put it down, and was done by the next morning. It reads fast, but not fluffy. Norm tells the true story of surviving a plane crash at age 11 where he had to get down a mountain in a storm, alone, and alternates chapters of that experience with chapters about growing up with his dad, who died in the crash. He explains how his dad's pushing him hard and early in skiing, surfing, and hockey prepared him to...more
Ok this should have been a good book - a great book but it wasn't. I think you could've read the little blurb on the front cover and been good. It was about a boy involved in a plane crash with his father and father's girlfriend (true story) and the 11 year old boy at the time (the now 40 something author) was the only one to survive. Interesting and intriguing right? Wrong. The story was pretty much told in the first chapter and the rest of the book went back and forth between him getting down...more
ej cullen
A skinny memoir in search of an editor. How does one tell a 272 page story of a plane-crash in which your father, his girl-friend, and the pilot die and only you, an eleven-year old, survive, and somehow manage to continually and ultimately bore the reader to distraction? (He writes this 27 years after the event.) I learned self-serving banalities about surfboards, skiing, teenage parties, and on and on but precious little about the pre-crash/crash specifics. Not even a simple fleshing-out of th...more
Will Byrnes
In this fast, engaging tale Norman Ollestad tells about how he survived a mountaintop plane crash as an 11-year-old, a crash that killed the pilot, his father and his father’s girlfriend, and how his relationship with his father, and the skills he had learned under his tutelage, had prepared him for his near-death ordeal.

Ollestad tells of his upbringing, of his charismatic surfer/lawyer/coach father who drove him to peaks of physical performance he would never have reached un-pushed, and who br...more
3 1/2 stars. In February 1979, a small chartered plane carrying the author, then 11 years old, his father, his father's girlfriend, and the hired pilot crashed into the side of a Southern California mountain. This memoir is the remarkable story told some 30 years later. Little Norm grew up surfing, skiing, skateboarding, and was pushed and challenged beyond any normal expectations by his dad, who claimed that competing wasn't about winning, not always with complete conviction.

Big Norm was an at...more
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Libby Chester
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Only three stars but still worth reading...Crazy for the Storm is an unforgettable true story (see YouTube: but the writing has some serious flaws: The juxtaposition of the narration, shifting back and forth from chapter to chapter (Ollestad shifts between the events on the mountain and earlier events of his young life) and the use of too many irrelevant and descriptive details, adjectives and analogies. All of which made for a tedious and somewhat borin...more
I put off reading* this book because I thought it was going to smarmy and heroic. Instead it was a perfect accounting of the ordinary extraordinary. This is a tale of existential psychology, where each life is extraordinary.

I also appreciated the careful assessment of (step-father figure) Nick's place in his life. I think too often a driving father of the sort described in the book is assumed to be a Nick, and the book does well to highlight the difference. I have reassessed the messages from my...more
Surprisingly worthwhile, and clearly not for everyone, this book grew on me, warts and all. First and foremost, an epic survivor's tale, it details a tragic father-son relationship in an other-wordly surfing culture (which I simply cannot relate to) with forays into skiing and travel (with which I'm far more familiar, but which bear no resemblance to any of my (far more mundane) experiences). The remarkable (and seemingly squandered) talent of both father and son pervade the yarn. I picked this...more
Jul 19, 2009 Seth rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adventurers, fathers, sons
Recommended to Seth by: Amazon Vine
Norman Ollestad finding his way down a snow- and ice-covered mountain at just eleven years old, after surviving a plane crash no less, is just the tip of the iceberg in this intriguing memoir. Most children wouldn't know what to do, or worse, wouldn't do much at all. Norman was raised unlike other children. What he experienced with his father prepared him for that tragic day on the mountain.

Crazy For The Storm brought back memories of loving Gary Paulsen's Hatchet as a kid as both works are focu...more
Nancy Whitlatch
I loved this book. Norman Ollestad tells the story of his life leading up to when he was eleven years old. It's all the adventures and his bigger than life father that make Norman a survivor of a plane crash in the San Gabriel Mountains in 1979. He and his father and two others are in the plane and Norman is the only survivor. He makes his way to safety down an icy mountain face in a blizzard, using the skills and determination he learned from his father. He describes his father, who was a child...more
This isn't just a harrowing book about survival, though part of it is. It is mainly a book about the main character's relationship with each of his parents (particularly his father), his survival experience, and how he dealt with the loss and guilt. The story alternates between two timelines; the year leading up to the crash and his experience on the mountain. That format annoys some people. It bothered me at times because I didn't want to be torn away from the mountain. It was a minor frustrati...more
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Norman Ollestad studied creative writing at UCLA and attended UCLA Film School. He grew up on Topanga Beach in Malibu and now lives in Venice, California. He is the father of an eight-year-old son.
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