Rich Grimm, D-18890, started skydiving in 1980. He has been a competitor and a DZO, but he’s best known for being the creator, facilitator and organizer of epic international boogies in exotic locations. Since his first international boogie in 2005 in Belize (for which it took two years to get government permission), he has orchestrated another 19 boogies in Belize, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Palau. He is currently manifesting for boogie number 21 in the Maldives.
Nationality: American, resident of Costa Rica
Marital Status: Married
Children: A son and a daughter
Occupation: Retired firefighter, recovering DZO, exotic boogie organizer
Pre-Jump Superstitions: I check my handles and pilot chute three times on jump run.
Life Philosophy: Life is good, hug your friends.
Containers: Rigging Innovations Talon FS and Sun Path Javelin
Main Canopy: NZ Aerosports Icarus Crossfire
Reserve Canopy: Performance Designs PDR
AAD: Airtec CYPRES
Discipline: Jumping in swim trunks over beaches
Home Drop Zone: Skydive Perris in California
First Jump: I was a static-line student in 1980 and then AFF.
Licenses and Ratings: A-13593, C-21955, D-18890, S&TA and PRO
Records: First gringo to ever jump in Nicaragua (with my pal Lyal Waddell). First dummy to ever jump into the Blue Hole [a marine sinkhole off the coast of Belize] with nine other dummies.
Total Number of Jumps: 5,000-plus
FS: Lots Demos: Lots Freefly: 100
Tandems: 22 CF: 10 Camera: 3
Balloon: 3 Accuracy: Every jump BASE: 164
Wingsuit: 0 (I need to try it soon; I guess it’s not just a fad.)
Largest Completed Formation: 100-way jewel
Total Number of Cutaways: Seven
Most people don’t know this about me:
I am writing a book about all of the hilarious firehouse stories from my 34 years in the fire service. I can’t let Dan B.C. [Brodsky-Chenfeld] and Melissa Nelson be the only skydiving poet laureates. And younger jumpers don’t know I designed and built the Bent Prop Saloon [at Skydive Arizona in Eloy] and ran it with my partners, Sissy Roer and Ken “Little Man” Jacobs.
Who have been your skydiving mentors?
On the jumping side, Jim Wallace, Dan B.C., the late James Layne, Mark Kirkby and Lyal Waddell. On the business side, the Conatser family and Ray Ferrell. The Farringtons sent a plane to my first-ever exotic boogie. So many people have helped me in this crazy business over all the years.
Do you have any suggestions for students?
Pay attention to everything. Learn your gear. Don’t be in a hurry to downsize, and stay current.
What’s the most bad-ass thing you can do in the air?
Smile! And it doesn’t take 100 tunnel hours to learn!
Were you a hard child to raise?
Not until I turned 16 and discovered beer.
What has been your most embarrassing moment at a drop zone?
Oh man, that’s a long list! I landed on a tumbleweed once, and it took me a week to get all the stickers out. And I landed my brand-new canopy in a mud puddle in front of everyone. That was stellar. Once, I was load organizing at the Canadian Nationals and took out their national flag on a swoop gone bad. It was shown on national television!
Is there one jump you would like to do again?
The very first jump into the Blue Hole. It was scary and exhilarating. On jump run, I told Janet Lundquist not to worry if she saw shark fins on final. We all had a great nervous laugh! It was like being a first-jump student again. Stepping out at 13,000 feet over a shark-infested 450-foot hole in the sea, 50 miles from land. What could possibly go wrong?
What do you consider your most significant life achievement?
Raising two nice kids.
Do you have any suggestions for USPA?
Spend more time, money and effort on keeping drop zones open. I think it’s USPA’s most important task.
What has been your best skydiving moment?
There are way too many to list!
What has been your greatest competition moment?
At Nationals, our rag-tag pick-up 4-way team beat two teams with sponsors and matching jumpsuits.
What has been your worst skydiving moment?
I talked to a kid doing a 2-way before we boarded the plane. I should have checked his gear. My instincts told me to do it. I just asked if he and his buddy had done gear checks. They both said yes. He sat next to me on the plane. I high-fived him as our 12-way climbed out. He went in on a no-pull. His AAD was turned off. As an S&TA, I helped with the investigation. It was a gut-wrenching day for me.
What has been your weirdest skydiving moment?
Hermosillo, Mexico. A group of us were hired to do some demo jumps. Marc Hogue and I took this radio D.J. on a jump. We were supposed to land in a little park and baseball field in the middle of town. The D.J. was broadcasting live from the plane. I guess every teenager in the city listened to her afternoon show. As we got on jump run, hundreds of kids were filling the park. We jumped and opened at about 6,000 feet. Dave Donnelly and Kevin McGuire were on the ground trying to get the kids out of our way. I held in brakes as long as I could with nowhere to go. Finally, at about 1,000 feet, they got a small runway cleared for us! We landed on a 10-by-50-foot area. And then the kids mobbed us! And the D.J. just kept on talking!
What is your secret for putting on boogies in epic locations?
Shhh ... don’t tell anyone: It’s called hard work. When I look at a new venue, I always go there first to check it out. It’s all about the logistics. Then I ask myself what I would expect if I were attending. Then I make it happen. I have a tremendous staff that is always there for me, truly the best people in our business. And without them it’s not going to be smooth nor epic. And then I get to meet everyone, which is the best part for me. I think we all have created an amazing vibe at these boogies, and that comes from the staff and the participants. I’m just sort of the glue that pulls it all together.
What’s the best thing about being a boogie organizer?
The first is the challenge. Can I do it? I have to meet with the civil aviation authorities. That’s different in each country. I always arrive at the meetings with the USPA SIM [Skydiver’s Information Manual] and BSRs [Basic Safety Requirements] ready to show them. That goes a long way. Then I have to organize hotels and fuel and a jump plane. And then when the boogie happens, it’s just such a satisfying feeling. Everyone is having the time of their lives, making new friends and landing on warm beaches in the winter. I just love meeting all of the participants. I’ve made some really good friends because of the boogies. And I’m lucky that my family supports me. These boogies take months to do properly. I could write a hilarious book about everything, from being held at gun point with a Twin Otter in Mexico to trying to find fuel trucks in the jungle. It’s been a crazy ride.
How did you become interested in putting together boogies?
I went to an exotic boogie once and had a great time. But I thought I could build a better widget. I took my wife to Belize when we were dating. There was this airport. And a big landing area. And a Blue Hole. The rest is history.
Where is the one place you‘d like to hold a boogie?
Everyone has begged for a boogie in the Maldives. I was just there and met with the local DZO and civil aviation. We’re going to have three eight-night boogies back to back. We’re bringing a Super Caravan from Skydive Saar in Germany. It’s going to be the biggest event I have ever hosted. It’s going to be the most luxurious skydiving event in history.
Explain Rich Grimm in five words or fewer:
Funny, compassionate, kind, family man.