In Memory of Graham Hunt newby DSE
Graham was a skydiver and BASE jump/wingsuit pilot, but what he was also well-known for, is his climbing ability. Whether climbing a rock carrying a chainsaw as a firefighter, or simply needing to get to the exit point, Graham excelled as a freeclimber. His strength seemed almost inhuman.
He first came to Skydive Elsinore in 2012 with a tracking suit in hand, and was a machine. Jump, pack, jump pack. Graham didn't socialize much, but always had a smile on his face and was very approachable. His girlfriend asked me to help her pick out a birthday gift for him, and he received an L&B Altitrack for his birthday that year. He asked me to help him figure out how to look at the data, and in the same conversation, asked about a first flight course. Graham seemed extremely heads up during his first flight course, and I attributed that to him being a very aware tracking suit pilot. Later I learned that he'd previously had a first flight course before he had 200 jumps, at another dropzone. I asked him why he had asked for a first flight course with me, and he answered "I heard you do it differently, and I'm looking for all the knowledge I can find."
And that was Graham in a nutshell, constantly seeking answers, finding the devil in the details so that he had the best information possible with which to make a decision. A self-described hippie, Graham was the epitome of the world-traveler seeking answers to the universe.
Graham began wingsuit base not very long after his FFC. He lived in Yosemite Village, surrounded by climbers and BASE jumpers. He'd regularly return to Skydive Elsinore to jump with me, and took on several coaching jumps with me, particularly interested not in speed (what most BASE jumpers come to learn and practice), but rather fall rate control and fine input management. He flew in a small suit for most of those jumps, eschewing the larger suits that were popular with most newer BASE jumpers at the time.
As I grew to know Graham better, I was impressed with his demeanor, his style, and his humble quest for knowledge. I'd learned he was sleeping in his SUV in the parking lot, so I gave him keys to both the wingsuit room, and to my trailer on the DZ for the times that I wasn't there. Over time, he expressed an interest in teaching, and he took the Phoenix-Fly Coach course with me. He also challenged the USPA Coach course, as he wanted to know more about teaching methods. "I want to help others the way I've been helped along the way" was a common theme with him. "Giving back" was his style. He was serious about learning, serious about being the best he could be, but serious about it for himself, not for notoriety or being the quintessential bad-ass.
He had a fun side; we had some silly jumps together. One of my favorites was when he was getting deeper into backflying the wingsuit, we'd take canisters of Silly String and shoot each other in the air. It was a fun way of gamifying the training process. Another time, I had a client that needed a "clean-cut, rugged-looking adventurer" to hold their name board, representing their company. They chose Graham's face from a photo lineup, asking if he'd be willing to shave his beard. He didn't really want to, but the money was good and he'd commented "It'll always grow back, and no one will believe it's me anyway (he wasn't flying a wingsuit in the commercial)."
Graham was connected with some of the biggest names in the sport and through them, had opportunity to be sponsored by several companies. This is the dream of many wingsuit base jumpers, to have corporate logos all over their suits, so that their endless summers and brilliant endeavors are paid for by someone else, allowing full-focus on jumping. Graham wasn't really into that world; he'd turned down sponsorships for ethical reasons. One particular sponsor offered him all sorts of free gear, with Graham turning them down saying, "I don't like how they treat people."
If you were to ask anyone who knew Graham to describe him in one or two words, you could lay money on one of those two words being "Humble." Graham avoided the limelight; he tried Facebook for three days, saying "I just can't do it, man... too many people saying too many things and it seems so negative." He was respectful and gracious. There wasn't a friend of Graham's that didn't receive an email or phone call bearing the theme "Gratitude." On Graham's 29th birthday, he sent a photo of High Nose that he'd taken from across the valley, and a number of paragraphs offering gratitude for some of the endeavors we'd undertaken together, expressing appreciation for our relationship.
Graham wasn't a bragger always talking about "cheating death" and the other nonsense that so many BASE and skydive wingsuiters yammer about; he was quite the opposite. We'd spoken after he'd encountered death on the mountain. We talked through it and what it did to him, what it meant. When his mentor died last year, Graham was forced to face that fatality up close and personally. It was devastating and he'd commented "I never want to be that guy for someone else to deal with." More than once he'd said "I don't have to die in this sport. I really see myself doing this when I'm as old and grey as you." Truly, he didn't just jump into things; Graham was a planner, a plotter, someone who found beauty in the journey of planning the jump as much (if not more than) the jump itself. Figuring out how to get to the exit, how to manage the process, where to land, all the logistics were part of his enjoyment, based on the conversations we'd shared. He took his joy from helping others achieve their goals, being part of their dream, while living his own.
If I could sum up Graham in a couple of thoughts, they'd be that he was the most humble, relaxed, easy-going, and honest person I've ever met, and I know I'm far from the only person who saw him as such.
Graham Hunt; the young man that taught me as much as I ever could have taught him.
- Douglas Spotted Eagle