Norman Ollestad (born May 30, 1967) is an American author. At the age of eleven, he was the only survivor of a plane crash that claimed the life of his father. He wrote about it in his 2009 bestseller Crazy For The Storm: A Memoir Of Survival. He has also written a novel, Driftwood, which was released in 2006.
Ollestad was born to Norman and Doris Ollestad, and was raised in Topanga Beach, Malibu, California. He was thrust into the world of surfing and competitive downhill skiing at a very young age by his father and later said that he resented losing his childhood to his father’s reckless and demanding adventures. He became a competitive hockey player and skier, winning the Southern California Slalom Skiing Championship at age 11. Norman was called "Boy Wonder" by his father.
Norman lived much of his early life at his mother's house, where his mom's boyfriend Nick also stayed; Nick was often drunk and yelled at Norman, punishing him, making him get in fights, and even hurting him. Norman tried to avoid Nick by spending time with his dog, Sunny, or down a canyon near his house where he had made a fort, or at the house of his unofficial godmother, Eleanor Kendall.
On February 19, 1979, a chartered Cessna carrying 11-year-old Ollestad, his father, his father’s girlfriend, and the pilot, crashed into Southern California’s San Gabriel Mountains. Ollestad’s father died in the crash, and the pilot shortly after. Suspended at over 8,000 feet and engulfed in a blizzard, Ollestad descended the mountain with Sandra, his father's girlfriend, but she died after a fall down a shute. Norman was the sole survivor of the crash. He later told the Los Angeles Times that “My dad told me never to give up.”
Ollestad later traveled to St. Anton in the Austrian Alps, and decided to become a writer. He returned to Los Angeles and enrolled in UCLA Film School, where he also studied creative writing. In 2006, Ollestad began the process of returning to the painful memories of the crash in preparation for writing Crazy For The Storm. Returning to the crash site, Ollestad found pieces of wreckage, and reconnected with the family who had given him shelter once he reached safety.
Later on in his life, Norman got married and had a son named Noah. He treated his son like his father had treated him, teaching his son skiing and surfing, but allowing him to choose his own pace instead forcing it upon him.