Advertisement
Share

Huntington Beach’s Don Ramsey shows no signs of slowing down

Don Ramsey, center, smiles for photos after tandem jumping out of a plane with the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs.
Don Ramsey, center, smiles for photos after tandem jumping out of a plane with the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs on Thursday morning in Huntington Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Don Ramsey turned 70 earlier this year.

That fact did not preclude the longtime Huntington Beach resident from jumping out of a plane 13,000 feet in the air with the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs on Thursday morning.

“He called me and said, I think I’m going to do it,” said Ramsey’s daughter, Angie Bailey, who also lives in Huntington Beach. “I said, ‘I think you have to, or you’re going to regret it the rest of your life.’ He’s terrified of heights, but he said, ‘I’m just going to have to get over it.’ I was stoked for him. He doesn’t even go on roller coasters, so we were all stoked.”

Dozens of friends and family members gathered between lifeguard towers 9 and 11. Ramsey landed last, in a tandem jump.

“It was exciting,” he said. “I got a little nauseous toward the back end of it, but all in all, it was fantastic. Jumping over my town, it’s hard to explain until you do it.”

The Leap Frogs did the jumps Thursday as publicity for the Pacific Airshow, which hits the beach in Surf City next weekend. Pro surfer Courtney Conlogue, a Sage Hill School alumna, was the next to take the leap.

Don Ramsey, right, glides in for a landing after tandem jumping out of a plane with the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs on Thursday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Ramsey said he loves the airshow, and it maybe means a bit more to him as a veteran of the armed forces. Ramsey served as a medic in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War; he was stationed in Korea for 14 months.

As for Huntington Beach, that is indeed his town. Ramsey’s family first moved here in 1963, when he was 11.

Since then, it’s been a life of waves, but also of service. Ramsey is on the board of directors of the Huntington Beach Boardriders Club, and he’s also gained local notoriety as the founder and organizer of the Kowabunga Van Klan, a group that shares love of old Volkswagen buses.

Ramsey, who is happily married to his wife Michelle, also has a son, Chad, who lives in town and went to Thursday’s jump for support. The Ramseys are intertwined with the city like few other families.

Don Ramsey, the owner and president of Ecology Tires, serves on the board of directors of the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum and the Surfing Walk of Fame. He’s also on the city’s Fourth of July Executive Board and is event director for the International Surfboard Builders Hall of Fame.

When he has any spare time, he performs in the Ramsey Brothers Band with his brother, Jim.

Don Ramsey glides in for a landing after tandem jumping out of a plane with the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs on Thursday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“He’s like the busiest guy I know,” said Val Aipa, who serves with Ramsey on the H.B. Board Riders board. “I don’t know how he has time for work-life balance, but he seems to make it work. He’s a really rad dude. There’s not anything that goes on in the city, I don’t think, that Don Ramsey hasn’t consulted on or been involved in directly.”

Chris Moreno started the H.B. Board Riders, and soon the West Coast Board Riders Club, with friends including the late surfer Casey Wheat in late 2015. He said that Ramsey was instrumental from the beginning.

“He came into our shop and said, ‘What do you guys need? Anything you need, let me know,’” Moreno said. “We needed tents so we could get the branding off right, so it looked good. And he wrote us a check right there, like not even a question, and bought the very first tents for the West Coast Board Riders and the H.B. Board Riders Club.

“His time commitment to the city and the organizations that benefit the city is unsurpassed. There’s no one, zero, not a kid, not a young man who can beat him or keep up with him energy-wise. The amount of time he donates to our city has changed our city for the better … There is nobody like Don Ramsey. He is the super-grom.”

Ramsey is arguably one of the most recognizable people in the city. Earlier this year, he received the first Community Partner Service Award from the Downtown Business Improvement District.

Friends and family look to the sky as they watch Don Ramsey tandem jump out of a plane with the Navy Leap Frogs on Thursday.
Friends and family look to the sky as they watch Don Ramsey tandem jump out of a plane with the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs on Thursday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

But recognition isn’t why he does it. When his good friend and local surf personality Rick “Rockin’ Fig” Fignetti passed away last year due to a heart attack, Ramsey did much of the work to put together a huge paddle out.

“It was just so comforting, and it took so much stress off me and my family because we were still mourning my dad’s loss,” said Chanel Fignetti, Rick’s daughter. “I could never repay him for that. He was like an angel sent from heaven. He does everything out of the kindness of his heart. He doesn’t expect or want anything in return. He just wants to help people. He wants to help Huntington Beach become a better place, a better community, and he wants to keep legacies alive.

“That’s what makes him so different from other people. People are always wanting something. He doesn’t want anything; he just wants to do it because he’s a good person.”

Ramsey keeps busy, promoting the surf culture he loves. Last year, he said he drove the Navy Leap Frogs back from the landing site on the beach to their hotel in Volkswagen buses.

This year, he was a more direct part of the action.

“I’m glad that we’re Surf City,” he said. “We always were, and we are officially. We’ve got eight miles of some of the best surf around, so I love it. At my age, I still get to surf.”

And jump out of a plane, too.

Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.


Advertisement