Freshman soars to tremendous heights with riveting hobby

by Matt Lash, Sports Editor

INDIANOLA, Iowa — Freshman Joe Seymour, of Indianola, takes the meaning of “blowing hot air” to a whole new level. He’s made a hobby out of something most people wouldn’t consider: hot air ballooning.

Seymour lived in Indianola, home of the National Balloon Classic, until he was 16. When he was a kid, Seymour would go out with his dad, an avid ballooner himself, just to enjoy nature, have fun and make memories.

“My first flight in a hot air balloon was when I was 3 months old,” Seymour said. “My dad put me in the basket and we flew across a field and landed.”

Since then, Seymour has been ballooning.

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When he was 16, Seymour moved to Houston with his mom, who was relocating for work, but he didn’t stop his unique hobby.

Now a busy college student, Seymour still finds time to enjoy his hobby with those who’ll give it a try with him.

“My dad passed away about two years ago and since then, I’ve been flying and working a lot to get my private pilot’s license,” Seymour said. “I’ve had the student license, but the actual private license allows me to take friends and family up alone, without needing another licensed pilot in the basket.”

With hopes of someday getting his commercial license and possibly making a business out of his hobby, Seymour knows he’ll have to work for it. Having already completed 10 hours of flight time, training sessions, Federal Aviation Administration oral and written exams with a government approved pilot, Seymour isn’t quite ready to jump back into it during his freshman year.

“That’s another 10 hours of training, flight time and tests I’m not ready to commit to yet,” Seymour said.

What he is ready to do is race.

Since moving on campus, Seymour has already logged eight individual flights and plans on adding to that total in the next month with an official hot air balloon race in Creston which will be his first solo flight in an official capacity.

“For races, the goal is to throw a bag (from the basket) as close to specific targets throughout the race,” Seymour said. “When one target area closes, the closest bag gets the most points, helping that ballooner in the overall race standings.”

For a weekend-long race, there are only a few specific hours when balloons can be in the air, due to wind factors.

“The least wind is early in the morning, before sunrise, and late at night, after sunset,” Seymour said.

Seymour said the most memorable event he attended was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where more than 1,400 hot air balloons filled the air for one of the biggest races in the world.