Bringing the Guinness World Record back to Great Britain, Verdun Hayes has set the record for the world’s oldest skydiver. At 101 years old, the Somerset resident has not stopped living his life.
Hayes is no stranger to facing challenges. In 1944, he fought in World War II on the beaches of Normandy. The veteran doesn’t seem to have any plans to slow down anytime soon. This was his second skydive!
In 2016, Hayes made his skydiving debut in order to commemorate his 100th birthday celebration. There is no better way to memorialize living for an entire century than by jumping out of an airplane.
“I thought to myself, ‘This is queer; I can’t see nothing.’ It didn’t dawn on me for a while until I realized we were in a cloud!” Hayes said about his first skydiving experience. “After we’d got through the clouds I could see all of Wales and all of the coast. It was so beautiful.”
He said that during his first skydive he had not felt nervous at all. He is a former county champion runner and has experience flying gliders in the past. He has even survived a small accident in a hot air balloon two decades ago. This daredevil simply does not let his age slow him down.
To this day, Hayes is an avid underwater swimmer, and he is a skilled woodworker and photographer. When asked how he has lived so long, Hayes always replies with, “Just keep breathing!”
At the age of 78, Hayes had to have his colon removed. He has had a colostomy bag for the last 23 years. With a recent medical check up under his belt, Hayes was cleared to jump.
“The surgeon said to me, ‘Mr. Hayes, I’ve never seen a man look so well.’” Hayes said.
He gives much of the credit for his vitality to his late wife, Hilda Hayes, who passed away six years ago.
“We had a perfect marriage, and she was a wonderful cook. We loved one another, did everything together, and went on holiday all over,” Hayes said. “If I had to pick a wife again, I could never pick a better one.”
The couple began their courtship at 17 years of age. They married at the age of 21 and were together for 76 years.
“I knew her 80 years of my life,” Hayes said, fondly. “She was a wonderful person. We always wondered who would die first. She went aged 95. Though I very much doubt she would have liked to have known I was doing a skydive!”
He now lives with his daughter, Lin Tattersall. According to her, Hayes loves to garden and grows hundred of bulbs and vegetables.
“He’s always been a daredevil,” Tattersall said. “He ran the miles race at county level when he was younger, and my Mum would ride alongside him on a bicycle when he trained.”
Hayes had been wanting to skydive since he was 90 years old. His wife was still alive and managed to talk him out of it. He decided to wait until he reached his 100th birthday.
The previous record for the world’s oldest skydiver was held by a Canadian man who was 101 years and 3 days old. Now, it is held by Hayes at 101 years and 37 days old.
“I want to get the record for Britain,” Hayes said. His jump was successful and has raised almost £4000 for the North Devon Hospice and the Royal British Legion.
For Hayes, age is simply a number. He has shown the world that anyone can experience the thrill of skydiving at any age.