A Guinness World Record holder is upping his own ante
By Sue Baldani
Flying through the sky with a board strapped to his feet is Keith (KĒBĒ) Snyder’s idea of a good time. What began as a hobby back in 1995 took him to the X Games and eventually on to win the Guinness World Record for the most helicopter spins in the air during a jump.
“In 1994, I saw this guy spinning and saw the smile on his face and I wanted to know what was going on there,” he says. “To stand on something in the sky – I just wanted to experience that. You are literally getting to stand on top of the world. It’s a very empowering feeling when you’re flying through the air and I actually go into this meditative state when spinning.” At this point, he has completed over 6,500 jumps all over the world.
Sky surfing, says Snyder, began in 1988, and it progressed when people started adding in little tricks like flips and spins. “It grew and grew until you had an international community of sky surfers. The X Games were born in 1995, and sky surfing went to an explosive level of participation because you had ESPN pumping money into the sport. That core group got so good so fast it became hard to chase. That became my fuel for a while.”
Making it to the X Games in 2000 was a huge accomplishment. “The next year, they ended up dropping Sky Sports, but I started winning Nationals in 2001, 2002 and 2003 and came in third in the World Cup,” he says.
Snyder became so good that he began teaching others how to do it, and eventually opened a school in Arizona, where he was living at the time. “There’s probably 250 people I’ve guided on how to do it safely.”
Little did he know, his time in Arizona was coming to an end. In 2020, his father, Chris, was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer that can occur in the brain and/or spinal cord. “I was in the middle of a text conversation with my mother [Catherine] when my father passed out,” says Snyder. “The next day, they found tumors and were going to operate. I flew back to be with them as soon as he came out of surgery. About 24 hours later, I was in their house in Gainesville looking out the window and knew I had to move back here to be with them.”
Chris died in September of 2020 at the age of 71. “After my father passed away, my mom started pulling things out of his end table and I could tell that it was stuff that meant something to him. My parents have been together almost their entire lives, and she found letters she wrote to him when they dated. There was also a little envelope with some of the stuff written about me for sky surfing.”
Later in 2020, Snyder was invited to a Jump Like A Pharaoh event by organizer Mahmoud Sharaf of Egypt. He was introduced to Sharaf by Omar Alhegelan of Saudi Arabia, one of the camera flyers who films him. Sky surfing over the pyramids was something he dreamed of doing for years.
Of course, winning the Guinness World Record in November 2021 in Giza, Egypt with 160 helicopter spins was another unforgettable experience for him. And he’s not done yet. “The idea is to break this record one more time. Right now, that’s planned for the beginning of November and my goal is to do 180 spins.”
He’s also recently joined forces with a group called StacheStrong. “They’ve raised around $1.2 million for brain cancer and 99% of this money goes directly towards research,” he says. Snyder is going to help them add to this amount by taking pledges per rotation.
“Skydive Orange of [ Orange, VA] is supporting this Guinness World Record & Brain Cancer Research fundraising effort by giving me sky surfing flight time. We have an arrangement for the practice flights I need in order to attain the level of performance necessary to set these new record levels.” Onelife Fitness in Gainesville is also helping out with a free gym membership.
In addition to all of this, Snyder is busy writing a couple of books on sky surfing, which are due out in the near future. One is a guidebook on sky surfing and the other will focus on sky surfing from an engineering point of view. “I’m an engineer by trade and worked with the Merchant Marine Academy, so I want to help people understand the dynamics.”
Today, he believes he’s where he’s meant to be. “I get to be with my mother and my family here in Virginia and continue to pursue sky surfing.”
To see Snyder’s Guinness World Record jump, go to https://vimeo.com/651641224/0b9d851875.
Written for Haymarket/Gainesville Lifestyle Magazine in Virginia.