"When I was a young kid, I was watching a TV Series called Flying Man. The show was about two heroes jumping out of C-182 geared with old military surplus, cheap canopies and front-mounted reserves completing various missions. Their skydiving skills was at the base of their success."
He went to buy a brand new equipment the very next day, a Cuisair square parachute. The following weekend he showed up at the DZ and surprised everybody there: "I was stoked. Right after landing, I wanted to jump again as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the DZ was flying one Cessna, and the loads were backed up for a few hours. I still could not afford to spend so much time on the ground. I convinced a pilot to rent a C-150 from the local club and take me up to 5000’..."
The endless ride to altitude gave him time to relax and actually discover his soon-to-become second passion: Flying. He registered next day to take flying lessons and became a pilot. A week after getting his private license Michel Lemay was on his way to Florida in a rented C-172, together with two friends and his new gear.
He joined his first team in 1982, four years after his first jump. It was the Canadian national 8-way team that he committed to for a 2-year training program.
The training went well, and his first team won the national 4way and 8way gold medals shortly after he had joined. A year later, Canada's 8way team won the gold medals at the World Cup 1983 on home turf.
It was the alternate World Championship of Formation Skydiving since several teams boykotted the official World Meet 1983 in South Africa due to the apartheid policy there.
Michel Lemay then decided that it was time to start a family: "I did very few skydives between 1984 and 1990. These years were incredible. My three sons Martin, Vincent and Benoit were respectively born in 1985, 1988 and 1991. I fantasized that one day I would do a 4way skydive along with my three sons..."
He worked as a carpenter for various companies between 1984 and 1990 and was ready for a career shift. He and former team mate and friend Daniel Paquette decided to open Parachutisme Nouvel Air together, located in the suburbs of Montreal, Québec. Nouvel Air rapidly became the largest and most recognized skydiving center in Canada.
In the meantime, his three sons were growing up spending hours and hours at the DZ. Michel Lemay remembers that they all showed tremendous interest in skydiving: "I took Martin for his first skydive when he was 7, and I took Vincent the same day for his birthday. Vince was 4 years old at that time. Benoit was also 4 years old when I took him on his first skydive."
His kids were all amazed and wanted more. Martin started jumping when he turned 15 and developed great interest in 4way competition. He was recruited by the DZ’s top local team and started training. Father Michel joined the team a few months later, and winning the Canadian Nationals became the goal.
"It was out of the question that I would waste six precious years. From then on, we made our yearly men’s vacation with a minivan trip to SkyVenture Orlando. Our vacation was comprised of tunnel training... No word is strong enough to describe their enthusiasm and excitement regarding these yearly vacations."
He hired the best of the best to train his two younger boys. Craig Girard took Vincent and Benoit under his wings and taught them how to fly, while Michel Lemay's former Canadian 4way team mate Neal Houston coached the 4way team that consisted of Michel and Martin Lemay, François Pigeon, Richard Bisson. He still appreciates Craig Girard's work with his two sons:
"Craig did an amazing job camp after camp, and when the time finally came, both Vincent and Benoit had the necessary flying abilities and dive pool knowledge to join the team one at a time, Vincent in 2004 and Ben in 2006."
He met Shannon Pilcher at the World Meet 2006 in Germany. They discussed the project Michel Lemay had in mind for his family team. The fresh 4way world champion with DeLand Fire did not hesitate to commit as the Evolution coach, and it worked well. Shannon Pilcher has been a part of the Evolution team project since Day 1 and is now almost like a family member. Evolution became a complete family affair in 2006, and all members saw enough potential in the skills to start training together as a 4way team.
Evolution soon won the Canadian Nationals 2007 with an 18.9 average after only 150 training jumps. Then the boys took a sabbatical year from school in 2007 and 2008 and committed to a full year of training in DeLand, Florida. Michel Lemay remembers that this was the time when things changed for the new team:
Evolution represented Canada at the World Championship 2008 in France and finished 6th, then again at the World Games 2009 in Taiwan (5th) and also at the Dubai Championship 2010 (4th) with meet averages above 20 points.
Michel Lemay also extended his business at the same time, together with long-time partner Daniel Paquette. He partnered with a group of investors early in 2009 and opened the first windtunnel in Canada, SkyVenture Montréal, with a 14-foot recirculated flying chamber. It is located in the team’s hometown, Laval.
Michel Lemay is now the co-owner of two of Canada’s biggest skydiving centers, Parachutisme Nouvel Air and Parachute Montréal, and of the SkyVenture Montréal windtunnel. He has accomplished much more than his original dream of doing 4way with his three boys. His complete family attended its second World Championship of Formation Skydiving in 2010 and will add another one in Dubai 2012. This will probably be the last one with his three boys and his own 6th attendance. It would conclude an incredible and unique competition career, and Michel Lemay can look back with incredible memories:
"On top of all, I am a proud father of three sons and a team member of Team Evolution, a team which will stay with me forever. For me it is a dream team!!!"
Not only for him...