Student Spotlight: The Incredible Shrinking Mike Yarbrough

Mike Yarbrough, from Lexington, North Carolina, is less than half the man he used to be. To be precise, he’s 410 pounds smaller. The weight limits on skydiving pose a challenge to many, many potential jumpers, so a success story like this one gets us on our feet and cheering.

tandem skydiving

MIKE YARBROUGH, FROM LEXINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA, IS LESS THAN HALF THE MAN HE USED TO BE. TO BE PRECISE, HE’S 410 POUNDS SMALLER. THE WEIGHT LIMITS ON SKYDIVING POSE A CHALLENGE TO MANY, MANY POTENTIAL JUMPERS, SO A SUCCESS STORY LIKE THIS ONE GETS US ON OUR FEET AND CHEERING.

“Skydiving was number one on my bucket list,” Mike explains, “But my weight was always holding me back. I have always had like this big adrenaline rush to do things that are exciting. It is kind of off-the-chain.”

Mike’s three-year weight-loss journey was nobody’s idea of easy, but he did it--and for their three-year wedding anniversary, Mike’s wife surprised him with a skydiving gift certificate for a jump with us at Piedmont. After all the hard work he put in, we couldn’t have been more stoked to welcome him into the sport.

“My heavy weight was 604 pounds,” Mike explains, “And my health was deteriorating. I was in and out of the hospital several times a year. Just walking from my front door to the mailbox was just completely exhausting. I would be out of breath. I tried every diet in the world and failed at them miserably. I even made up a couple and failed at them, too.”

As a last resort, Mike turned to weight loss surgery. On July 17, 2013, he had the gastric sleeve procedure. In just a little over 3 years’ time, he has lost 410 pounds. Mike is quick to point out that, contrary to popular belief, gastric sleeve surgery is not a short-cut. On the contrary, it is really, really challenging.

“A lot of people don’t understand that,” Mike says. “They think because you have the surgery it is an easy way out. The surgery is just a tool. Just like any other tool you buy at a hardware store, you can buy it and let it lay on the shelf. It is not use to you at all if you don’t use it properly.”

About a year and a half after his surgery, things were starting to get exciting for Mike. For the first time in 25 years, he went to Carowinds--and was actually able to get on a roller coaster.

“We had such a good time, my wife and I bought season passes,” he grins, “And we went like ten times last year. We have probably been about five times this year.” After the roller coaster thrill faded, Mike shifted his laser focus to skydiving. With his wife’s incredibly thoughtful anniversary gift in hand, he marched up to our manifest desk and made his lifelong dream a reality.

“My tandem instructor was really amazing,” Mike remembers. “He walked me through everything that we were going to be doing, and I shared a little bit of my story with him. It just blew his mind that I had lost that much weight.”

“I was so excited,” he continues, “From the time we left the tarmac to the time we actually got to 10,000 feet. When we stepped outside of that plane, it was such a rush, and I can’t wait to do it again.”

“The next goal is to get my license,” Mike grins. “I’m going to jump on my own someday soon.”

If you’re looking at the tandem skydiving weight limits and you’re starting to think that you’ll never be able to make a jump, Mike has some advice for you.

“Everyone who faces significant weight loss has got dreams that they are being prevented from realizing because of the extra weight,” Mike says. “Surgery is a great thing, but before you jump into it, you have got to have the proper mindset. You have got to say, I am going to do this no matter what the cost. No matter what it takes, no matter what comes up, I am going to do this. If you get up every day with one thing in your mind--the best of me is yet to come--then you can accomplish anything. But it is all about mindset. If you don’t have that, then you can’t do anything at all.”

One thing is for sure: Piedmont Skydiving is proud to count Mike Yarbrough among our “sky family,” and we’re looking forward to handing him that hard-earned license.

Best experience of my life! Had an amazing time and couldn't ask for a better staff. Can't wait to get back to Piedmont Skydiving and jump again! Instructor Scott made the experience even better with his enthusiasm and sense of humor! I would recommend the Piedmont Skydiving team to anyone willing to jump out of a functioning airplane!

» Sean Molloy