In 1978, ten days after taking his first balloon ride for his 33rd birthday, Don Surplus, pilot and company founder, purchased a hot air balloon with four of his friends. Together, these newfound converts started a flying club they named The Yountville Aerostat Society which later became Napa Valley Balloons.
There were approximately 400 balloons in America at that time, making hot air ballooning a very unique and curious sight in the Napa Valley. The almost magical allure of watching a hot air balloon touch ground attracted countless people, many of them bent on using any means imaginable to convince a pilot to take them for a flight. It wasn't long before Napa Valley Balloons took on a life of its own.
In 1980, after incorporating the business, a small team of pilots began offering commercial flights to wine country travelers looking to explore Napa Valley from above. As Napa Valley grew in popularity and became world-renowned for its fine wines and culinary excellence, so too did the love affair with hot air ballooning. Under the leadership of Don Surplus and his business partner Kim Kleist, Napa Valley Balloons thrived for decades. Thanks to the hard work of our dedicated pilots and crew, more people are now flown in Napa Valley than any other flight corridor in the world.
After Don’s retirement in 2007, Kim took on a new partner, Gabe Gundling. As a young boy, Gabe never grew tired of watching hot air balloons land in the unplanted farmland surrounding his family’s Napa Valley home. His ballooning career began in 2003 as a member of Napa Valley Balloons chase crew and rose through the ranks to the position of Pilot and eventually owner of Napa Valley Balloons, Inc. With Kim as the wise and patient mentor, and Gabe’s youthful enthusiasm, Napa Valley Balloons grew to become the largest balloon ride company in the country. Kim retired in 2014.
Today Napa Valley Balloons, Inc. is regarded as one of the premier hot air balloon companies in the world. Armed with a love for ballooning, an entrepreneurial spirit and an incredible team of dedicated staff, the future at Napa Valley Balloons is bright.