I made my first jump at Taft, California in 1993 which was a tandem skydive. It was simultaneously the scariest thing I had ever done and the most exhilarating thing I had ever done. A girlfriend had gone out with me and we both immediately signed up for AFF. I was not a natural. I had to repeat a couple of levels – one in particular I will never forget. I think it was level 5 when I had to do an intentional backflip to make myself unstable intentionally. Notice how many times I have used the word “intentional”. There were a lot of unintentionally unstable times in my student training! We left the airplane linked, then the instructor released me and moved out in front of me. He gave me the signal to do the backflip. I was so elated that I was actually falling stable that I refused to get unstable intentionally. I shook my head no. He gave the signal again. I shook my head no. He shrugged his shoulders, I pulled on time and landed the canopy. Of course, I had to repeat that level.
I was pretty much terrified the whole time as a student. My friend and I had a 45 drive to the DZ. We had started AFF in the late fall/early winter and when it was too cloudy or windy to jump, I was very relieved. But something kept bringing me back. The act of exiting the plane was intimidating, but once I left the plane I felt at home. Until it was time to land the canopy, which I sucked at also.
My friend and I graduated AFF and then we were on our own. There was no real program at that time to transition into. My friend and I would do 2 ways and I use that term very loosely. We would leave the plane together and land somewhat near each other in the landing area but other than that we would be elated if we could see each other in freefall. But I kept accumulating jumps, started packing to pay for my skydiving, eventually becoming a rigger, AFF and static line instructor, and then DZ manager when Bill Jones and I went to Alaska and started a dropzone.
Photo By: Kay Cottingham Robinson
Skydiving has done and continues to do a lot of things for me in my life. When I made that first tandem, I became instantly aware that there was something in me that allowed me to conquer fear of the unknown. A few weeks before I made my tandem, I had run and completed a marathon (26.2 miles). Armed with that internal strength, I was ready to make some serious changes in my life including getting out of (at the time) a destructive marriage.
Carol and her Granddaughter!
Now, we are retired. The drop zones we owned are all sold, and I am no longer an instructor but one of the highlights of my year is being involved with the SIS event each year at Skydive Arizona. It is such a treat for me to get involved with the younger skydiving women and share in their enthusiasm in gaining new skills and watching their confidence levels build. I am also a very active promoter of the WSCA program which stands for Women’s Star Crest Award. This program was created in 1969 and consists of 2 awards. The WSCR which stands for Women’s Star Crest Recipient and the NWSCR which is the Night Women’s Star Crest Recipient. The WSCR is earned by having 8 or more women in a round formation and holding that formation for at least 5 seconds. Men can also earn the WSCR by docking 9th or later. Women to this date still only compile about 13% of the total numbers of skydivers in the US and it was probably less than that in 1969. So just getting 8 women together at a dropzone at one time is quite the feat. To me, it is an honor to carry forward this historic award for women.
More info on WSCR: http://wscr.org/
WSCR Photo by Gen Montreuil