By Amy Chmelecki | Photos Courtesy of Red Bull
The Second Annual Red Bull Fly Girls Summit at iFLY Orlando and Skydive DeLand in Florida hosted 55 of the country’s best female skydivers—professional and amateur—during the first weekend of 2019. The summit celebrated women in skydiving, a sport that men have traditionally dominated. With its event, which featured a variety of seminars, tunnel time and fun jumps, as well as a competition and an instructional rating course, Red Bull hoped to inspire more women to become skydivers and grow the sport accordingly.
To work toward the goal of more female involvement in skydiving, USPA Tandem Instructor Examiner Keri Bell led a Tandem Instructor Rating Course at the summit. A first skydive can be a life-changing thrill, and some women are more comfortable making their first jumps with female rather than male instructors. Since there are fewer than 100 women who hold USPA Tandem Instructor Ratings (compared to nearly 2,000 men), one way to improve the chances that women will return to make second jumps is to grow the number of female instructors. The statistics took a step in the right direction as three women—Laura Golly, Katie Hansen and Samantha Smith—gained their ratings under Bell’s instruction during the weekend.
Golly said, “What made me interested in becoming a tandem instructor is that I was lucky enough to have a female tandem instructor for my first jump, and I thought she was the coolest person I’d met in my entire life. For many women, because most tandem masters are male, you don’t have anyone to aspire to [be like]. Hopefully we can change that.”
Another highlight of the weekend was the pylon racing event for both vertical and horizontal flyers. Ashley Goldstein won the vertical competition, and Maja Kuczynska won the horizontal race, which was a new event at the summit this year.
Additionally, guests outside of the skydiving world addressed issues facing women in sport. Among them were mountaineering legend Melissa Arnot Reid, the first female to summit Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen; Grete Eliassen, a skier, two-time X Games halfpipe gold medalist and former president of the Women’s Sports Foundation; and Katrina Adams, the first female United States Tennis Association President to serve two terms. (Adams even accomplished a personal first during the weekend: making her first jump!) They joined a panel to touch on women’s issues in sports, such as participation, equal pay, equal recognition and the importance of assuming leadership roles. All agreed that women athletes have to be proactive if they want to see change.
There has been a cultural sea change regarding women’s rights in this country. The sports world has to catch up, and the Red Bull Fly Girls Summit aims to be that proactive push that moves change forward for the sport of skydiving every year.
About the Author
Amy Chmelecki, D-24579, is a world champion skydiver and multi-time world record holder. She is a member of the Red Bull Air Force and leads the annual Red Bull Fly Girls Summit.