Sisters In Skydiving

February 01, 2019
From:  Eloy Enterprise

Last weekend almost 70 women gathered at Skydive Arizona for its eighth annual Sisters in Skydiving event.

“We started this event geared toward the under 200-jump girl,” SIS event co-organizer Chazi Blacksher said. “It’s like a mentorship just to bring people together in a safe, no-stress environment. Some of it’s girlie. A lot of it is safety and helping them feel comfortable skydiving.”

The SIS program pairs novice female skydivers with experienced women skydivers, giving them the opportunity to learn from skydivers who share the same physique. 

Justine Sutton from Iowa has been skydiving for 11 years and has attended three SIS events at Skydive Arizona. She enjoys the camaraderie among the women and how they all understand and have the same troubles of setting aside time to jump.

“We all stick up for each other and we stick together,” Sutton said. “I don’t see that much because at my local drop zone there are maybe five or six girls.”

Even though the event was tailored for skydivers with fewer than 200 jumps, women who had been there before continue to come back to help out.

“It’s kind of intimidating because it’s like a dude sport and if you’re not pushing people down on the playground when you were little, then it’s kind of hard to get in,” Blacksher said. “We get awesome feedback from the ladies, saying ‘I never would have known how to do this out of a plane,’ or ‘I never thought I could fly without weights.’ A lot of them have to jump with heavy guys, so they come to this event and can jump with people like-sized and take pointers and accomplish things.”

For Sutton, her favorite part is when the prizes are handed out toward the end of the event. If an experienced jumper is selected, she sometimes hands it down to a newbie.

“I think it’s really cool that we’re trying to motivate the younger girls to stay in the sport,” Sutton said. “I won a canopy course last year and gave it back for them to draw again.”

Rebecca Rathbun from South Dakota first attended a SIS event in 2017 because her friends mentioned that Skydive Arizona was a "Disneyland for skydivers."

At the time she had fewer than 75 jumps under her belt and was unsure if she wanted to travel with her gear and felt intimidated coming from a small drop zone where she is the only woman.

“It was really weird,” Rathbun said. “The first time I came out here I thought, ‘I don’t have girlfriends at home and I don’t really like hanging out with girls, why am I going to a women’s event?’ I got here and they were all just like me. It’s a predominantly male sport, and you have to find your sisterhood.”

Additionally, Skydive Arizona is very different from most drop zones because of how big it is and it also has larger planes that allow for more skydivers to jump together.

“We really emphasize a lot of safety with landing,” Blacksher said. “Sometimes we have canopy coaches to help with an outsider view of something they can improve on.”

Blacksher has been around the SIS event in Eloy since it started and never imagined that it would be such a hit. Although the number this year was a bit lower than normal, it was because other drop zones have begun to host SIS events.

“I think it will continue to grow because people are always going to start skydiving,” Blacksher said. “There will always be girls with less than 200 jumps and then there will always be those girls who came to this event, appreciated it and then come back to give back in the mentorship way.”

In a related matter, the Eloy City Council this week approved appointing a subcommittee for the upcoming World Cup Skydiving Championship that will take place in October at Skydive Arizona.

At her first SIS event at Skydive Arizona, Rathbun learned a lot about herself and has continued to return year after year.

“I learned that I am a lot more self-sufficient than I thought I was,” Rathbun said. “I want to be that beacon of light for somebody in this sport or even outside of the sport, have them say ‘I came back because of you’ or ‘You inspired me so I’m doing this.’ That’s what I want.”
Photo of female skydivers

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