Breaking the Gender Divide in Skydiving

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A certain group of skydivers is breaking the gender barrier in the sport. In a sport that is predominantly populated by males, female skydivers are making some headway.

The only all-female skydiving team in California recently competed in a national event.

At Skydive Taft, a training facility, the all-female skydiving crew trained regularly. Last year they competed in the United States Parachute Association (USPA) National Championships. USPA officials claim that only 25 percent of the competitors in last year’s national were female. Another statistic states that only 14 percent of the organization’s registered members are female. Claudia Blank, an organizer of the women’s skydiving team, talked about the crew. “I decided I want to push my limits, I’m going to get into competition,” she said.

“Because I definitely don’t want to embarrass myself, and I will learn as much as I can.”

Brian Benham is an instructor at Skydive Taft. He commented on the gender difference. “Last year they broke a couple records, and they came out with a bronze as a pick-up team,” Benham said. “They’re really competitive, just as competitive as the guys.” Skydive Taft is located in Taft, California which is in the greater Los Angeles area. Taft is located 30 miles from Bakersfield, at an elevation of 955 feet. Claudia Blank has been active in skydiving in California for over 20 years. Speaking of skydiving, Blank said, “If you’ve never done it you’re never going to know because it’s impossible to describe the feeling.”

“It kind of moves you to do other things in life, not only skydiving.”

She said it encourages people to open their minds and live the life they want to live, instead of being stuck in a job they do not like (for example) or being in a troubled relationship. Blank hopes the sport catches on more for women. She noticed the “divide” in gender at last year’s competition, and hopes to change that for future competitions. She says that she would love to see more women join the “thrilling-seeking sport.” Last year there was another instance where the gender gap was pushed.

In November of 2016, a group of 65 skydivers set the record for largest female formation in the world flying upside down.

The skydivers came from 18 different countries—including the U.S., Australia, France, and Russia. This occurred in Eloy, Arizona. (The previous record was 63 female skydivers.) Amy Chmelecki is a world famous sky diver who took part in the record. She has completed over 14,000 jumps, holds 11 world records, 13 national titles, and seven world titles. “Making a world record is not easy. That’s why it’s a world record. It’s not going to be given to us, we had to work really hard for this,” Chmelecki said. When talking about the gender divide in skydiving, Chmelecki said:

“The thought of my actions inspiring other women, fuels me all the time.”

Tracing the origins of female skydiving back to the beginning, the first woman to parachute was Jeanne-Genevieve Garnerin on October 12, 1799 from around 3,000 feet. The first woman to jump from a plane was Georgina Ann Thompson on June 21, 1913 over Los Angeles, California. These women and many more have paved the way, and there will surely be plenty of brave women donning parachutes in the future as well.

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