How Skydiving Changed My Life | Paying It Forward

Carol Jones

Originally published on June 5, 2023, on

I made my first jump—a tandem skydive— at Taft, California, in 1993. It was simultaneously the scariest and 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 the repeated use of 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 before giving me the signal to do the backflip. I was so elated to be 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-minute drive to the DZ, and when it ended up being 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 and started packing to pay for my skydiving, eventually becoming a rigger and AFF and static-line instructor—and then, when Bill Jones and I went to Alaska and started a drop zone, DZ manager.

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, and armed with that internal strength, I was ready to make some serious changes in my life. That included getting out of (at the time) a destructive marriage.

Now, Bill and I 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, share in their enthusiasm for gaining new skills and watch their confidence levels build.

I am also a very active promoter of the Women’s Star Crest Award (WSCA) program. This program was created in 1969, and consists of two 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 eight or more women in a round formation and holding that formation for at least five seconds. Men can also earn the WSCR by docking ninth or later. To this date, women only make up about 14% of the total number of skydivers in the U.S., and it was probably less than that in 1969. So, just getting eight women together at a drop zone at one time is quite the feat. To me, it is an honor to carry forward this historic award for women.

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Carol Jones | D-17918
Alpine, Wyoming

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1 comments on article "How Skydiving Changed My Life | Paying It Forward"

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Eugene Potgieter

8/15/2023 3:33 PM

Skydiving rescued me out of a deep hole too.

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