This Black Mom Is Balancing Work, Marriage, Motherhood and Skydiving
African-American skydiver, Sharon Calhoun started jumping out of planes in 2002 when she was 23 years old. At the time, skydiving was one of many items on her bucket list. She thought she would try it once—just to say she did it. To her surprise, she was immediately hooked! One week later she signed up for Accelerated Freefall classes to learn how to solo skydive. She now has over 400 jumps.
Sharon jumped actively for the next six years while traveling around the United States for her job installing IT software. Her travel took her to drop-zones as far away as New York, Arizona and Washington state. She also began hiking and indoor rock climbing with skydivers she befriended from her local drop-zone.
In the early aughts, there were very few Black women active in skydiving—and none in the southeast United States. That means she did deal with the occasional off color comments and unwanted jokes about her race and ethnicity.
That wasn’t a deterrent for the daughter of Florida sharecroppers. Unlike many African-American skydivers who started jumping out of planes while they served in the military, Sharon’s path was unique. She grew up on a Valencia orange grove in Florida where her father was the foreman. Her country childhood was idyllic; after school she would change into play clothes and spend entire afternoons climbing trees, getting dirty and playing in the grove with her two older brothers.
From an early age she found her own path. Perhaps, that’s why her mother understood Sharon’s passion for skydiving. Her mother never had the opportunity to watch her jump, and she worried just as much as anyone else—that is until Sharon showed her a video of just how much fun she was having. After that, her mother understood
These days, Sharon works as an IT consultant. She’s also a wife and a mother of two daughters. She took a break from skydiving after becoming pregnant with her first child in 2009. Last year, in 2018, she returned to the skies! Both of her kids love the fact that she jumps out of airplanes. They think she’s a super-hero!
And she’s continuing her family’s legacy by sharing her love for the outdoors that her parents instilled in her. Sharon enjoys hiking with her kids and visiting state parks in Atlanta and on Stone Mountain and Kennesaw Mountain. They go to outdoor festivals and run 5k races together. At a time when African Americans are the statistically the demographic least likely to take advantage of national parks, Sharon is paving her own way.
She loves jumping out of planes for the adrenaline rush and the sense of accomplishment it brings; but, more than anything else, Sharon loves that skydiving is an activity all her own. In her own words, “when I’m in the air, falling at 120 mph, it’s not me as a mother or as a wife but me as a skydiver.” It just goes to show that self-care can look like a lot of things to include jumping from a perfectly good airplane!
While these days she jumps less than she used to, Sharon recently started competing in 4-way relative work (RW). It’s a type of formation skydiving that takes place at indoor wind tunnels and drop-zones across the country. Four jumpers spin and turn like clockwork while completing a series of static randoms and dynamic blocks as fast as possible to earn points.
Sharon and her team usually train at iFLY Atlanta with Vega XP coaches Ian & Annie Drennen and Nicholas Rashod Walker. In February 2018, they competed in intermediate 4-way at ParacleteXP, the largest indoor wind tunnel in the United States. Sharon enjoyed the experience of being in close proximity to professional skydiving teams like SDC Rhythm XP and learning from other amateur teams from across the U.S.
Her advice for women of color who are considering the sport is this: don’t wait for the conditions to be right. If you see something you want to try, go for it. You may even inspire someone else along the way!