• All About Sam Smith

    Thursday 23 August 2018, by Cookie

    When we talk to Sam Smith, she’s on her way from Florida to Virginia. This is the first road trip of the very many she’ll do this season, and she’s happy to do it: After all, this passionate full-time skydiver is all about sharing her hard-earned knowledge (and cheerful disposition) with the skydiving world.

    Photo by Raymond Adams“Cinco and CarolinaFest kick off the boogie season for me,” she grins. “From there, I’m busy all the way through August.”

    Most boogie-bound skydivers have jumped with Sam at some point or another, so they know her enough to like her. What most people don’t know about Sam is that it isn’t human flight that first got her into the sky. It was fixed-wing flight—which is still a great interest of hers that she plans to revisit someday.

    "I was in school to get a Bachelor's in Biology and a minor in Chemistry,” she explains. “First, I wanted to do pre-med. Then, mid-way through the program, I started getting my pilot's license. It made me change my mind about my career goals; from then on, I wanted to be a commercial pilot.”

    The Diversion

    But then, one day in 2011, she did a tandem skydive with her friend for her birthday at the tandem drop zone in Ocean City, Maryland, which was where Sam grew up. Immediately, Sam was hooked. She knew she had to get her solo skydiving license. To get it quickly, she headed south to Skydive City—a legendary drop zone in Florida. She completed her USPA A-license in two weeks. When she emerged, she officially had a new skybound obsession.

    “I have over 250 hours of flight time, and I'm just shy of getting my commercial pilot’s license,” she explains, “Someday, I’d like to see it through; maybe then fly for a small charter company. But right now I'm still in love with skydiving, working in the sport and helping to mentor and coach others.”

    From the day Sam earned her solo skydiving license, the dynamo immediately set about designing her lifestyle to fit her new status as a highly mobile skydiver. For the summers, Sam would base herself at Skydive Pepperell, traveling all around the New England area for events. When the weather got chilly, she’d head down to Florida. She worked that circuit for about four years. For the past two, she’s officially been a full-time skydiver, freefly coaching and organizing on the boogie circuit.

    An Organizer with Empathy

    One of the many cool things about Sam—and somewhat unique, in the upper echelons of organizing—is that she hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be new. Because of that, she remains steadfastly patient, easygoing and inclusive which, as you might imagine, makes her an incredibly popular feature on the American boogie circuit.

    “I can absolutely relate,” she explains, “To it being intimidating. To wanting to learn something, but not wanting to slow everyone else down, or going on a jump where you're worried about you're the lowest-experienced person.”

    Photo by Guru Khalsa “Solving that, for me, is just about relating to them,” she continues, “And saying you've been there. Sometimes, you still have the videos, so you can show them what you looked like when you were brand-new. But mostly, I like to be clear about the fact that we're all still learning, and to encourage people.”

    As most badass organizers do, Sam started out small, doing weekend organizing at Skydive City, which was technically her home drop zone. Three years ago, she leveled up. Her big break was at CarolinaFest, three years ago.

    “I remember the first time I went to CarolinaFest,” she recalls. “It was such a big drop zone—and it was a big event. I was nervous. I remember talking to some of the other organizers and asking their advice. They told me I’d learn as I went; that there's not really a handbook for this stuff. And they were right! It was—and still is—a learning experience.”

    Pushing Boundaries

    As you might imagine, Sam is the kind of skydiver who relishes the challenge of a learning experience. She likes to extend that challenge to her personal skydiving progression, too—generally, by participating in great-big world records. Predictably, one of the favorite jumps she’s ever done took place during one of those moments of intense challenge: when she did the most recent women's head-down world record, held at Skydive Arizona.

    “That was my first world record,” she explains. “And it was the largest successful formation I had ever been on. People talk about this feeling that you get when you get the record. That you KNOW, even though you’re in freefall. Like there's this energy that goes through. And it's absolutely true. It's hard to describe, but there's an electricity that ignites throughout the formation, and you look around and it's just flying smoothly; it all comes together. That moment made everything up until that point completely worth it.”

    That’s the kind of magic that Sam chases—and that she likes to share with the students and mentees with whom she works. If you’d like to enjoy some of it this summer, head to Skydive Chicago. Between boogies, that’s where Sam will be. Just look for the glow of her smiling face in the Cookie helmet!

    SAM’s COOKIE

    1. Cookie Model?
    Cookie G3
    2.Color?
    Matte Black
    3. Best sticker?
    Maryland flag crab sticker, representing my hometown (“Hi, Mom and Dad!”)
    4. Best jump the helmet has been on?
    The Women’s Vertical Sequential World Record 2-point 26-way. (Got it on the first attempt!)
    5. Special logo on the aluminum side plate?
    Nope. Rocking the intro black plastic side plates.
    6. Time you were happy that you were wearing your helmet?
    I’m happy every jump I’m wearing my G3.

    Photo credit (from top to bottom): Raymond Adams and Guru Khalsa