We skydivers like to think of ourselves as above the social frictions present in society – that the dropzone is a safe haven from the tensions and trivialities of the outside world. We project the image that literally anyone can get into skydiving and be welcomed with open arms, yet the numbers don’t exactly add up.
Skydivers do indeed come from many walks of life, but the whole thing remains skewed heavily in favour of privileged white males. Women, who are half of all people, are under 20% of our number. Statistics relating to other social groups are not readily available, but based on this single low figure you can probably extrapolate things for yourself. If we are so inclusive, then why are we so exclusive? Skydiving is legitimately an activity that represents a level playing field for everyone. The dividing lines for many other sports, such as how big and strong you are, simply do not exist. Sure, there is the undeniable fact of pay-to-play, but aside from pure resources, the things you need to advance are discipline and patience. Why then, is it such a straight white boys club?
Our personal experiences might also help us to sidestep the idea that the prejudices of the world exist within our precious sport, but this cannot explain away the figures. We can’t have it both ways. We can either accept that we are not quite as awesome as we think, examine the problems we have and try to do better – or keep excluding people who would otherwise help develop our amazing sport.
In line with some gathering momentum in the wider world, Skydive Tilstock started the Rainbow Boogie in 2019. With the follow-up event canceled for 2020, people have gathered again this season in the West of England for the 2021 version. Tilstock is a small club that uses an Airvan as their primary aircraft, and due to the 10k altitude limit it is not a place people visit from outside much – but they have a bunch of very positive local jumpers – and the idea of a boogie based around openness and inclusivity quickly grew into something people were excited about. This might have a bit to do with the UK needing something fresh in the calendar, but probably more likely is the combination of a little welcome wokeness and the simple fact that the party might be better.
This is Britain so the weather can always turn out bad, and it turns out bad, and therefore it is a good thing that the party is better. People seem genuinely excited about the potential of this event to represent a change in the way skydiving happens. If we are to continue to grow and develop as a sport, events that address the staid and stagnant nature of dropzones are exactly what we need. The Rainbow Boogie is a small event for now, but seems to register large in people’s minds. This speaks of a collective desire for our sport to flourish in areas of society where previously there were some unseen and unheeded barriers.
The Rainbow Boogie is worthy of support, and next time around we hope to be here again with our most fabulous outfits and our glittery facepaint on.