A Woman of Scope
All About Our Hometown Hero Angie Aragon
If you’ve been paying attention to the skydiving scene for the last couple of years, you have at least a passing familiarity with the work of Angie Aragon. Angie, after all, is one of the instrumental skydivers at the forefront of the Women’s Skydiving Leadership Network, an organization which is quite literally changing the face of skydiving instruction. We’ll get to that in a moment, though. We have a little more ground to cover first.
Perris stands out among skydiving dropzones. It stands out not only for the quality and scope of its facilities — which are gold-standard — but for the quality of people it attracts. Angie, suffice it to say, stands as an excellent example of that high bar. Everywhere you look at Perris, you’ll find professionals who are striving; instructors/athletes who revel in being surrounded and supported by a community not only chock-full of mentors — legends in the sport, to be sure — but other aspirational athletes on a mission to motivate each other. Angie’s presence in Perris covers both those angles: she’s an immensely talented sister skydiver, a top-shelf instructor and a heaping helping of inspo, all in one.
“Perris has such a great atmosphere,” Angie smiles. “I think that that’s part of what has always pushed me to be better.”
Angie is no stranger to striving. When she first started skydiving, she gave up a secure job (“where I knew where my money was coming from,” she laughs) and started living on the dropzone, making 50 bucks a day, packing and “doing whatever to make ends meet.” Angie first arrived at Perris in early 2013. By the time she arrived here, she was already a tandem and AFF instructor, as well as a freefall videographer. That’s nothing to sniff at, but the Perris emphasis on expansion encouraged her to push even farther.
“Everybody here was a rigger,” Angie explains, “so I was, like, okay. I’ve got to get my rigger’s ticket. Then, everybody in the [Perris skydiving] school was working on military contracts, so I was driven to figure out how to be good at that, too. Then there was the tunnel right there on campus, of course, and so I wanted to learn how to teach in the tunnel. There are so many different things that the drop zone offers that you can pretty much pick whatever it is that you are passionate about and push hard to develop that strength within the dropzone. It is such a unique dropzone and truly an animal of an operation.”
“The support system at Perris is just so great,” Angie enthuses. “The motivation to improve yourself is there. From the very, very beginning — as soon as I got there — I really strived to be on par with the quality of people that are there within the Perris community.”
She certainly has. Not only that, but she takes the Perris zeitgeist far beyond our borders (and back again). This year, Angie has been traveling to several different destination dropzones all over the country: Perris, of course; Skydive Chicago, in Illinois; Skydive DeLand, in Florida; Paraclete XP, in North Carolina; Sky’s the Limit in Pennsylvania, holding instructional courses. As Angie tells it, the process has been quite a journey.
Late last year, Angie’s desire to expand her already formidable skillset pushed her to accept the challenge of an internship working for United Parachute Technologies. To wit, she and her fiancé, Josh Colby, relocated to a neighborhood near UPT’s DeLand, Florida rigging loft, which Angie rightly describes as “the heart of skydiving gear manufacturing.”
“[That internship] allowed us to meet a lot of really amazing people in DeLand, not only while working at the rigging loft at UPT,” she says. “Two of my sponsors are in DeLand, so I was additionally able to develop my relationship with Icarus World and UPT. I enjoy being able to walk through their office or factory, talk to the owners/managers, hear about how the company started and what their goals are, and just to really get to know and understand their core values. It builds the relationships, and helps me to represent them better.”
The connections kept coming. It was there, too, that Angie and Josh met and began mentoring under Rob Laidlaw, founder of Skydive University, Master Examiner, and “granddaddy” of the Instructional Ratings Manual (IRM). While in DeLand, Angie was also introduced to the manager of Skydive Chicago. He invited Angie to come to the dropzone and offer two coach courses there over the summer. As Angie started publicizing these two courses, the Women’s Skydiving Leadership Network — which had already been making waves in the sport skydiving community with its retreat-based mentorship programs — noticed. They reached out to her.
“They wanted to buy all the slots available for those two courses,” Angie remembers. “I was, like, oh! Wow! Okay. That’s great.”
Angie continued conversations with the WSLN. Together, they came up with the WSLN scholarship program, the goal of which is to facilitate women to engage the sport on a professional level. They collaborated to structure an application process for eight full USPA Coach Course scholarships and seven full UPT/USPA Tandem Instructor scholarships along with partial scholarships for all in attendance. Ultimately, the program granted more than 50 scholarships for eager female skydiving athletes. The program has gained ground with each successive event, meaningfully progressing its goal to grow the community of female skydivers past its current numbers, which currently represents just 13% of the sport.
“I’m really grateful to the dropzones that have shown support so far: Perris, Skydive Chicago, DeLand, Paraclete XP, Sky’s the Limit,” she says. “What the WSLN wants is for people to know that we can come to their drop zones; that we would love the support. We are so appreciative.”
Angie’s instructional style, as she describes it, is a uniquely holistic one. She describes, for example, her Coach Course as “a great opportunity to bring skydivers into a classroom for three long days, look at all the things they know already and ask questions about what they don’t know.”
“As an instructor,” she explains, “You, of course, have to have strong skills to start with. And then you have to break those skills down in your own head to understand why things are the way they are. I think that’s where the true learning happens. It’s less about learning a bunch of new things, and more about slowing down what you’re doing — which is skydiving, and taking care of yourself — because now you have to do that for someone else. I do a lot of interactive exercises because there’s a lot of information being laid out. I do it in a way where we’re having conversations; brainstorming; moving around; engaging.”
“I think that’s why it has been so much fun teaching people,” she continues, laughing, “because my students are learning without me Powerpointing them to death.”
These days, Angie and Josh travel between Skydive Chicago, where Josh is the Lead AFP Instructor (Advanced Freefall Program), and Skydive Perris. Their skydiving rating school, USPACOURSES.COM, is a traveling outfit that allows them to hold courses at any dropzone in the world. At the same time, Angie is looking forward to participating in the Female Mexican Record at Skydive Vallarta in December 2018. Oh— and she and Josh are also planning their wedding. It’s a busy moment, for sure.
“If I had to be remembered for one thing,” she says, “It would be for challenging my students; for helping them raise their skill sets to the next level; for pushing myself, going above and beyond to be able to then, in turn, deliver that high-quality instruction to my students.”
Sponsors: Icarus World, United Parachute Technologies, Larsen & Brusgaard
To find out how to work with Angie, you have several options. You can reach out to her at USPACOURSES.COM, seek her out through the WSLN or look for her on the Skydive Perris Experienced Skydiver Events Calendar. She’d love to hear from you!
This post was written by Skydive Perris