Aug 21, 2017

Free fall. By definition, free fall is the state of a body being acted upon only by gravity. This is a very apt description of Nicole Smith, a former Manager for a retail company turned full-time skydiving instructor, who seems to only be impacted by G-forces. With a fearless and enduringly positive spirit, Nicole has remained resilient and triumphant through hardships and inspires through her GoPro Award-winning submission to have the courage, determination, and perseverance to pursue your passions with your entire heart. 

At Skydive Dubai's Desert Campus in Dubai, UAE, Nicole joined an elite group of skydivers who have been ejected from a Fox acrobatic glider. At the time, fewer than 100 people had, in the history of skydiving, gotten to jump from this aircraft. The footage of this experience, and the journey that led her to this incredible moment, is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

In her own words, Nicole shares her story: 

My name is Nicole Smith. I am from Cleveland, Georgia; it's a tiny town 90 minutes north of Atlanta. Before I became a full-time skydiver, I was a District Manager for a large specialty retail company, working my way up the corporate ladder. How I became a full-time skydiver is a bit of a long story, so bear with me.

From August 2007 to December 2009 I did 4 tandem skydives, each with my husband. From the first time I jumped out of an airplane, I felt free. It’s the most exciting, powerful, liberating, nerve-wracking, and peaceful experience I have ever had- if you can imagine such a combination. I’ve learned trying to describe the sensation of skydiving is like trying to describe the taste of water.

On January 29, 2010 my husband passed away.  I was a widow at 25. I spent the next year of my life trying to make sense of my circumstances, trying to re-acclimate my life, and trying to find peace.

After a year of soul searching, I decided I was ready to skydive on my own. On January 7, 2011, I signed up for an Accelerated Freefall class (AFF) at my local dropzone. My instructors were Jeremy Marston and Miki Baranowski.

Fast forward to June 2011. I was a newly licensed skydiver completely in love with skydiving. Not only that, I had fallen in love with my instructor Jeremy. The afternoon of June 13, 2011, Jeremy and I were driving home after a picnic in the park. We were a mile from his place when another driver ran a red light and t-boned the car we were in. The impact was directly on the driver’s side door of the car Jeremy and I were in. Jeremy was driving and was killed almost instantly.

I was in critical condition. I was helicoptered to a trauma hospital in Atlanta. I sustained a broken neck, back, tailbone, punctured lung, 2 broken ribs, 4 pelvic fractures, and 2 brain injuries. The doctors prepared my family for the worst. My prognosis was bleak. The physicians suspected the brain injuries would prohibit me from being to converse as I had before the accident. Because of the pelvic injuries, the doctors also suspected it would be next to impossible for me to walk without some type of assistance. 

Fast-forward again. After almost a year of grueling physical therapy, I made a full recovery, quit my corporate job, and decided I wanted to be a professional skydiver. In August 2012, I became the youngest person ever to skydive in all 50 United States.

As of today, I have over 2000 skydives. I am a tandem skydive instructor and an AFF (accelerated freefall) instructor, I am engaged to be married (get this, I am marrying the instructor who took me on my very first skydive almost 10 years ago!), and I get the chance to share my love and passion for skydiving with my students (and anyone, really) every single day. I am living my dream every day.

 

Learn more about the GoPro Awards by clicking below.

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