APS is excited to introduce Ripley Smith, one of the youngest certified power paragliders in the country! On the ground, she lives an active life as an 8th grader at Inman Middle School, and off the ground, she soars several thousand feet high by herself in her spare time. Her father is the inspiration behind her unique hobby, as he encouraged her to start flying tandem with an instructor at age 11. Within 3 weeks, she was certified and has completed 15 solo flights since then. “At first I was a little nervous but I got over it, because it really feels like you’re flying,” says Ripley.
Power paragliding is different from paragliding because it has a motor, which gives the flyer more control and more airtime. Ripley’s longest flight was between 1.5-2 hours, which resulted in tired hands because she holds onto the brakes in order to steer. Her dad is very scared for her every time she flies, but she is not scared at all and says, “If you’re scared, you will make a mistake.” Fear is the last thing that will keep Ripley from flying, because the adrenaline is what keeps her wanting more. “It’s one of my favorite hobbies because it’s really exhilarating and you’re in control of where you go and whether you live,” Ripley says.
Ripley is also part of two recreational soccer teams for AYSA (Atlanta Youth Soccer Association), school soccer team, school basketball team, soccer referee for AYSA, and a swimmer at Garden Hills Elementary School. She loves to be active in order to stay in shape and be productive with her time. Ripley is also active in the classroom as she’s enrolled in several honors classes and accelerated math. She’s looking forward to joining the robotics team next year, because she’s been the mascot since she was 3 years old, and her mother, Aimee Smith, was one of the founders of Grady’s robotics team. Ripley participates in more recreational activities than many of us, but this is not the end for Ripley as she says, “I really enjoy sports and staying active, and in the future, I want to learn base jumping and paragliding also.”