I had a serious adventurous streak as a kid. I was interested in fencing, horseback riding, and solo travel—none of which made sense for our family’s budget—so I channeled my energy into writing instead.
Then, in my early 20s, I finally had my chance. I signed up for my first skydiving course, and it changed my life. People skydive for different reasons. Eight years and 600 skydives later, I realized that I skydive because jumping out of airplanes makes me feel incredibly alive. It’s also a reminder that despite being an adult with real responsibilities, I still need to make time for play, imagination, sense of discovery, and sense of wonder.
Skydiving taught me that saying yes to adventure and trying new things outside of my comfort zone is incredibly empowering. But it also allowed me to meet so many strong, adventurous women, reminding me that there is a place for all of us in adventure sports. Even though the barriers each of us faces may be different, I believe that outdoor activities like skydiving, climbing, and hiking are for everyone.
One of the groups that often don’t get recognized in this space is moms. The women below are pitching tents, lacing up hiking boots, jumping out of airplanes, and posting about all of the badass things they do. They’re inspiring, honest, and totally relatable, and scrolling their profiles may even push you to finally start planning that big, exciting trip you’ve been dreaming of. Most importantly, they’ll remind you to get out there, play, and discover what makes you feel alive, too.
Kellie Torio and her partner live in Los Angeles, California with their 2-year-old daughter. She and her husband both grew up snowboarding with their families. “That turned into rock climbing and backpacking and a lot of dirt in our hair, and it has stuck with us,” the 26-year-old mom explains. She enjoys climbing as well as canyoneering in the San Gabriel Mountains, which Kellie describes as a “free waterpark for people who know how to use ropes, harnesses, and belay devices.”
Her love of the outdoors and passion for working with her hands is what led to her current position with Sierra Madre Search & Rescue. When she first applied, she was attending a fashion institute and studying design. Kellie laughs when she retells the story; “I was like, ‘There’s no way. Nothing in my background says I would be a good fit for this.’” But she was wrong. She enjoys training on everything from rappelling to snow anchors to swift water rescue. Check out Kellie’s account for exciting photos of her search and rescue training and heartwarming photos of her 2-year-old.
Photo by Pouyan Niknejad
Janelle Hill grew up spending time in the outdoors. Her dad worked three jobs and took the family camping often—it was a practical, thrifty alternative to family vacations. Today, Hill and her partner are raising two outdoorsy kids in Ventura, California. “We were camping and hiking before kids came into the picture,” she explains, “so we just kept doing what we were doing. We haven’t stopped.” They took their oldest son camping when he was five months old; they took their youngest when he was just five weeks old.
Having kids has made Hill feel more grounded and confident, and the healthiest and most active she’s ever been. Hill and her partner also practice micro-farming on their small family plot, and she loves that her children can find joy and gratitude in gardening. Her sons “fight every morning over who gets to take out the compost,” and that’s OK with her. Her account is full of beautiful photos of national parks that will have you itching to plan your next trip.
Bisan Sader is a skydiver who has done over 700 jumps. Learning to skydive was her gift to herself after overcoming barriers earlier in life. Sader married at 14 and dropped out of middle school. She completed her GED at age 16 and had her first child by the time she was 17. She then taught herself to drive, enrolled in college online, and completed an associates degree. By 19, she was a divorced single mom working three jobs to support her son. Sader eventually built a successful career with a Fortune 500 company before she remarried and had a baby girl. She and her partner of six years are both professional skydivers.
Sader and her husband recently spent two summers working together at a drop-zone in California. On the weekends, he worked as a tandem instructor and she filmed his tandem students in free-fall. Three weeks after her youngest was born, she was back in the air, breastfeeding and changing diapers between plane loads to the delight and astonishment of her customers. This proud mama loves helping people overcome their fears and find joy in the sky. Bisan’s feed is a mix of adrenaline-pumping skydives and relaxing weekends spent hiking around northern California with her family.
Nyesha & Samantha Davis-Williams are the married couple behind the children’s book Umi & Uma: The Story of Two Mommies and a Baby. They wrote the book in 2018 both for their daughter and to help normalize queer black families. “I personally was tired of seeing books with white families only,” Nyesha explains. “The options were very limited for queer families.” The two women met in 2009 while working together at a summer camp in Fishtail, New York. “Samantha taught me how to make my first fire and put up my first tent,” Nyesha explains. They started dating in 2010 and got married four years later. These days they are busy working and co-parenting their 14-month-old daughter. They enjoy spending time together in green spaces. That includes trips upstate, picnics in the park, walking to farmers markets, and adventure travel. Their daughter has already been to six states as well as Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.
Lieutenant Christine “Angel” Hughes is part of the Fab Five who comprise the only black female pilots in the entire history of the Coast Guard. All five women were stationed in Pensacola, Florida when Hughes went through military flight school. The daughter of Haitian immigrants first flew solo at age 16 and earned her private pilot’s license at age 17. By the time she arrived in Pensacola, she was already a civilian flight instructor with a degree in aviation. Graduation from Naval Flight School was one of the highlights of her life. She became the second black female fixed wing aviator in the Coast Guard to be pinned with the “wings of gold,” the badge that all Naval Flight School graduates wear. And another member of the Fab Five was there to do the honors. Today, the wife and mother of two is a founding member of Sisters of the Skies, a non-profit aimed at increasing the number of women of color in aviation. Hughes loves flying with her daughter at her local flight club in Alabama.
Jeri Villarreal completed 22 triathlons in the last four years. Growing up, there was always someone telling her how funny she ran or how slow she was, so she stopped running. Villarreal didn’t start again until she turned 36. That year she ran 2 miles, then 4 miles, then 8 miles. Eventually it was 21 miles, and she hasn’t looked back since. Later she found a swimming coach and began cycling, all while co-parenting three kids (a 14-year-old daughter, an 11-year-old son, and a 9-year-old daughter) with her husband.
Her favorite part of competing is “the community and the feeling that everyone is in it together.” Even though African-Americans make up less than 1 percent of the sport, her experience as a hijab-wearing, Muslim woman has been overwhelmingly positive and sometimes, she says, pretty funny. During a recent triathlon, a woman ran past her yelling cheerfully, “I love your dedication to sun protection!” Check out Villarreal’s feed for workout tips, beautiful racing suits, and personal motivation.
Cahn is a fly-fishing guide who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. After working in the rafting industry for 15 years, she taught herself to cast by watching YouTube videos. In 2016, just six months after getting married, Cahn was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma. It was a terrifying experience that included two surgeries and bouts of depression. It radically changed her life. Cahn started living according to the mantra, “tomorrow is not promised but today I am alive.” She quit her job as an educator and became a fly-fishing guide. (She also learned how to metalsmith and began practicing yoga.)
Today, Cahn lives with her husband and infant daughter in upstate South Carolina. Life can be full of uncertainty, but living intentionally has helped immensely, she says. Throughout it all, fly-fishing continues to be a way of life for her. She enjoys guiding, even on the days when she has to find time to pump breast milk in between sessions. In her free time, she ventures alone high into the mountains to fish for native brook trout. Cahn’s Instagram is full of beautiful outdoor photos of her daughter, handmade jewelry, and gorgeous fly-fishing shots from the Chattooga River.
Justine Nobbe is the co-founder and executive director of Adventure Mamas, which began in 2015 as a meetup group for mothers of young children. It has since grown into a national organization with 13 regional chapters. Nobbe’s mission is to “give women space to pursue their passions wholeheartedly, not because it makes us better caregivers but because we all deserve to be happy. Whatever it is that sets your soul on fire, that’s what you should be doing.” Prior to the birth of her son (now 3), Nobbe enjoyed rock climbing, biking, and solo travel. She also worked for eight years as an adventure therapy guide, helping young women dealing with substance abuse, self harm, and confidence issues to develop resilience and positive coping skills via outdoor adventures.
Even now, making sure they have ample time to get outdoors (together as well as alone) is a priority for her family. Nobbe believes in “modeling joy and pursuing our passions” while empowering other mothers to do the same. Justine is the Instagram big sis you didn’t know you needed, reminding you to take time for yourself and prioritize your own happiness. Come for the cute kid and stay for the awesome sunset beer swigging, cliff rappelling, and mountain climbing.
Rae Wynn-Grant is a large-carnivore ecologist and conservation biologist. She studies grizzly bears in eastern Montana, black bears in Nevada, and primates in the Congo. Wynn-Grant is also a National Geographic Fellow as well as the mom to a 3-year-old daughter. Growing up, she didn’t spend a lot of time in nature. She didn’t go on her first hike until she was 20. (By comparison, her daughter went on her first hike when she was 2.) So when Wynn-Grant found herself as the only black woman in her environmental studies classes at Emory University, she felt like “the only one starting from scratch.” It wasn’t until she signed up for a scientific study abroad program that Wynn-Grant found her calling: studying the behavior of large carnivores in the wild. She went on to complete an M.S. at Yale, a Ph.D. at Columbia University, and a postdoctoral fellowship at the American Museum of Natural History.
Wynn-Grant wants others to know that you can start late, take a non-traditional path, and still achieve your goals. She conducts fieldwork in far-off locations and occasionally brings her daughter along, thanks to generous grants from the National Geographic Society. They also enjoy spending time at home in their community garden. My favorite photos on Wynn-Grant’s feed are the ones of her snuggling black bear cubs (yes, way).
Shanti Hodges is the founder of Hike It Baby, a non-profit empowering parents to get outside with their children. She lives in LaVerkin, Utah, where she and her husband are raising a 5-year-old son. Prior to having kids, she spent a lot of time in the outdoors hiking, surfing, snowboarding, mountain biking, and even paragliding. When her son was born, she was living in Portland, Oregon, and didn’t have very many friends with infants. So she asked a few aquaintances to join her for a hike. That week, five women showed up, followed by 10 women the next week, then 15, and so on.
Hike It Baby currently has 300 chapters across the U.S. and a training program for grassroots leaders. They facilitate 30,000 hikes annually. Hodges’ vision is for the non-profit to continue to grow and enable families to enjoy nature, regardless of their “experience level or ability.” Hodges is also the author of Hike It Baby: 100 Awesome Outdoor Adventures with Babies and Toddlers. Check out her Instagram to follow her outdoor adventures in southern Utah.