Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Christmas in Hawaii, with Matt Cone

Stephanie and I took our first paragliding road trip. We have traveled to Hawaii many times before, but not since we became pilots this past summer. To make things interesting, we decided to camp for the two weeks on the North Shore of Oahu. Gear for family of four camping trip! There is some flying on Maui and the Big Island, but Oahu is the primary flying island with some 14 sites to fly. At least one site is working most days. As we are both newer P2 pilots, with limited experience flying without our posse of NW veteran pilots, we decided to hire a guide to help us navigate the various sites. We researched the Hawaii Paragliding site: www.windlines.net and contacted one of the local guides “Brazilian Ray” who was perfect for our needs. Ray flies most days on the various Oahu sites after spending his mornings diving with tourists. On our first day in Hawaii, Ray met us at the incredible Kuaola Park for some kiting and basic refresher. We had not flown since the Chelan Halloween Fly in and needed to brush the rust off. The winds in this park are perfect for kiting. The famous “chinamen’s hat” island is just off shore. Our gliders made for great tourist shots from the many Japanese groups who stopped on their tour buses. We felt like celebrities posing for pictures here.
Steph kiting at Kualoa Park
After the kiting, Ray declared it was time to hit Kahana Valley for some airtime. I had had a picture of the Kahana valley with paragliders on my pc for several months as my screen saver as a way of picturing this moment. Kahana is considered the “easy site” and is where the locals take most visiting pilots for their first Oahu flights. The valley is amazingly beautiful. The launch is about a 15 minute hike up a spine. There isn’t much space at the launch, but with my kiting practice that morning, I managed a perfect launch. The winds were super smooth and with no time, I had climbed to about 1700 feet and was soaring back and forth along the amazing ridge. My longest flight to that point had been about an hour at Tiger, this flight lasted an hour and half and was simply perfect! The LZ is at the beach, which was a bit tricky but very doable.

Climbing above Kahana LaunchKahana LZ
On Christmas morning, Steph our two daughters and I woke at 6am to catch a boat to swim with sharks. Ray had hooked us up with a group that takes people out three miles off shore and drops a steel cage in the water. You jump into the cage and then they throw fish chum around the cage. In seconds, twelve 7 foot sharks were circling our cage and fighting over the fish chunks. A great way to spend Christmas morning.Christmas afternoon we were invited to join the local pilots for a BBQ Fly-in at Makapuu, the main Oahu site. Makapuu is fairly close to Honolulu and is a famous body surfing beach area. I had read about the crazy launches at this site and was a bit nervous about flying there, but figured we would check it out and at least meet the locals. Upon arrival at Makapuu, Ray brought us to see pilots launch from “Crazy Man Launch”. The locals really don’t like to hike to launch and Crazy Man is perfect for them. The launch is literally feet from the road; pilots set up their gliders on the guardrail below the power lines. The launch is about 60 feet above the water. Once launched, there is strong lift that allows them to climb quickly to the top ridge. My P2 status did not qualify for Crazy Man status!
Crazy Man’s Launch
Instead, we were sent to the “easy” launch, Tomato Patch. Getting to Tomato Patch was a very challenging 35 minute hike up a cliff face holding onto tree roots. Once at launch, which was 2 feet thick of bush, you find a clothesline to which you clip your leading edge with laundry clips. I watched one guy launch with little effort once setup, so I felt certain I could follow. My launch was a bit rough, but once out it was terrific. The air again was super smooth and ridge lift was very consistent. After an hour, I was feeling the need to hit the men’s room and have something to eat, so landed and met a lot of great local pilots at the BBQ.
Tomato Patch LaunchSoaring above Makapuu
The last few days of our stay on Oahu had very strong winds, which we didn’t feel comfortable flying in. So we surfed, watched the big waves at Bonsai Pipeline and Sunset beach and prepared for our return flight to Seattle. The day we were to leave was perfect for flying however. We were pretty bummed we had to leave on a early afternoon flight. The flying gods were with us however; in the morning, Hawaiian Airlines called to say that our flight had been pushed back to a red-eye and for our troubles they would give us free flight coupons for a future flight! We hung up, got on the phone with Brazilian Ray who informed us Kahana was working and that we should meet him for the day. Our two girls took wonderful tandems that day with Ray, and I managed 2 ½ hours of ridge soaring.
Flying in Kahana Valley
We definitely caught the flying vacation bug on this trip. We were able to weave flying in with great times surfing, hiking and sunning in the islands. We camped the two weeks at a terrific site Malaekahana Park. We met some wonderful local pilots as well as visiting pilots from British Columbia. If anyone needs some info on Oahu, feel free to contact me.
Our campsite at Malaekahana