Monday, November 12, 2007

Mayday! . . . Mayday! . . . I am go’n down!

“Perhaps you should take up Golf.”

I have a satellite clinic at the Queen’s Hospital. I treat simple, “one time only,” cases there. I send the more complicated cases (multiple visit, rehab patients) to one of my full-service rehab clinics. I am, basically, “on call” when I’m at Queen’s. So, I take my laptop and try to get as much work done, between patients, as possible. (Translation: I screw around on the internet and play Free Cell.) My screen saver is a picture of a red & yellow paraglider flying over the Rhino Horn at Kahana Bay. (Psssssst: it’s me, flying my Vulcan – Alex took the picture.)

The other day, a patient looked at the picture and was appalled by my choice of sporting activity. He recommended that, since I am a doctor (and most doctors golf), I should take up golf . . . it’s “safer.” I laughed and informed him that I treat many more golf-related injuries than paragliding-related injuries. He and his “Golfer’s Elbow” left my office with a nice co-payment and a forearm strap. (“Golfer’s Elbow” = Medial Epicondylitis . . . Google it.)

I thought about this for a minute. It might not be a bad idea. After all, we are all “one bad landing” away from catastrophe. So, perhaps, we should all take up golf . . . just in case. If nothing else, it would give us something to do on non-flyable days.

Sunday, 11 Nov 07. I launched Cactus and flew the entire Makapu’u ridge. It was a beautiful, strong E-NE day. I flew over towards the lighthouse and, since I had a lot of altitude, I flew around the point and soared the eastern ridge. I’d never soared that ridge before, though I’d tried several times, so it was quite a memorable flight.

Monday, 12 Nov 07. As I was setting up on Cactus, with a gaggle of gliders in the air, I thought to myself, “This is one of those amazing Makapu’u days where everyone gets to fly – P2s & P5s alike.” I also thought, “This is the kind of day that ALWAYS has some sort of 'incident'.”

I pulled up my wing and found myself dragged onto my rear-end, staring up at my wing. I kited it to a flyable configuration and prepare to stand up and run off of the cliff. Reaper, however, suggested that I lock my right carabiner, -- which was unlocked -- so as to prevent my riser from jumping out of my harness – “incident” occurred. Thus, I ran off of the cliff and flew for about an hour.

I was at 1400 ft with the windsock pointing E/NE. So, I headed towards the lighthouse. I got there, very high. So, I went around the point; so that I could soar the eastern ridge. I got a few beeps from my FlyTec . . . enough to convince me that it was a GREAT IDEA! Then, as I flew down the ridge, I noticed that I was NOT gaining altitude. In fact, I was losing altitude. I got back to the point – eye-level with the tourists at the Lighthouse Lookout. I got around the point with a LOT less altitude. I knew I was NOT going to make the beach.

I got on my radio and let all of my fellow pilots know that I was planning on landing in the murderous surf of the Makapu’u Bay. (See: title of this article.) Several pilots responded . . . offering words of advice & encouragement: “Fly out 50 meters and land in the water!” -- “Turn off all of your electronics!” -- “Put your head between your legs and kiss your ass ‘Good-bye!’”

There are SEVERAL peninsular out-croppings along the ridge; each of which has the phrase “USA 39 cents” in the corner. (That is a “postage stamp” reference – I only say that because some of the pilots on the LZ didn’t understand the joke.) I picked out one of these rocky, ugly, “this is NOT a good idea,” sections of lava. I started my final approach. I slowed the wing to stall speed – HANDS UP!; Stall speed – HANDS UP!; Stall Speed – HANDS UP! I thumped my rear-end against a boulder at a very high speed (Damn! That is uncomfortable!) and plunged my feet into the gravel. I kited my wing down and signaled to the lifeguards that I was “fine.” Then, I balled up my wing and stuffed it into my backpack.

Sure . . . I was “fine”: Except . . . I couldn’t possibly get off of this precipice without swimming, with 40 lbs. of gear, through the surf of the incoming tide; or climbing an impossible, inverted, cliff without ropes. The funny thing was: There was a golf ball sitting on this peninsula; minding its own business, right next to my left foot. (No . . . I have NO IDEA where it came from!)

So . . . I set my gear down and started to scout out a path out of this hell-hole. As I climbed, I encountered not one, but THREE more golf balls . . . just sitting there, minding their own businesses. (No . . . I have NO IDEA where they came from!) Luckily . . . “Bob-of-the-Year,” who was flying above me, was willing to top-land at Cactus; stow his gear; grab a rope & fins; and come rescue me. Doug, who had just arrived, was, also, ready to hike down and rescue me. As it turned-out . . . Doug arrived first.

He looked at my predicament: The small space on which I’d landed; the pounding surf all around; the lack of blood & gore on or about my person; and he said, “Ho! Bra! You must be, da kine one highly-skilled Advanced Pilot!” To which I replied, “Nah! Bra! Jus one Lucky-Ass-Mo-Fo Kine Advanced Pilot!” Doug had a plan of escape. It was a good one. We scrabbled up the rock, passed the gear between us, and made our way up the face of the cliff. (Of course, this left Bob . . . half-way to my location . . . without anyone to rescue. So, he turned back. Sorry Bob! Thanks for your effort!! You are the Bob-of-the-Year!!! . . . love ya!)

As I climbed the cliff, I came into contact with . . . not ONE, but TWO more golf balls!! (No . . . I have NO IDEA where they came from.) We made it back to Lazy Man without incident.

Happy Ending!

Except . . . you have to “Get Back on the Horse” . . . right? And . . . Manic’s was working. So, while Bob-of-the-Year hiked back up to Cactus to retrieve his gear, I set up to launch Manic’s. My wing was a MESS. I spent 10 minutes trying to untangle the lines. Doug couldn’t even watch -- my lines were that tangled. He cried out, “I call Bull Sh*t!” Then, he turned & went to catch up with his lovely bride. However . . . as I was getting set up . . . I noticed a hat lying on the ground at Manic’s: A khaki colored baseball cap. I thought it was an OZONE cap, dropped by a fellow paraglider pilot. However, embroidered upon this seemingly innocuous head covering, was the word, “Titlist.” Yes . . . "Titlist," the golf ball company! (No . . . I have NO IDEA where it came from!)


Reaper helped me get untangled and airborne . . . I had a GREAT 2nd flight & and perfect landing.


This is the point where I would NORMALLY end with an intellectually deep & emotionally profound “Moral to the Story.” Unfortunately, I don’t have one. So . . . I suppose, this is the message: We are all “one bad landing” away from catastrophe. So, perhaps, we should all take up golf . . . just in case. If nothing else, it would give us something to do on non-flyable days.



Suicide said...

Much Mahalo to Doug & Bob for all of your help.

Suicide said...

How's this for irony:

The ONLY picture of me in the "ever revolving" Banner is Me, in my Vulcan, very low, along the Makapu'u peninular outcroppings!!

Alex . . . nice bit of foreshaowing!!!