Thursday, April 10, 2008

Paraexploring Maui: Lipoa Ridge

This past weekend, Saturday the 5th of April, I ventured out to a small ocean ridge on West Maui accommodating a rare north wind. It was the second time at a site I've been pioneering. On this island, at least, when we get the rare day of non-nuking trade winds, this pilot sits up and takes notice, and then goes paraexploring...

OK, so to put a bit of a damper on your anticipation it's not at all like the world-class Ko'olau range that produces state records and epic freestyle flying conditions. But given the dearth of ridge options on Maui and the prevalence of nuking wind days, we'll take what we can get!

The ridge is near Lipoa Point and can probably accommodate a wind direction of NNW through NNE, so basically it's flyable on the same post-frontal conditions that allow O'ahu pilots to fly Dillingham. The Lipoa Ridge is about 70' MSL and has a reasonable beach bailout zone off to the East side (if ya ain't gettin' it!) However directly below launch is giant boulders and pounding surf, kinda like the Makapu'u Crazy Man launch.

View Larger Map

In addition to the beach LZ, there are a few toplanding options, with nothing too tricky for you Kahana jockeys! And behind Lipoa Ridge is basically acres of flat grassy meadows and pineapple fields, so the turn-n-burn bailout option is available. This is an important consideration on Maui, where it seems the wind can pick up very quickly and violently while you're not paying attention!

The launches are all accessible with a short walk from the highway, but are nicely secluded, so you can set up and go without attracting too much attention until airborn. They resemble Kahana in terms of launch difficulty and could of course be improved a bit. I even forward launched at one point because I was having difficulty hefting my wing up into the smooth stream through the dead air near the ground!

Flashback: the first time I flew the ridge in December I had set up in an obvious party spot with plenty of broken beer bottle evidence that could put a snag in wing or pilot! And as Murphy would have it, that's exactly what happened to me then! Focusing on keeping my wing above me after a reverse inflation, I hardly noticed the "scrape" after tripping on the turn around. Got up into the buoyant air, looked down, and was surprised to see a deep gash in my leg and blood trickling into my boots!

Needless to say after a couple of passes in butter lift, I realized I had to land and continue the pioneering another day... As luck would have it I was heading out to O'ahu the very next day, so I needed to get myself patched up for the flying over there. So now you know why I was sporting a nasty wound last time I saw you!

Well that was then. And now, for obvious reasons, I avoided the party place and set up in a different spot: a tight grassy alley framed by ironwood trees and facing the incoming breeze. After a bit of site maintenance: twig cutting, Lantana shrub removal, I was ready!

OK, reverse inflation through the dead and rotoring ground air, until my wing is high enough and getting a solid grip on the breeze... Turn and moonwalk to the void and...

beep, beep, beep!

Right turn toward the beach bailout, just in case... Vario is still chirping happily... Now above the ridge and starting to attract attention from the tourist vehicles... It's all good!

I played it fairly conservative in terms of not going out to do some XC ridge. I stayed within glide distance of the beach. However I did make a few playful passes at a toplanding area before finally committing and getting down.

On the next flight I got high in a slight increase in the wind and decided to test the turn-n-burn bailout option. Verifying I could get way downwind from a stand of ironwood tree rotor, I blazed far downwind, turned back to face it and had a nice mellow landing in a grassy field. It's really good to know that option is available here!

After that I flew two more times and just relaxed and played at the edge of the lift band above the crashing waves, happy to enjoy some smooth and mellow ridge lift on Maui! But I couldn't help but look longingly over toward Halawa Valley on Moloka'i and imagine what the XC ridge potential along that north coast would have been on that brilliant Saturday afternoon...


P.S.: I'd say this site, unofficial as it is, would require a P3 (or advanced O'ahu P2) with a local guide -- ME! -- to fly safely.


volfik said...

nice work dude, keep 'em coming ;)

czech peter

firedave said...

Aaron, Nice work.

I happened to be looking at google earth yesterday. I figured a NNE to NE wind 5 to 10 mph. Launch from the far side of Halawa Valley and it looks like an easy but epic downwinder to Kalaupapa or the pastures above. It will happen!

AaronCanFly said...

Yeah, I think the Halawa light trade day could spawn an epic downwinder. Forget Kalaupapa, I think we could get to Mo'omomi!

The land owner at Halawa is Pu'u o Hoku Ranch. They have a tourist getaway biz, so they might be amenable to us flying, if we stay the night or something.

I think we could pick out an LZ on public land so we'd prolly not get yelled at... much!

The only real issue with Kalaupapa is that it's a National (Historic?) Park, and so we'd be violating the Fed's rules about flying over parks. Something like you must be 2000' AGL? I think this would be no problem to fly over, just that we couldn't land unless it was an emergency!

ANYWAY, let me know if you guys are seriously thinking about this, since I'd love to do it, and I know a bunch of other Maui pilots would be totally into it too.



AaronCanFly said...

Pu'u o Hoku:

Anonymous said...

Great para-exploring story Aaron. I'm so tired of the sled rides from Poli Poli and I love that northwest part of Maui - seems to be many flying possibilities - I'd love to soar the Sugar Loaf Mountain of Kahakuloa Bay. I'm sure we could round up a good group for some flying there - the ferry is looking good for that. Let us know a good weather window.

firedave said...

What was that place above Wailuku that all the old hangies used to talk about flying? Or has it all become houses already?

I am definitely interested in the Molokai thing. I have a buddy with a 22' Radon who would run saftey boat for us, but I don't think it will really be necessary. I wasn't really considering landing at Kalaupapa, but there is always the chance of landing out. The pastures above Kalaupapa are near the road, so it would be easy to get a ride out. Mo'omomi would be doable, but other than by boat, there is a bit of driving and locked gates to be negotiated, though we have done it in the past. Kaluakoi here we come!

AaronCanFly said...

Yes, I know of at least one pilot who has flown Kahakuloa point! It again requires the right light trade day. This guy doesn't really fly much anymore, pity, but I'll try to ping him for more information about access to the launch site.

After my experience of getting yelled at by one of the Mendes Ranchers for flying the old Hangie site near Waihe'e (Wailuku)., I don't want to go there again. However as a parting shot, when telling him he wouldn't see my truck there again, I couldn't vouch for other visiting pilots. :-) He wanted none of the "we could regulate it and insure it for you".

Anyway, that ocean ridge is really only do-able on a few days each year, (unless you fly XXS or something)!