Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fistful of Firsts

The family of the Oahu Flying Monkeys is growing, and the regular LZs are getting lonely. On Saturday we celebrated so many firsts that Reaper had to stop counting them just to save his liver.

I got to Kahana for the afternoon session and several pilots were already flying their quota. But a barrel of monkeys were on East Launch waiting for some lift. Please add to the following list of firsts, as I may not get them all, but just remember: the Reaper does take 'beer checks'.

Seattle Stu soared over Kahana, and I am sure he had some firsts during that session, or at least on the beach in the chair, where he had his first, second, third, and so on. He did have his first career XC a few days earlier, crossing the bay and then to Hauula.

Seattle Betsy, Stu's much better half, had her first soaring flight at Kahana after a few days of attempts, sledders and the dreaded hike down. She and Stu are hooked on Hawaii flying and will be back to the monkey cage again and again.

Don was lucky to fly with the legend, Ken "Airborne" Berry, who has blessed us with a return visit. Doubt there were any firsts for these monkeys, but the stories of their adventures are always worth hearing.

Maui Jim, Reapers student, got his first launch and landing. Welcome to the clan, Jim, and hopefully Reaper will let you use a backpack next time; he had to hike his gear up in a stuff sack.

John 'Duck' Mallard scored his first top landing at Kahana. It was so good and controlled I thought he had done plenty but it was his first, and yes, Reaper did tally that one to the cooler. We had the dreaded 'Afternoon Lull,' coined by Alan G on launch: a few monkeys tried and sledded to the beach, but finally Duck took off and slowly worked the lift to show us the way. North ridge was working better, and he started a frenzy of launches. Good job, Duck.

Courtney flew 'Pinky,' and I believe had her first soaring flight at Kahana.

Alan G got some air time today, but had to force himself to stay low below the gaggle above him. Alan is also a dive master, and had worked earlier that morning touring deep in the ocean, so he did not want to get the bends. Oh, Alan when you use the radio, cover the the mic slightly - I thought you told Reaper to get bent....or maybe that was subliminal.

Matt had a top landing as well but I don't think that was his first, or at least he avoided the penalty, not admitting to it.

Finally I got in the air. It has been awhile, so staying in the playground was the only thing on my mind.....not really. Reaper finally got his....wing off the launch and flew past me up high, and I slowly inched up just below him. Alex came up and coaxed me over the back, oops, I mean over to the next ridge. The air was great, and it was chilly, or at least that was Reaper's excuse for not following us, but we know his cooler was now overflowing and the draw was a little stronger.

While Alex and I were getting high over Sacred Falls, we heard Nick and Scrappy on their way down from Makapuu - we were all cheering them on, and hoping to have them join us to Pounders. Nick had his first pod XC, and Scrappy had a his first long tandem XC with his roomy Mike. Hopefully we will read about these in up coming articles.

Alex and I headed for the next ridge. He got super high, 3K, he was cold without a flight suit. I grabbed a fat thermal and got bounced up quick. On the way to the next ridge, Alex said that he had never been this high, and was going to see how far he could go. We just flew past the next ridge - no need to even stop there to try and get higher.

I was lower than Alex, and headed for Pounders. When I got there I was still high, and went for the next beach over. I lost sight of Alex, and was going in to land on the narrowing Laie beach. I had started a sharp left turn when I noticed a knot in my left brake line come through the pulley. I am not sure when it got there, but there it was, and it was not going back through without forcing it. I did not want it to get stuck while landing so I gabbed the lines above the pulley and landed safely next to a girl who was sleeping. I did not wake her until I dropped the wing, with the tip getting caught in the tree behind her. I think I might have scared her a bit: she woke to me standing over, her clad in my flight suit, helmet, console and lines connected to a fluttering wing. But she rolled over and went back to sleep.

Alex landed at Gunstock Ranch, his first time making it that far from Kahana, and Larry was there to grab him, and he also came and got me. Thanks for the lift. On the way back to Kahana we passed Maui Doug, JD and Tommy, who had landed at Punaluu. It was Tommy's first XC and possibly JD's too.

This was my first time to Laie Beach, and my first XC since my OTB. Thanks for coaxing me on, Alex, I needed to get back in the saddle.


Mad Dog said...

Great memory Thom! I can barely remember what antics I pull. Work sucks, wish I was there...

Alex said...

Thanks for the article, Thom. And thanks for following me on my longest glide ever from Kahana. My landing wasn't even a mile further than my previous best effort when I landed at Hukilau Beach, but it felt like a milestone to take the back route, directly over the LDS temple, and to land at Gunstock Ranch, at the far end of Laie. Now I keep thinking about what I could have done different or better to reach Kahuku...

I hope Nick or Scrappy will consider sharing their stories and pics - Scrappy said he got lots of GoPro footage, but I guess it'll be a while before we can see it.

Anonymous said...

Great article! I appreciate the write-up! I had a great flight (when I was sure it was going to be a sledder)! I really like the description of the XC--someday I hope to be following you all downrange.