Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kahuku Golf Course

A blustery morning gave way to a perfect cross country afternoon at Kahana on Monday, and what I imagined would be a rare winter flight to Pounders gave way to the fulfillment of a long awaited dream: my first landing at Kahuku Golf Course. Five pilots flew downrange with me, landing all over Laie, and eleven others stayed local and enjoyed the smooth afternoon conditions.

The day started out gusty and strong. I had Amelia home sick from school with me, but she was in good spirits, and I knew her saintly grandmother would watch her for a while if the conditions got good enough to consider heading out. It seemed likely that the afternoon would bring the best conditions, so I watched the readings and monitored the chatter.

Peter from Oregon started out the day with some solitary high wind launch practice, as well as some extreme top landing exercises. As the conditions mellowed, Jayson and the Canadians hiked up to join him in the air. Just as I showed up, Peter was getting super low over at the north ridge, and the others were urging him to head for the beach. After a long and suspenseful approach over the water we were relieved to see him make it to the sand.

PMac and Larry Mac were in the air when I hiked up with Maui Doug. As we arrived on launch, Jayson launched a tandem, and I found Thom and Natalie up there as well. Lee landed but then ran back up to join us for the XC mission. Duck hiked up and launched as well.

Conditions kept improving as the afternoon wore on. I got to 2,800 over Puu Piei, dodging cloud bands as they wafted across the bay. PMac got tired of waiting for someone to escort him on his first XC mission, and he just blazed out on his own, taking the back route from high above Puu Piei. Maui Doug soon followed suit, taking the front route. I sped over from the back, as did Duck, Thom and Lee. Larry Mac was interested in coming along too, but I told him I thought it was a bit brisk and cloudy for his first try.

The six of us boated up and down the Punaluu ridge in strong ridge lift under the low cloudbase, which was at around 2,200 feet. It was quite hazy at cloudbase, and the pictures I took don't do the sunset views justice. It was a gorgeous place to be at that time of day.

Finally Duck decided to press on, heading to the Hauula ridge, and I quickly followed, as did Maui Doug and Thom. We worked our way up there, and I got surprisingly high as a fat cloud band rolled in. I hitched a ride under that puppy and blazed down towards Pounders, with Maui Doug close behind.

But as I got close, I realized I was going to be able to go a bit further - I was still 1,500 feet over the beach. Maybe I could make Hukilau Beach, just past Laie Point! I crossed Laie, milking any lift I could find, crabbing in the crosswind flow with some speed bar applied. I arrived high enough over Hukilau Beach that I started to think I might make the beach across from Gunstock Ranch.

But I still had some decent height there, and that's when I really started to get greedy. Plus, the crosswind had turned into a distinct and strong quartering tailwind, and now anything seemed possible. I gazed into the distance to mark out the goal which I'd dreamed of for years: the municipal golf course in Kahuku.

I squeaked in just over the highest dune, where they have a tee for one of the holes, and then I skimmed down the beach to land on the sand bordering the center of the course, across from the clubhouse. The sun was setting over the low Kahuku hills, and there were people riding horses down the beach, and lots of evening golfers were out doing their thing. I folded up and scrambled across the fairways to the clubhouse, where a trio of local boys from Hauula hooked me up with a cold beverage as I regaled them with the tale of my epic nine mile adventure.

I didn't have to wait long before Larry Mac showed up in his truck with the Canadians in the back, who he'd picked up at Pounders. We found Doug and Thom at the bus stop near Laie Point where they'd landed, and Duck walked out from his landing spot at BYU to be picked up at MacDonalds. Thanks to larry Mac for the prompt retrieve! I look forward to returning the favor very soon.

As we arrived back at Kahana, we saw Bonnie, Gary and Harvey in the air, enjoying the smooth conditions in the last light of day. I heard Pete had already flown a tandem with Kui the paradog.

What a magical day. I am amazed at how far this new wing and harness were able to take me. Now I am starting to think about how I could reach the next golf course, at Turtle Bay! But I think I'd need a more thermic day for that trip, or maybe just a much windier one!


Thom said...

Good fun,

I think that was the longest I ever flew over the Punaluu ridge, we did not have the usual thermic bumpy stuff just smooth ridge.

I heard guys were getting cold but the new leg cover from Woody Valley kept me toasty.

I had plenty of elevation and may have gone over the Laie Peninsula but I saw Maui Doug in a spot I had landed before and he got a video of my landing.

I always say its not really an xc you just get as high as you can, turn left and glide. But dam it is so fun and can't wait to do it again.

Larry Mac, thanks for the ride we all owe you one or two.

Harvey made a solo flight to Pounders and Duck went to drag him back to the LZ debriefing party.

Duck said...

What a great fun flight that was! Good afternoon session at KNA...get high out front and like Thom says, turn left.

Congrats on making the golf course Alex. Looks like the symbiote has taken over. You will never be the same again.

Congrats to our Canadian friends and everyone else who had a good flight!

Larry Mac, thanks for the retreive!

Alex said...

Thom and Duck, thanks for the comments, I had a blast flying with you guys yesterday.

I've heard the "turn left" comment for years. Typically from people who don't or won't fly at Kahana. Of course it's not even true when we're talking about a really light thermic day. But even on a ridge soaring day like yesterday, that comment discounts a huge part of what XC is all about. I know I don't need to tell you old XC dogs, so this is for the new guys: anytime you can leave the hill and try to land somewhere new, it is surely a cross country flight, and no matter how short, if you land somewhere farther than you have before, or at least somewhere new, you are building your XC skills, the kind you can use anywhere, not just at a coastal ridge soaring paradise. Each decision you make in the air, where to get highest, what line to take, which clouds are lifty, how to stay out of hazardous zones, how to safely hopscotch across landable fields - that's a huge part of XC flying.

Having said all that, the one thing we don't do enough of is upwind XC flying. We thought about it a couple times yesterday, thinking about crossing the bay into the wind, and later thinking about returning from Punaluu to Kahana, but I guess I wasn't willing to risk paying the price of an early landing on such a gorgeous day!

The other cool thing about our humble little downrange jaunts is that because we do it often enough, we can really call the next five or so ridges a part of the Kahana site. It turns a small ridge over a bay into a five-mile long series of ridges, which surely keeps things interesting after you're bored of tracking back and forth along a single ridge.

I could go on. But you get the idea!

Sharky said...

Alex! Congrats on the goal! I believe we were having one of our morning chats in France at Le Cheval Rouge when you had mentioned this goal.

So glad you hit it, and you're actually seeing more beyond your new LZ to go to. I'm so excited to get my first XC, hopefully with as many of our tribe of monkeys as possible!

Congrats and thank you for the coffee read!

I might be out to work at Kahuku HS this afternoon. Will have my wing in the car :)


MauiDoug said...

Congrats Alex! I'm getting used to seeing the bottom side of your wing these days! Great flight!

Here's the link to Sidehill's Laie Peninsula landing. http://www.vimeo.com/19183947
Congrats Thom on your longest Kahana XC so far!

JK said...

Once again, you've lead the chase Alex. Outstanding and well done!

Thom said...

You too Maui,

Nice long one but looks like we will always be chasing Alex and Mad Dog.