Monday, April 25, 2011

Get Back

Thanks to everyone who helped me survive the last three months of downtime. I couldn't have made it without you guys. And thanks to the die hard crew who came out to Kahana today, on the most marginal southeast cloudy and rainy Monday ever. Somehow we scored an improbable perfect sunny window for me to get back, get back, get back, into the air where I once belonged, to start my real healing.

I saw my orthopedist this afternoon, and he cleared me to resume all my customary activities. He assessed my healing progress, and told me I've probably lost about 10% of the strength and flexibility in my left shoulder. I'm going to continue to work to try and get most if not all of that 10% back. Heck, maybe I'll shoot for 110% percent!

Twelve hard core pilots came out to celebrate the miracle of flight at Kahana today: Bonnie, Pete, Brad, Thom, Sharky, LarryMc, Jim, Bill, Berndt, Harvey, Duck, and me. The forecast had called for southeast conditions today, and the synoptic airflow higher up certainly confirmed that direction, with a grey drizzly sky blanketing the area for most of the day. If we flew on a day like this, it truly would be a miracle.

By the time we all got out to Kahana, around 4 o'clock, it was pretty darned east and pretty darned light. The bay was strangely glassy when we arrived, although it seemed like the texture we could see out on the ocean was trying to build in over the bay. At least the sun finally decided to show itself, and that was enough to inspire many of us with hopes of soaring. Five tired souls opted to stay on the beach, while seven plucky pilots scrambled up to try their luck with a late afternoon flight.

Berndt raced up to test the conditions first, and after scratching valiantly, sunk out for a last minute save by toplanding at low launch. Brad made a solid attempt at a first launch, but frontaled on takeoff and had to reset. Now it was my turn. The cycles were weak but it seemed like it could work. My vario had decided to die on me, so it looked like I'd have to find the lift using the seat of my pants for a change. I was up for anything. Even a sledder would have been fine.

After a lot of false starts kiting around upper launch in the very light and cross airflow, I finally got my wing settled overhead, before running headlong off the hill and into the air. Oh man, have I missed that feeling! I managed to get myself up into the light and choppy airflow over the ridge, maxing out at around 1,200 feet, and hoping for some company.

The Punaluu sensor was reporting a ridiculously light 2 to 3 mph average, but somehow we could feel a light sea breeze of around 8 mph up on launch. It was just enough to get up, although barely enough to soar. I complained over the radio about how lumpy the air was up higher, and I ended up drifting back down above launch to boat around in the smoother stuff.

Brad soon joined me up there, and soared the ridge like an old pro, for his first Kahana flight ever. Bonnie and Bill flew next, followed by Berndt for his second round. Duck and Thom helped everyone get into the air, but they finally decided to hike down as the daylight grew dim and the airflow got weaker.

After I landed, everyone wanted to know how it had felt to get back into the air after three months. Honestly, it felt like I'd never been gone. It felt like the most normal thing in the world. Which I guess it was!

We celebrated Brad's first Kahana flight and my return to the air long into the evening, with a huge beach bonfire and many tasty refreshments. Thanks to Duck and Jim for the delicious grape juice, to Sharky for the delicious ahi and tako poke, to Harvey for the safety meeting, and to Thom for the frosty cold beverages. What a great post flight party. I look forward to many more.

Jeff put together some video footage he'd taken of me hot dogging the lookout at a Makapuu parapark session a couple years ago, along with a fitting soundtrack. I really appreciate the tribute, Jeff! I watched it many times today to get my head back into the game before leaving for the doctor's office this afternoon.


RT said...

Welcome back to the flying side of things. Skateboarding got my collarbone. Its tough looking at photos of Hawaii when your trying to teach paragliding in the rain/snow in Utah. Nice to hear the king is back! RT

Thom said...

It was surely amazing, I had gotten a report from Flystrong as I was on my way out there and he said it was ugly and there were bursts of wind from the valley.

I arrived just before 4 pm which was the call time. At 4pm the skies opened, the land heated and it felt like maybe we would get up.

I called B-Ray to say sorry for the first report, which kept him from the trip, but it is beautiful now!!!

Alex it is so good to see you fly again although your right, it did not seem like you were ever really gone.

Congrats Brad first flight, First soar, first great landing. Oh, thanks for driving me to Reapers couch.

Brazilian Ray said...

I just knew it was going to be flyable! Alex invested gazilions in karma points and it has paid off already!!

Noell threw her back off and can't go to work for a couple of days and she can't even get the baby in or out of the crib, so I stayed home.... it felt like I was there, but I just can't wait to have a real flight with the king.
The king is back!!!
The king is back!!

Brazilian Ray

MauiDoug said...

Welcome back Airboss! Sorry I missed your maiden voyage yesterday. But I am up for an XC around 2pm after the dentist today. Thanks so much for all of the retrieves these past few months! You are also the King of the ground crew as well! :-)