Sunday, July 22, 2012


Yesterday we had over thirty pilots at Makapuu, in very light and thermic sea breeze conditions. It was a rare and perfect day, the kind when the only launch that works all day is Cactus. And boy did we give it a workout. Many pilots hiked multiple times for multiple flights, and lots of them top landed many times as well. I bet we flew at least 50 flights out of that place. It was not easy to get high, and many pilots spent the day just barely above ridge height. At our busiest time we probably had 15 gliders in the air navigating that narrow lift band together. What a beautiful sight that was!

I got out there early to fly a tandem for Joey, and we arrived at Cactus just in time to see Jim getting off the hill for one of the first launches of the day. Launching a tandem from Cactus is a rare privilege - I wish we could do it more often! We landed after an hour of struggling to get high in thermals, and I ran back up to do some more serious thermaling under my solo wing. Thanks to Sharky for grabbing my vario and bringing it up - it would have been a whole different day without my little beeping buddy.

Hang Glider Leo reported early that he had cored a smoking thermal over three poles up to cloud base at 2,800 feet and flew over the back to Koko Crater, landing at Sandys. Why can't we ever do that?? Many of us tried to core smoking thermals but I don't think any of us got above 1,600 or so. But that's certainly high enough to head over the back, and many of us did. I think Scot and Jim were first, followed by Greg and AK Jason, and I was last over, arriving after everyone else had landed at Sandys.

I bounced around in the rough stuff above Koko for a while, finally hooking into a proper monster and refusing to allow myself to be kicked out until I was quite a bit higher than the back rim of the crater, pretty much directly over it. I headed out over the poop factory, wondering if there might be a line that would connect me with the lee side foothills and maybe score a nice climb up to jump back to Makapuu. Sure enough, I headed towards the water tower behind Bob's old house and was rewarded with some really rough lee side lift. It wasn't the kind of stuff that was worth turning in. I tried it a few times but it wasn't that productive. Mainly I just tried to ride that stuff for a net gain, as I found myself plunging my brakes down to my hips and then raising them up above my shoulders over and over again. Finally I found myself pulling in behind Cactus at a surreal 2,000 feet or so. Man was that a great feeling. Only my second time ever returning to Makapuu from Koko Crater.

Then I top landed and waited for Thom and Joey to join me for some possible downrange action. Conditions were strengthening a bit and people were starting to get a bit higher with less effort. The clouds were looking pretty thick and dark along the back range but it was mostly clear all the way to Puu O Kona, so it seemed worth a flight back there. I got to around 1,700 over ironwoods and headed into the back on my own, not waiting for the other guys. There were some awesome climbs along the way, and in that first bowl next to Puu O Kona I got to cloud base at 2,600.

I considered a flatland expedition to Olomana, but somehow I just wasn't feeling up to that mission. Maybe I was too worn out from my Koko jaunt. I climbed a bit higher in a blue gap above Puu O Kona and then headed back to Makapuu, catching some more nice boomers on the way back and corkscrewing back up to cloud base several times. At this point Joey and Alaska Jason were headed into the back below me. I arrived at Makapuu where Thom was benching up to follow those guys. Joey flew to Puu O Kona and back, and finally Thom took the last train back there on his own, and the last train back. Turns out Alaska Jason had opted for the flatland expedition, arriving at Olomana super low and catching a light little squeaker of a low save out of there to get established. He got high there, hopped to the quarry, and then on his way to the back range, ended up sinking out at Ho'omaluhia in Kaneohe. A tough flight under some ominous cloud cover. The front line was definitely the best call. I prefer the days with higher or sparser clouds, but sometimes you have to work with what you got!

At Kahana we call it a chronic when you fly an out and back flight in two different directions in succession, like to Kualoa and back and then to Punaluu and back. At Makapuu, I think a similar flight would be to Koko and back and then to Olomana and back. I'm sure the hang gliders do that one all the time. Now I wish I'd had the energy to try for that last leg to Olomana! Next time.

What a great day of thermaling. I was in the air close to 6 hours. Just another day at the office. I shot video of my flight to Koko and back, but it'll take a while to edit. I took a couple shots from behind Puu O Kona after my GoPro battery died. I know others took some shots as well and I'll try to include as many as I can here.

Roll call: Joey, Scrappy, me, Scott, Jim, Jorge, Doug, FL John, Netherlands Franz, Germany Mike, Canada Greg, Ray, AK Jason, Woody, JJ, Dawn, Steve, June, Geronimo John, Five-0 Mike, Johnny Tsunami, Ginny, Allan, Welcome Back Matt, Thom, Bonnie, Frank, Scot, Rich, Sharky, Bill.

Pilots also flew at Kahana in light thermic conditions: Lake, Woody, JJ, Dawn, and Bonnie.


Thom said...


your lucky I had gotten up around 4am could not sleep. Then went back and went deep. So, I got my coffee read now I want to go gather some more material.

It's Time to Fly Get Your Chronic On and Go!!

Thom said...

On another very important NOTE:
Donna and Maile spotted Jason in Kaneohe and called me while I was in the air over MPU. I told her who it was and they tracked him down.

Jason got retrieved from his great adventure.

Thanks to Donna & Sky-Mai.

sandy said...

Thanks for a great recap of the day. I was wondering where folks had disappeared to whilst I was playing it safe on the ridge. I kept looking downrange, but didn't see anybody. Since I gave my radio to John, I was definitely feeling out of the loop. Still, I need to get alot more airtime back in my blood before I can seriously consider running away from the hill, so probably just as well I didn't have a radio to tempt me.

Nice to see everybody again. Home projects today :-(.

Sharky said...

Thanks for the read Alex!

I was so dissapointed. Conditions at Cactus got really good after I got your vario to you (nice toplanding pit stop by the way). Of course I had a limited window to fly due to a company team event that evening.

This is only the 2nd time I've launched Cactus (3rd if you count a tandem with SkyDive Chris) and my first attempt my wing overshot me...guess I'm just not used to flat launches LOL. 5-0 helped me reset up and I noticed a riser seemed twisted so I reset it. Logic would dictate that the other was probably twisted as well, but it didn't look that way at a quick glance...

So I pulled up and had one of my best controlled launches ever, only to look up and find that my left riser was twisted :( Glider was totally flyable, but it was distracting me and when pulling the left brake I couldn't help but feel I was "sawing" my lines...that is the first time I've launched with a twisted riser. I'm going to do my best to make sure it's my last.

Was great seeing everyone out. Conditions should be great all week, since I'll be out. I'm off island for tech show in Hilo Mon/Tue and Kauai Thu...Look forward to the Reaper wedding fly-in!!

=-) Sharky