Monday, September 23, 2013

Milestones and Golf Balls

Twenty-six pilots graced the fair shores of Kahana yesterday, and most of them also graced the fair skies from Kualoa to Kahuku, with up to fifteen in the air at the same time. Great to see a lot of new faces, and also the rare appearance of some grizzled veterans. First time we've seen Pete or Ray flying out there in months! We were even joined by a handful of Makapuu usuals! The day turned into a perfect cross country day, with at least nine pilots scattered in all directions, and quite a few XC firsts.

After a very successful and efficient cleanup effort, everyone assembled at the LZ and started to hike. We must have had twenty pilots on the hill, hiking, getting gear set up, launching from all three east launches. It was a spectacle we haven't seen in quite a while.

Many bay crossing attempts were made throughout the day. Dave started off the XC train by specking out at cloud base and dashing across the bay. I was caught off guard, distracted by the spectacle of pilots below, but I rushed to bench up and follow him. As I was heading across, I scoured the skies to the south to see how far ahead he was. I didn't manage to spot him, and I knew if he was charging that fast I would have a hard time catching up. My wing is fast but I am slow to connect the dots. I got over to Kaaawa pretty low and hit the massive sink zone, but the thought of Dave charging to Makapuu kept my wing pointed to Hidden Valley until the last possible moment. Finally my better judgment kicked in and I turned to limp back to Kahana. I just couldn't understand how Dave had managed to ditch me so successfully. But wait! There was Dave back over Kahana benching up again! Turns out he'd snuck back underneath me as I had been charging over.

Dave tried again and stuck to his guns a bit longer than advisable, trying to milk the lifty turbulence over the awesome white cross launch, before throwing in the towel and squeaking out to land at Swanzys. I was luckier on my second attempt, taking a super wide line to avoid the massive waves of sink. I got up at Hidden Valley and headed over to tag Kualoa as I heard Jeff, James, Pete and Mike on the radio heading the other way towards Punaluu. It took me a while to get back and by that time those guys were all landing, Jeff and Mike at Pounders, and Pete and James at BYU. Firsts for Mike and James!

I snagged Gaza, Scotty G, and Thom at Kahana and we blazed over to Punaluu. Cloud base wasn't high, maybe 2,400 feet or so, but we managed to sky out over the falls before heading further downrange. Seeing the gorgeous cascades of icy headwaters splashing below me as I climbed into the mist, I mean up the side of the mist, just took my breath away. From there, Scotty G fell into the sneaky trap that snares many cross country visitors, taking a deep line right across Sacred Falls. He got the usual flush over the ravines behind Hauula, and limped out to Sucker Hill, before landing somewhere nearby in Hauula. Nevertheless a fun first trip this way for Scotty.

Thom left Punaluu a bit low, taking the liftier wide line from the front of the Punaluu ridge, and was able to milk his glide out to Laie Point. I followed Thom, feeling lucky to snag a clean 2,800 feet before heading out, with hopes of adding another golf ball to my collection. And adding a serving of the island's tastiest poke to my belly. Not to mention the island's tallest Torpedo.

Gaza picked up the rear and skipped the Hauula ridge to burn straight for Hauula Beach Park, where he met up with Scotty. Duck had retrieved the first gaggle of four and was doubling back to pick up the second batch. Duck is truly the unsung hero of the day.

I tagged Pounders with about 1,800 feet, not quite the two grand I count on to make the golf course. This was going to be close. I cruised on over Laie, milking light bubbles of lift but not succumbing to the temptation to turn and drift inland. Over Hukilau at about 900 feet, it was still feeling close, but I was starting to breathe easier. Finally at the end of Malaekahana Bay, it was clear I would have enough to sail over the ranch to my destination. I shadow-bombed a very surprised foursome of golfers before turning into the wind and landing in the rough at the far end of the course. Duck and Thom were waiting at the parking lot, heckling me as I made my slow way across the course, taking a little extra time to liberate a lost golf ball. After a super fun twenty mile flight, the limu poke and Torpedo were just the icing on that sweet cross country cake.

After returning to join the crew at the landing zone, we stayed for a long session of debriefing and re-hydrating, if you can call it that. Woody, JJ, George, James, and Chandler ran back up for one last session of late afternoon flying in the waning light. James specked out with 2,500 feet over the rhino horn and made his first bay crossing, tagging Kualoa and returning to land with a big smile on his face.

Thanks again to Duck for the retrieve. And to Pete for the rack of blue cans! And thanks to Thom for organizing the highway cleanup, to Mike and Ces for cleaning the vests and gloves, and to everyone who helped out in the morning.

Kahana Roll call: Reaper, Divot, Thom, Duck, Sandy, JJ, Jonathan, Chandler, Gaza, Laurel, Scotty G, James, Alison, Allegra, Johnimo, Harvey, Scrappy, me, Dave, Mike, George, Shawn, Jeff, TommyRD, Joey, Brazilian Ray. And possibly others I've forgotten to name.


Gravity said...

Thanks for the $5 and shoving that damn golf ball from your secret convergence line in my face..

Super fun XC day.

James and I made 2 attempts at the bay crossing, but ending up in the Maytag machine...


Thom said...

Best $5 bucks you ever made Reaper, getting a dead president from the president is a rarity.

I have really got to stop landing in Laiea on a Sunday or any day for that matter.....NO DARN BEER. Some how I am going to make that golf course this year.

Gravity said...

Watch Alex's video and learn. The convergence line is farther out than you think.
You also need 14:1 glide... Hehe