Monday, December 09, 2013

Cojones Escondidos
Whenever I am getting ready to fly, I get this special feeling - a great sense of adventure … sometimes more, sometimes less. However, Thursday, I knew I was going to be pushing that exotic adventure meter. Steve and I had decided to take our Fireflies to a completely new location. There was no doubt that it was going to take a special kind of cojones to pull this off. I don't mean that brave attitude, where a pilot forces it, regardless of his skill. I mean the kind where the pilot commits to the hard work that produces the skill of being good on and near the ground.

I have been hiking the trail above my house since I moved here. Occasionally, at the top where the ridge cuts back into Hidden Valley, I would notice a small bare spot. It wouldn't be big enough for a normal paraglider. But I was always curious to see if one could launch a speed wing there. Maybe some of you bay crossers noticed it as well. After receiving my wing I decided to attempt a launch at the first opportunity. That day was Thursday. With the H4 open for business, I headed up with Steve to check it out. It is a long, strenuous climb, going from approximately 80 feet above sea level to 1,500 feet. You leave right out of the parking lot where I live, and just head up. Within a few minutes you're crossing Anti-Kahana where you turn left and climb the ridge. The climb ends at the launch site overlooking Kaaawa.

The launch has a few of the characteristics of Kealia. The wind doesn't fill in well, and there is not a lot of room … definitely not enough room for a forward launch. Once the wing is laid out, one only has around 4 feet before they step off the cliff, a drop that ends at the valley floor. To top it off, we chose, as our first day, one with almost no wind at all. There was little doubt that we were high enough for a sledder to Swanzy’s. Our only question was to decide who was going to go first. We both had enough skill to launch, so it fell to me to take the maiden flight. That made me the fortunate one, because then Steve could hold my wing up in the light winds. After a couple of failed attempts, I managed to get the wing stable above my head. I turned under the wing, ran three steps and launched. Without wind, and little room with which to gain speed, the wing sped down the face (think Avatar) as it was reaching trim speed. Exhilarating would be my description of that drop to trim speed. The rest of the flight was a beautiful series of turns that ended in a soft landing on the new beach at Swanzy’s.

Now it was Steve's turn. The launching area has a few ruts and medium-sized rocks. Steve discovered each of them in his failed attempts. But the kid has mad skillz. Soon enough he was in the air speeding down the face and out over the valley towards Swanzy’s. He set up his landing over the house and trees at the north end. A couple of bumps and he was screaming towards the grass. He missed perfection by less than a foot.

After packing up we retired to Bobo’s for some well earned food. We shared our impressions of what we had done - hiking a dangerous and strenuous trail, pioneering a new launch and reveling in the joy of flight.


Alex said...

Nice one Woody. I've always loved that trail. I can't wait to check out the launch. 1,500 feet qualifies as the highest launch on the island. I don't think Stairway counts because it's not used regularly enough.

Thom said...

Nice, 1500' scramble up to a launch only good for mini/speed wings. Too possibly one of the best grassy LZ's with Bobo's across the street and Sierra's next to that. HMMMM, I guess I might have to ask Santa for a smaller size wing this year. But only after sufficient training and apparently a few more Cojones.

JJ Jameson told me that he was elated to have another staff writer, but now that your on his out, he can get bitchy.

Matt said...

I hope there is some GoPro footage of this historical epicness.

Joey said...

Speedwingin to Swanzy's from crouching lion? Yikes..that does take some Cojones..