Saturday, December 20, 2014

Fearless Farewell

Obama made us do it. At least that's the only thing that makes sense in hindsight. I don't know how else to explain such desperate attempts at airtime in the kind of air most likely to be found in the textbook of bad conditions at Kahana. It's a crazy conspiracy!

We know that flights at Kahana can be somewhat sketchy when it's east, or when it's strong, and we know when it's both east and strong, it is likely to be super sketchy. We know that, but somehow Jeff and I were determined to score the last possible flights at Kahana before the TFR kicks in and shuts us down for two and a half weeks. We are not stubbornly optimistic. Apparently we're just stubbornly stubborn.

I waited on the LZ for an hour until Jeff showed up, watching conditions and talking myself into this last Kahana flight of the year. Yeah, the clouds were racing across the sky, parallel to the beach, but if I squinted at the rhino horn just right, the clouds looked like they were wafting in gently from the northeast. And the flow at the beach wasn't super disturbed. George was able to kite, after a fashion! So Jeff and I ran up the hill. George was tempted to follow, but his good sense got the better of him.

I launched from low launch and kited up almost to middle before a strong cycle plucked me from the hill. I could feel the bad temper of the air, but I forced myself to stay calm and just ride it out. I immediately headed to the rhino horn, with what I realized was a pretty good tailwind, and then turned back to face a headwind into the valley. Yuck. I was able to climb up but everything just felt wrong. I was constantly being pushed out to sea. I hate that feeling!

I got to 1,500 feet or so over rhino horn, in that horrible offshore flow, and from there I watched Jeff launch his 15m Zero from high launch. He made some passes and then it looked like he wasn't feeling enough lift, so he headed out over the bay. Only he wasn't really making any headway. He looked like he was parked in a strong easterly headwind over the bay. Finally I saw him low near the trees on the beach so I stopped paying attention. But later he told me he'd survived a sick rodeo ride down there, with sudden drops and surges alternating to keep him wide awake all the way in. He barely made the beach, halfway to the keyhole, and he dropped so fast he had to PLF and roll in the wet sand.

Meanwhile I had seen that George was no longer able to kite his wing, which made me think the LZ was definitely not a good place to be. I headed to Punaluu, but I had a slight tailwind offshore. I hate that feeling. I lined up for the beach downwind of the bridge and fought my way down through some very strange air, watching a nasty dark patch of texture racing toward me as it spun out from the bay. At the last minute I found one foot solidly trapped in my pod just as I dropped into a pocket of sink. Suddenly I was sitting down on the wet rocky spit just next to the sand, fighting to get my foot out, and fighting to keep my wing overhead. But I lost the battle, and my wing fell lightly onto the damp rocks. I hate that feeling! I finally got my foot free, and kited my wing back up and onto the grass.

So those were the last ignominious flights of 2014 at Kahana, flown by a couple of SOBs (Stubbornly Optimistic Bastards). Nothing like a little presidential pressure to bring out the worst instincts in some of us. Ahem. Jeff. Sorry about that. Thanks for the retrieve! And it was great to have Drew join us at the end of the day just in time for some cold refreshments.

Here's to better conditions next year! And in the meantime I'm looking forward to some good possibilities at Kaena Point over the next couple of weeks!


sandy said...

I was really jealous when I started reading this, bumming that I had not tried to get out of work to join the faithful, but by the end, not so much.

Thom said...

Dido, as addicted as I am and heard about the flights, I was kicking myself for finishing a job in town that I could have left to complete during the banishment.

Now reading this I am dried eyed and so is my wing!

See you next year Kahana, or at least until Obummer comes back again. How many more years of this guy do we have left?