Thursday, January 15, 2015

Journey to the End of The World

Yes, it's a journey, but worth every step. First there is the drive: over an hour and a half for many of us, to the most remote beach park on the island. Then you walk for 45 minutes, starting at the end of the asphalt parking lot, along an abandoned, dilapidated dirt road. You can see where the beachy sand ends. Well, it's a walk, all the way to the point, the End Of the World. Then it's a hike up to a launch about twice as far as the Makapuu juice trail.

Launch is of typical Oahu standards: beaten down grass and scrub bushes on which to prop and/or tangle your wing. And I would say it's definitely a P3 and yesterday possibly a P3 1/2. The wind was blowing 90 degrees to launch from the south. This was the most cross wind takeoff I have ever attempted and almost didn't. To top it off there were some 9 meter speed wings flying above us.

Jorge was the first to go: he launched, left the hill and headed south in both direction and in altitude. He disappeared, but made it work, as only Jorge can. Alex was the next to pull up and peel off. He had what appeared to be a better cycle, but he got low, and then, for some crazy reason, he turned and zoomed back toward launch. His glider was screaming on a downwind, downward glide. He turned again and was well below launch. Oh, bomb outs here are, well, just don't do it. Alex made it up, somehow, and joined Jorge rising towards Makua.

Four of us left on the hill. JK had never flown here, so he went next, and laid out his new (to him) Delta 2. After several passes, he ended up dirting down by the bird sanctuary gate. I'll let him chirp about his landing. I reluctantly decided to go next. I have never flown here either, but figured a landing below with JK would eliminate the hike down before the long slog back to the car. I got a lucky cycle and got boosted off launch, so my trek south was the easiest of all of us. Drew, with the help of Flystrong, launched shortly after, and was hot on my heels, but much lower.

Flystrong was alone, the last man on launch. Yuck! He suffered the same fate as JK, but he got pinned in a headwind on his final turn, and ended up nesting with some Albatrosses. JK would eventually hike up again, to a higher launch the speed flyers showed him, and flew over to join Jorge and me for the late session. Drew came over low across Yokohama to Makua, and made it up there, but didn't stay long, heading back to land at the point because he'd parked on the other side at the end of the 4WD road.

Alex had gotten around to Ohikilolo Valley, the south side of the far Makua ridge. I guess Alex had said it was horrible over the radio, but I didn't hear it. I saw Jorge get there low, turn and run back, but I was stinking high and gunning to be with Alex. Then Alex got high enough over there to turn and run back. Hmmm. I kept going, then hit a hole, dropping, losing just about all that height. I made it back low, about 700 feet above the Yokohama side of Makua Valley. I scratched up, and actually it was getting easier by now. The glass off had started.

By now Jorge was clicking away. You know I hate the camera, so of course I was hanging under and alongside him, taking posing directions from the XC mag author/photographer. I want that cover!

Beer suck and a deep chill took Alex down to his car, where he found Bill and Allegra. JK, Jorge and I boated around in the easiest air ever. I laid back to take a nap and suddenly over our radios, a song could be heard: it's the end of the world as we know it … and I feel fine. I have had a rough 2014 and 2015, and things were looking glum, but recent good news has changed it to feel'n fine. I started dancing and singing along with the radio. Hmm, was Joey here, or maybe B-Ray? The song played on and I kept dancing the worm in my pod and flapping my wing. Finally it stopped, and Alex came on: I hate when other people do that, and clog the airways - but I couldn't help it, it just seemed appropriate! I told him I thought it was awesome.

There was an unfamiliar smile upon my face. The sun was glowing on the valley below us, and there were no condos, just one little building and a handful of people, was this even Oahu? I guess maybe people should venture out of Waikiki to really see what this place can offer, but that is another story. I was happy. This was one of the most picturesque flights I've ever had. But I don't fly much. (Editor's note: ahem). Thanks for the call Jorge and Alex!

As we are developing this site, we still don't quite know what to call it. But one name is starting to stick. I'm sure the speed flyers have their own name for it, but for us, this place is the End of the World. And as everyone knows, we have the standard three letter airport-style designation for most of our flying sites, so that works out well here: EOW.

When EOW is the call, It's Time to Fly, Get Your Gear including big boy pants, really think about it, and Go!!! Get ready for the most picturesque flight you'll ever have.

On the way back to our cars, we stopped for dinner at Coquito's, a Puerto Rican restaurant. Jorge and Alex had eaten here before. This was another first for me, and it was awesome. There are great places on all corners of this island, if you can find them.

Roll Call: Jorge, Alex, JK, Sidehill, Flystrong, Drew, Allegra and a handful of speedies, including Dop and Jake.

Alex's pics:


DaveZ said...

Nice write-up Thom. You lucky islanders need to be reminded how ridiculous your flying:driving:hiking ratios are, compared to the rest of the planet!



firedave2 said...

Good stuff Thom, glad to hear all your parts are working well.

I believe that road is much older then WW2, the cane train tracks used to go around the point a century ago, bring sugar to town.

sandy said...

SH, you deserved this one. I'm glad it worked out, though I'm pissed that there was not a chat box peep so that I could think thermally thoughts for you all. But I understand a mission like this sometimes just comes together and you've got to move quick before you change your mind.

"This was the most cross wind takeoff I have ever attempted" -- didn't you fly Kealia that day that it was nearly 90? OK, maybe 85 degrees cross, and then by the time I got up there it was 175 degrees. I think you can count yourself among the magical wing conjuring sorcerers!

Thanks for sharing!

Thom said...

@ DaveZ. We are spoiled but deservingly!

@Sandy, nope not me, never flew Kealia and now with the Knob and the Meadows no need.

Thanks for the edits Alex I barely could stay awake to type it. The hike, the flight and the great food just about wiped me out.

I never thought I'd say this but the trades can stay on vacation if we can get a few more days at the End of the World.

JK said...

OK, you egged me on for a chirp. This may be more than that…

This was my first time launching from Kaena Pt. and flying this long saught-after site. I have flown near here on north days from the Dillingham side. Also, one time I managed to fly from Nanakuli to the south ridge of the bowl behind Yokohama Beach. In any case, this site was new to me. That "pioneer" feeling loomed in my gut. And you know what they say; "The pioneers get the arrows. The settlers get the land." I'm not sure I got any arrows, but perhaps a dart.

I went 3rd off the EOW launch. It was appreciably cross, but Jorge & Alex proved it could be done. My launch was scrappy. I left the ground a little early and a little hurried with a slight drop, scraping a low bush. But I got a nice boost shortly after which sent me on my way.

My scratching wasn't working for me. An albatross found success further from the hill, so I tried that. It wasn't so good there either. I should never have expected to match the glide of an albatross.

It was more and more evident that I was on a sled ride. I could press further upwind toward the parking lot at Yokohama Beach and call it a day or I could fly back on the fast beat and get to the trailhead for another try. Speed wingers were landing there for the short walk back to where they park, on the North Shore side of the point. Before we launched, Jorge urged us to take the later option and launch again. We planned to fly until sunset to capture those magic moments of perfect light for the camera.

At the parking lot, the flow was less than 5 knots. On launch, closer to the point, it was a very comfortable 10-12 knots. At the trail's turn, near the edge of the fenced-in albatross sanctuary, the wind was pinched and making a turn to the North Shore. It was perhaps 15-20 there. When I set up for final glide to this wide section of the trail (about 50 feet elevation), I was shocked to have "elevator down". I knew the sanctuary fence was just behind me. I hoped I could kite forward after touch down, but I actually lost a few steps. I pulled brakes and the wing settled down beautifully - on the other side of the fence! Luckily, the entire length of this fence is capped with an aluminum roof to keep climbing rodents out. There was no damage to any lines and it was a short walk to the sanctuary gate to retrieve my new (to me) D2. I was hiking back up the trail just 15 minutes later.

I kept my head down on the hike up. I missed the turn to the EOW Launch. Five pill box foundations later, a cool cat named Will caught up to me with a 9m speed wing on his back. He is a sky diver from Mass. living on the North Shore for the winter. Soon after, his more experienced local buddy (Jake) arrived. On their way to the top, they left me at one of their favorite launches which was just not enough for the 9m wing that day. But it was more than enough for me. The wind here was about 15 knots and nearly straight in. I was plucked and shot out into laminar flow feeding a wide, strong lift band. I was just in time to see those two speed wingers wang and dive so close to the rocks on the ridge line above and then to see Alex touch down near the car below. I joined SideHill & Jorge for nearly two hours of sweet bliss with a wide swathe of easy lift and this incredibly scenic landscape below. Just wait until you see the photos published!

So that's my take... Oh, Jorge explained later that when you scratch in super cross conditions, you have to surf the undulations (gullies) of the slope. Stay close approaching the gully, but get away a bit on its lee face. This very basic element of ridge flying completely escaped me. I was using 101 skills in 201 conditions. I felt a little dumb.

Thanks for the write-up, Thom. This one will live forever in the memory banks of exceptional Oahu flying.