Saturday, April 10, 2010

Big Island Hat Trick

The strong winds, and the need of a break from the Monkey cage, blew me to the Big Island.

Since Alex usually uses this forum as his flight log, and the fact that I left my log book behind, I will post this quick brief...

Wednesday, April 7 - Para-waited on a grassy, comfortable, relaxing LZ it didn't look epic, Don flew the Buzz 3, Scoty had to get to the dentist, I was getting hungry. I was the last to launch and it was looking like rain. I flew for 12 minutes, landed at the Brown Spot, and waited for the rest to land. Getting re-acquainted with the LZ was a good confidence builder for my first flight here in a while.

Thursday - Took a break.

Friday, April 9 - Had a good long flight, 45 minutes, in thermals it feels like alot longer. Hit over 2 grand and cored my first Big Island thermal, flew to the edge of Captain Cook Bay, even got religion and had my first Church landing. Oops - that doesn't count as Beer First for the Reaper Cooler, does it?

Saturday, April 10 - Headed out early. First flight was boaty 12 minute trip to the Brown Spot with a landing filmed my Neily Bird, which I hope to get some copies of.
Second flight was 35 minutes of bouncing and coring and hit 2400 feet. I was looking down at Big Island Don, but that did not last long. I hit some big sink and he harnessed some cranking lift, the tide changed and he moved toward the Bay with over 2800 feet. I decided to give another shot at the Brown spot and there was a ride there to get back to the top. Third flight, only 10 minutes but a Hat Trick. clouds were rolling in on launch and Big Island John and I scooted out for our last flights. I came here for launch, coring and landing training and today it was there.

After landing my Hat Trick, an I'o, the Hawaiian Hawk, pictured above, was perched in tree on the way into Keith's to fold up. I think he said "Wasn't that just awesome?!".

Sunday, April 11, 2 flights, no church but 2 good set ups and landings on the Brown spot, 1st flight got to 1800 for 17 minutes. The 2nd went to 2100 for a 27 minute flight. Don did not go to church either but did go to school with an other awesome 1 hour plus flight.

I have found thermal flying to be challenging, it is like fishing, once you hook one you try to reel into it. It is tiring and a heck of a work out.

When the winds get strong on Oahu, don't forget there is an awesome flying site here on the Big Island. Thanks to the BISA; Charlie, Gene, Sammy, Gary, Scotty, Greg, Bill, "Neily Bird", Big Island John, Moku, Rodger and Big Island Don.

That's all for now.


Friday, April 02, 2010

A Tribute to our Wingman

While the Eleventh Plague of Egypt, "Nuking Winds," threatens yet another weekend on Oahu, let us take a moment to thank our Wingmen, those not mentioned nearly enough in our journals of free flight. The term "Wingman" stems from a time-honored tradition within the Air Force flying community that essentially says, "Airmen take care of other Airmen."

Our logbooks tell captivating tales of majestic vistas, and voyages aloft that few outside the pilot community comprehend. Therefore, as yet another spell of high winds befalls us, let us pay tribute to our Wingman.


Who has not driven halfway to Kahana, Makapu'u, or any other paragliding destination without going through the mental checklist and asking "Did we get the radios? How about the camera? Sh!t, I think I forgot the cooler!" Regardless of our experience, or lack thereof, we owe a debt of gratitude to our Wingman who inevitably answers "I got the radios, camera and the cooler...we're cocked, locked and ready to rock!"

No matter how many times we hike the trails to Low, Middle or High Launch, there always seems to be an impending sense of urgency to launch into the prevailing wind and tip-toe from terra-firma as the perfect cycle lifts us to cloud base.

But, of course, on launch is left the weather analyst, launch assistant, retriever, financial supporter and, in most cases, unabashed endorser, who will be waiting, camera-ready, as we touch down at the LZ.

Our Wingmen are, first and foremost, weather analysts who relay changes in wind direction and approaching squalls we might likely ignore otherwise. Likewise, Wingmen go out of their way to assist us on launch, ever fluffing a leading edge or clearing a caught line, without a single thought of their own launch window or impending hike back down.

Who among us does not owe a debt of gratitude for a retrieve when the spontaneous cross-country bug bites us in the a$$? Few of us second-guess our chances of getting a ride back to the main LZ once we turn North, or South for that matter, in hopes of making a cross-country flight we can share with a captivated audience on

And we must not forget the Financial Supporter who forgoes the spending analysis lecture we are all overdue because of the spontaneous shopping spree on eBay, or any other on-line store peddling paragliding equipment for the habitual shopper.

But most endearing has to be the Unabashed Endorser who stands camera ready on launch and landing, retell paragliding stories in which we star as the main character at the next quarterly meeting.

Stealing another flight this afternoon from "Aeolus"...God of the Winds, gives me yet another pause to thank my Wingmen who make it possible for me to fly safely, and fly often.


Wingmen...I salute you...Reaper, Alex, Jim, JeffMc, Joey, BonBon, MauiDoug, Jorge, Ray, MadDog, and anyone else I may have forgotten in this late night post.

And of course, most especially, my lovely wife LeeAnn who has hiked up and down the trails at Makapu'u and Kahana more times than I can remember without a single complaint...I am indebted to you forever. Without you, my paragliding passion would be nothing more than a wish, a dream, and an unfulfilled desire to escape the surly bonds of Earth.

As corny as the quote may sound..."I'll be your Wingman anytime."

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Canadian Paraglider Road Trip 7/98

I thought I would share some very old times & Pics with everyone since our present days of high winds are relentless & will not let us fly any time soon. This was my first road trip to Vancouver BC with Reaper after we first met him, also the original Cowboys: BJ, Nalu, Mad Dog. We also brought a new pilot to drive for us after his morning sledders on our X/C adventures! Anybody remember the Yeti?

Our Canadian road trip started in Vancouver BC where we all met up partied hard & flew 3 days in a row at Grouse Mountain, then moving on into the enchanted Fraiser Valley. Here we camped at a fantastic lake at Chilliwack BC for a few days (Yeti got his name here posing in front of a Yeti wood carving that he looked as twins to). From here we flew Woodside where I was able to core a thermal with a fairely large bald eagle, also flew Bridle Falls where we all piled into 4WD truck of Thin red Lines Max to head up to launch & all us Fat Bastards broke his leaf spring as I recall.

Before leaving the Fraiser Valley we all hired a Helicopter to fly 8 of us in 2 trips to the top of Mt Cheam 6800' where I took my first high altitude flight up to 12,000' a 5,200' climb! Big for me at the time...The Yeti took the early sledder down with legs wide & flailing & too scared to turn in the huge thermal he was in, good thing as he retrieved us from our 15 mile flight to Hope at the end of the Fraiser Valley, valley winds! WOW! at LZ. Then we drove overnight to Golden BC where we camped for the night.

Hanging a few days in Golden just prior to the Canadian Nationals we partied hard as young monkeys do & flew like the wind! Our Epic flight from Goldens Mt 7 on the Continental Divide was my 2nd high altitude flight & my longest X/C of 45 miles, we got up to almost 13,000' & flew south down the divide to just past Edgewater BC where we all landed in a 40 mph gust front! Which is another story all together...Yeti retrieving us yet again, yes always bring a beginner pilot who is very happy with morning & evenning sledders to pick you up mid day on the X/Cer's.

Hope you enjoyed the pics to side track us through the windy days of no Para Monkeying aroung. Full Torpedo's Ahead!!! Eye Eye Mate...

Aloha Mad Dog

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

SIV 6-8 June

I have signed up for this class and just wanted to let you all know more of the details in case you are interested. I would love some flying company! Here is the letter that Rob sent. I have asked for permission to post, but not heard back yet so if there is any issue then we will need to edit or remove this post.


Hello Pilots,

Here is the information on our upcoming SIV clinic at Lake Berryessa. The Lake is going through quite a few changes, and there are minimal lodging options. Hotels in Napa are expensive, and the drive is a bit too long. We got really lucky meeting a local family with 8 generations living at Lake Berryessa. Gil and Cathy Pridmore will be our hosts. We are very lucky to have the opportunity to stay at their ranch, and we ask that you treat their ranch with all the respect it deserves. They love people, and are excited about the towing. We need everyone to stay with us in order to make this lodging option work, the price is very reasonable compared to what you would pay anywhere else. It is really a beautiful spot.

IMPORTANT: We need to all understand that we operate this towing operation at the lake as a group of friends. The lake understands there is no remuneration for the towing, and that this is not a commercial operation. Be sure that you understand this mindset, and communicate that we are just friends getting together to tow and work on maneuvers if you are asked by anyone at or away from the lake.


We will be renting 2 of the Pridmore’s 5th wheel RV’s which are on a ranch right next to the main house. We will have wireless internet (best reception is on the porch of the main house), access to their swimming pool, a kitchen in the RV with everything we need, and we do get Verizon cell coverage at this location. There are plenty of beds for everyone in both of the RV’s. However, I encourage you to bring a bed roll and sleep outside under the stars with or without at tent on the grass next to the horse corrals. Tents can be set up between the trees just next to the horse corral, and we ask that you park your car along the horse corral fence on the straight part of the driveway. The sprinklers may go off on any other grassy area so sleeping on the grass next to the horse corrals is a good idea. Please bring your own towel for showering and pool time.

Please note that we don’t really have room for significant others or friends at the actual towing location. We shuttle people to the island and we need all the space on the boat for clinic participants. People can watch the towing from Oak Shores, but we can’t have anybody but clinic participants at the tow location, no exceptions.

It was very difficult for us to secure the right spot for lodging at the lake. We were lucky to find this location, and us being able to use it and afford it is dependent upon all of our clinic participants staying with us. We can’t make these clinics work if you are doing your own thing staying at another location. You will want to be a part of this lodging anyway since a great deal of our learning comes from reviewing the videos in the evenings together of our day of towing on the lake. We encourage everyone to arrive the night before the clinic is to start. The first day briefing is important and will start at 7:30am sharp. It is very important that you be on time for this initial meeting where we go over all the towing and maneuvers techniques in a ground school setting. So please make it to the lake and plan on staying with us the night before. You can choose to stay a 4th night with us on the last day of the clinic, this way you will have the benefit of seeing your final day of towing and review during the evening video review session. Your last day is usually the day it all comes together so you will want to take advantage of this opportunity.

The lodging cost will be $115 for 3 nights and $150 if you choose to stay 4 nights. Please deiced how many night you will be with us and mail a check made payable to “All Adventure” to P.O. Box 3775, Santa Barbara, ca, 93130. Some of you made reservation for the clinics through our online store. Understand that we only hold your reservation with this credit card, and we expect you to mail a check for the payment of the clinic and lodging.

Directions to The House

I have attached a Map to this email with the ranch and lake meet locations highlighted.

The house is located at 1607 Capell Valley Road. When you arrive at the address there are two driveways. Please turn right into the second driveway if you are coming from Napa or Sacramento. It will be the first driveway if you are coming from the north. Pull all the way to the end of the driveway and park your vehicles in front of the horse corral barn on your left. The two RV’s are parked in the shade under the big Oak tree and the aluminum barn.

San Francisco to House – 1607 Capell Valley Road

View Larger Map

Sacramento to House - 1607 Capell Valley Road

View Larger Map


Participants will fly into either the San Francisco or Sacramento airport, or drive in from the west or east. Please email me your travel itinerary as soon as you have it so I can pas it along to the rest of the group. I will send out emails to the entire group when I get the information and leave it up to the participants to work out the logistics of connecting with carpooling possibilities.


You will need to bring your morning and afternoon meals. I suggest you stop at a grocery store before Napa, or in Sacramento to stock up. We have a full kitchen in the RV, fully stocked with cookware. We suggest you pack your lunch for the day of towing. We have a cooler for this lunch. We may plan on eating out at Cucina Italiana restaurant at Spanish Flat on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. You are welcome to bring food and do your own thing for dinner, and if your clinic is not on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday bring evening meals for yourself. The restaurant is only open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, but they will open any night we give them notice ahead of time.

Map of Lake Berryessa

Here is a link with a Map of lake Berryessa which lists the different areas of the lake. You can see the oak Shores meeting location on the west shore.

Meet Place and Time

We will likely do our first morning briefing at the house. After breakfast clinic participants will caravan to the Oak shores day use area with all your gear, and things you will need for the day. Park your car at Shale Cove in the Oak Shores day use area and walk down to the water where we will pick you up and ferry you the short distance to launch.

Once at launch you will need to prepare all your gear, get radios checked, bridles on your harness, and find a life jacket. Be prepared to tow.

We aim to get people 3 tows each per day. The towing will continue until about 5-5:30 pm or until everyone has had at least 3 tows. After towing we will clean up the area we have been using and ferry you back to shore so you can return home and decompress, clean up, and take a dip in the pool before we get ready for dinner, and the evening video debrief of our days flying.

What to Bring

You should plan on bringing all your paragliding equipment. We will have all the necessary tow bridles and life jackets for your tows. It’s a good idea to bring an extra set of clothes and a towel to the lake each day so you have a set of dry clothes in case you get wet. You should also bring water, a hat, and sunglasses.

Cancellation and Make Up Policy

Participants are able to cancel reservations within one week of their scheduled clinic. We usually have waiting lists for our clinics so often times we can sell your spot to a pilot on the list if you need to cancel. However, if there is no one to fill your spot and you cancel less than a week before the clinic there will be no refund. We do not give credit for bad weather. You will not receive a credit if the weather conditions prevent us from towing in a safe manner. We have picked a towing location with very consistent weather conditions, and we have an excellent success rate at this location. We have a great deal invested by the time we get to the lake, and we cannot afford to issue any type of make up or credit due to weather. We have also selected to run these clinics at a time of year which gives us the best chance of success.

Any mechanical breakdown of the boat or winch will earn you a credit for the towing missed. Our goal is to get you three tows per day. We have come to realize pilots lose focus, and their ability to execute maneuvers after three tows in most cases. The towing takes a great deal of focus, and most pilots are mentally and physically exhausted after three tows.

Contact Information

Please feel free to contact us with any questions you have, or if you are lost.

Rob Sporrer 805.331.5751

Brad Gunnuscio 801.707.0508

Andy Palmer 805.705.4678

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Rob Sporrer

Ship to: 1107 Castillo Street, SB, Ca, 93101

Mail to: Po Box 3775, SB, Ca, 93130


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bay Crossing, Big Island Style

Since the enactment of the "Duck Pass" has made bay crossings at Kahana an everyday occurrence, writing about it has become passe. Don't get me wrong, I want to do it at least another 100 times, but I was talking to Big Island Don and they had a great weekend at Kealakekua Bay. Don said that this had been one of the best flying weekends there that he has had since becoming a resident & member of the Big Island Crew.

Saturday's cloud base was around 3000' and surfing just under them could take you just about anywhere. Sunday was a blue thermal day where you had to seek out the thermals, which were strong and plentiful. He and visitor Laurel, she is the one we traded Don for, were both approaching the 'Brown Spot' for a landing when they each caught the up elevators. There were at least 12 other pilots up that day with average flights of about an hour and a half. Skies were so clear that the Big Island was picturesque.

Don ended up flying out over and above Captain Cook, down to the 'School', scooted a little up north, then past the 'Church' and over Launch. Finally to touch down at the beach where a ride was to be had.

After an hour and a half of Thermal flying I think our Andrew Monkey would have even had to land, he had a flight which lasted almost 7 hours at Kahana on Saturday. This tops one of Reapers old records of 6 1/2 hours. Kid's got a bladder.

We have some great flights here on Oahu, but thermal flights on the Big Island are a definite must to put on the list of our experienced P3 and above pilots.

Thanks Don for the pics, can't wait to see these views myself.

Slideshow of Don't photos is here.

EPIC tale from the past

This week we are in Breckenridge, Colorado. Today was a beautiful day, and as I looked back over my shoulder during our ride up the lift, I caught a glimpse that immediately took me back to a day almost ten years ago.

It was a warm summer afternoon and there was little wind and no clouds. The day before we had explored a new launch just behind my brothers house and this day I was ready. The wind was light to 40,000 feet and the others had heard of my flight to 18,000 feet the day before and were ready to join in. We loaded in the truck and arrived on launch about 4pm hoping were all hoping to repeat yesterdays flight.

After launching I had to search for a little while but right out front above a large rocky face I caught the thermal of all times. It was huge and smooth and I turned and turned until I had to switch directions because my right ear was frozen, I then turned the other direction till my left ear was frozen. As I switched directions for the third time my vario crossed 18,000 feet. I was still climbing smoothly and had no intention of stopping; after climbing for another few minutes my vario showed 20,000 for a split second then OU, over range!! Still climbing in the sky with no idea of how high I was I was beginning to wonder if my O2 system which was supposed to work up to 18,000 would keep me alive if I kept climbing.

I didn't have to wonder for long the thermal petered out and I set out across the valley. I reestablised on the far side over the ski area and headed north down the range, climbing several more times before reaching Frisco. I crossed the town and flew over the dam searching for lift on the other side of the valley, to no avail. I landed in a strong valley wind at the edge of a small pond. Views of the Rockies from the heights and locations on that flight have faded over the years but the emotions of the flight remain as strong as ever. THIS IS WHY I FLY!

The photo with the chairlift is of Baldy and we launched on the shoulder just to the left of the peak. The photo at the top of the post is of the range that was flown. When I crossed the valley I was at the peak the furthest to the left and flew left to right. Frisco is below the last peak on the right. I made a map of the flight here

Friday, March 26, 2010

DuckPass (for Thom, aka there and back again--a hobbit's tale)

The wind is a surly mistress.  If there is one thing I have learned kitesurfing and paragliding, it is that we are the cult of the wind, much like surfers are the cult of the wave.  And, like the wave, the wind is her own creature--her ebb and flow is incalculable, yet her call is unyielding.  Sometimes we are lucky enough to hear her call when her seductive song is in our favor, other times we hear the call to the unobtainable, but always we are at her mercy.  Today, I had the fortune of hearing her call twice.  The first time, I was unready; the second I won her favor.

I had planned on kitesurfing with Mad Dog today, but the wind was just not there for it.  So, I was up early to get ahead of the curve, and made a break for it.  I arrived on launch with plenty of company.  Thom, Alex, Louise, Doug, Jim, Scot, and others (Canadian visitors--don't know who) were on the hike with me for the morning shift.  We launched into a nice northerly wind that had weird little lift bands, but we all made the best of it and climbed to a happy 1600-1800 ft.  We were all working to get the lift to cross the bay (except Alex, he had already crossed with Scot).  When a nice little cloud street came waltzing into the bay--I went from 1900 to 2200 or so and knew that this was going to be THE time to cross--I had been patient and the lift followed.  So, with Alex and Scot already across, and the cloudsuck on, I lined up behind Thom and proceeded to head across the bay for the second time in my career.

Man, it's the little things in life that get you!  As I proceeded across the bay in great lift, I came to realize that my speed-bar kick-line was very securely attached through both of my leg straps and my connecting strap--I had checked my speed-bar on launch, then proceeded to connect my harness very neatly over my speed-bar strap--AWESOME.  "So," I thought to myself, "self, what are you gonna do?"  I proceeded to disconnect my left leg strap.  I figured that I could work my way across my harness disconnecting the speed-bar lines and still make it across the bay--a quick THWACK while I was otherwise engaged with my left leg strap convinced me that I really did not want to have my hands off the controls and be disconnected to my harness--call me old fashioned, but I did not want any of it!

"So," I thought to my self, "self, what are you gonna do?"  I proceeded to push my center A's in order to simulate speed-bar and to penetrate my now disintegrating line in an attempt to follow Thom--this SEEMED to work for a little while--about the time I thought I should just turn back; I was rewarded with another slight THWACK.  This time I was pushing my A's and in lieu of a front collapse, I decided to turn back.  Thom had made it across the bay, but he was low and out of the lift band and he was turning back--LOW.  I had no idea where Jim was, and our Canadian visitor was just launching.  Doug, in the meantime had been busily climbing out and was preparing for his own bay crossing.

First flight gps log:

I made a hasty retreat back to the main ridge at Kahana, but realized that I was too deep, so I decided to make for the beach--thanks for everyone who came on the radio to let me know!  So, a nice elevator landing later, and I was on the beach.  A short while after I landed, Louise landed also--just about the time that Mad Dog was launching.   Mad Dog made a quick bay crossing then he was called to work--Louise and I headed to Kua Loa to retrieve Thom and Maui Doug.   Both of them had had an awesome early morning flight and had decided to land at Kua Loa--Congrats guys!

Louise and I picked up Thom and Doug, and were met by Donna and SkyMai--Mai was hoping for a tandem--if there is one person on the planet more itching to fly than me it is Sky!  Another 40 lbs or so and she will be the terror of the skies--start eating ice cream now SkyMai!  After we got the band back together, we met up with Joey and Jeff at 7-11 (you know for all the essentials--spam musubi, chips, tuna, and egg salad--don't fly downwind of this group).  We all had a quick bite and then headed to Kahana for the afternoon session.

The afternoon session was looking pretty good--winds at 16 degrees at 9-12 mph.  Joey, Thom, Louise, Maui, and I all headed up for more.  Joey had me pumped up for a bay crossing, and Louise had me pumped up because she was soo happy to be flying in Hawaii (I think we take it for granted).  So, we arrived on launch to find Matt volunteering to be the wind dummy.  Matt had a good launch and then proceeded to make it look easy as he steadily climbed above the horn.  After Matt, we launched in succession--Louise, Joey, Maui Doug, Me. Thom, and Jeff (Bon Bon came later, as well as Brendt, and Hillbilly--don't know the details of your flights).

Once up, I made some work of scratching around--there was lift, but nothing that wanted to take us higher than 1600-1800 or so...after an extended routine of dancing with everyone above the Rhino Horn, I decided to go for it!  I left the Rhino Horn at 1658 ft and arrived at the edge of the far side of Kahana at 768 ft six minutes later.  I was seriously debating turning back to the beach; but I decided to tuck in to see if there was any lift (figured I could hit Swanzy's if I had too).  Over the next ten minutes, I had walked the ridge to 1973 ft--NICE!  I spent the next 20 minutes or so working the large bowl in front of Ka'a'awa gaining a max altitude of 2443 ft according to my gps.  Joey and Jeff soon joined me and we made a game of playing with the coudsuck--at one point, Joey was way out front, Jeff was behind him, and I was coming in behind Jeff in a nice cloudstreet--after I hit 380+ fpm hands-up I pulled big-ears and half speed-bar to keep from being sucked over the back.  I followed Joey and Jeff to the Kua Loa ridge, and then we turned for home.  Joey kept me safe on the way back watching my penetration across the venturi that is Kua Loa--Thanks!

As we tracked back, I could see Bon Bon and Louise having a nice flight over Kahana.  My gps died on the return trip, but I flew back to the Rhino Horn and had a few spiral/big ears trips over the bay.  As I went in to land, I realized that I was coming in hot--as they say "everything but the dismount!"  I knew I was coming in hot, so I sort of fluffed in on my rear--WHAT A WAY to end such a great flight--oh well--it was torpedo time anyhow!

Here is the gps link if anyone is interested (hit play):


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Even a blind squirrel...

...finds a nut every once in a while. The day started out low and cloudy (much like my brain after Ray's birthday party). Great party by the way! Thanks Thom and Donna for hosting. Hope your awning held up okay. Anyway, like I said, low and cloudy. I got up, made a bucket of coffee and went to check Wind Lines -- the early morning crew was already wondering where to fly for the day, and the party monkeys were still in slumberland. I decided that if we did not fly today, it would be no big deal (my liver speaking through my brain). But, as the morning wore on, I kept checking the chatterbox -- you know, Just in Case...

At 10:30, I saw that Alex was on his way to Kahana. So, I decided to meet him there. Would have been great if I had let him, or anyone else, know. But, nope, I just packed my stuff and headed out -- figured I would see him on launch. I got to Kahana, and headed up to regular launch -- sensor said it was blowing from 68 degrees. I noticed as I hiked up that I was the first one on the trail that day, as all the little spider webs from the night before got tangled in my legs, arms, and face (don't ask -- it is a steep trail and I am low to the ground -- it's all angles) -- spider-face is not a good way to start your day, but it does get your blood pumping.

I arrived on launch at about 10:50, settled in to watch conditions, and got on the radio. "Radio Check"...nothing...a little while later..."Radio Check, Alex, you out there?"...still nothing. At 11:30 or so, I realized that I did not have my phone and decided to head back home to get it -- conditions were looking okay (I had been sprinkled on, but no heavy rain) and I figured if anyone was going to fly, I wanted my phone with me.

I made a quick jot to the house and headed back to Kahana. When I got back to Kahana, I saw Jeff Mc at the beach. He told me that Alex and Scot had headed up, and that I could probably catch them (he was waiting on his wife to get back from Tamura's) -- off I went. I had left my wing up on launch tucked under a tree, so I caught up with Alex and Scot about the time they hit launch. Conditions looked good, cloudbase was low, but the wind was steady. Alex launched first (of course), followed by Scot. I laid out, and by then, Jeff had ascended -- Jeff assisted me with some tangles and pressure knots, and then I was off. I brought my wing up into a small gust front that was preceeding a line of clouds heading into the bay. I had lift almost immediately, but took a few passes before heading to the Rhino Horn just to be safe. Once I made the horn, the lift was pretty steady -- so was the light rain!

I looked up to see Alex (in the clouds) and Scot heading out to sea. I had not planned on any big XC, but figured if conditions were good, then I would go for it. I made a few dancing passes with Scot as we ascended above the horn -- it was surreal -- we were literally cloudwalking. While Scot and I were gaining altitude, I saw Jeff launch and Alex begin to shoot across the bay. I made a few more passes and took my Skyalis -- I was having the time of my life just heading into the clouds. For a while I was in whiteout, and as it cleared, I saw Scot heading across the bay on what looked like THE line -- of course, I followed!

I played with half-speedbar after about halfway across (in somewhat of a headwind) and looked to see where Scot was...he was just cruising along, way out in front. I looked down and saw Jeff on what looked like an inside line for crossing; I was a little concerned, but he looked like he was gaining altitude (he looked like he was just strolling across the bay). I had no idea where Alex had gone to, but I thought I had seen him crossing back to the Rhino Horn.

As I tailed Scot, I noticed two things -- he had a great line and I did not -- I tucked in along the far side above the condos to keep my 1000ft. From there, I just kept thinking about how cool it was to be across the bay and heading to Kualoa valley -- this was flying the way you want it to be -- in the clouds and buoyant. As I got to the valley, I noticed Scot heading back my way. I headed out a little ways into the valley just to look around. It was not sinky, but there was not much lift either. So, I headed back and once again Scot and I flew back and forth making the huge bowl above Ka'a'awa work for us -- at one point someone came on the radio (I think it was Alex, but it might have been Jeff) and warned us of a helicopter inbound at 900ft. I heard the copter and saw that it was coming in low, so I headed out of the clouds in order for it to be able to see me -- the copter split the line between Scot and me and headed into the valley low over the ridge.

It was around this point that Scot and I headed back to Kahana. I saw him turn and burn and I just followed. He was low from my point of view, so I figured I would be okay on the way back, and if not, I would just head to the beach. Scot headed in for what looked like a top landing, and I hit the horn to try and scratch my way back up. After a few passes, I headed in to the LZ (everyone else had landed).

After a few minutes, at the LZ, Scot and I headed back up, with Alex following, for another round. Scot was taking me out as his first tandem victim, and Alex just wanted to fly. We launched, and had a few passes, but no love. The conditions had changed for the worse. Alex launched after us, and so did Larry. Scot and I headed to the beach.

We watched Larry scratch his way up, and it began to rain in earnest--on the radio we let them know. They decided to land in Punalu'u and we told them we would pick them up -- Larry got ditched by Alex on the way to land -- seems there was some lift on the ridge above Punalu'u and Alex thought we would be there to talk Larry in (torpedoes kept us at Kahana for longer than we expected -- sorry Larry, sorry Alex). No harm anyhow, Larry did a fine job of making it in, followed by Alex.

All in all it was a VERY GOOD DAY!!! (hit play to view the track)


Flight Report Mad Lib

What a great day we had at Kahana yesterday! Conditions started out a bit switchy, but Maui Doug and I were determined to make it work, since it would be our best chance until possibly Friday, according to the forecast. We were joined by Glenn, Marty and Oni, visiting from SB and Pemberton. It was the last chance for Glenn to fly at this site during his visit. It's always fun when you can share a beautiful flying day in Hawaii with new friends from out of town.

After a while, cloudbase started to drop, and we decided it was time to head downrange. We all flew to Punaluu and found good lift there, and even some pretty strong thermals. The Pembertonians hung out for a leisurely tour of the valley, while Glenn, Doug and I continued on to Hauula.

Thanks to Bobby for the retrieve, and thanks to Glenn for the beverages!

Later, Marty and Oni ran back up for a smooth and strong late session as the sun set behind the mountains, lighting up the clouds over the ocean with its last rays.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Happy Vernal Equinox

Yet another great weekend of flying at Kahana and Makapuu, just in time for the official start of spring. While the conditions at Kahana were on the marginal side for one reason or another on both days, we made them work and enjoyed some great flying, including some nice little first time XC trips for a few folks.

Saturday started out blowing offshore at Kahana, despite all other signs showing strong north flow, but Dave, Jeff and I hiked up anyway, and launched for a day of strong and gusty north wind flying. The air was strange. I got my best lift as I headed out over the ocean, reaching 2,100 way out over the reef. Never could make it across the bay though, there was massive sink and the crab angle stole all my glide. Jeff had to go, but Dave and I ran back up the hill after a nice lunch at Bobo's, launching in even stronger wind than before - I think the sensor was averaging 15. It was a low in the bowl kind of flight, Kahana style. We didn't stay up long because it was really just too darn strong, and we had to rush off to wish Ray a happy birthday. Thanks to Thom for the venue, and to Duck and Ginger for seeing me home safely.

Sunday started out too east and pretty light at Kahana, with super low clouds, and most folks opted for Makapuu. I heard it was sunny there! On the other hand, at Kahana it was pretty much drizzling lightly the entire day, on and off. Scot, Duck, Jeff and I launched Kahana in the drizzle as the wind filled in a bit more north, and after climbing in and around the low clouds in front of the ridge, Scot led Duck across the bay for his first crossing to Kaaawa. It was the lowest cloudbase I've ever seen for a bay crossing - they were essentially above the clouds for much of the trip across. Jeff and I never made it across, which was pretty disappointing, but we were totally stoked for the other two. I ended up landing because I wasn't able to get up very high above the Crouching Lion on my final attempt, and I was too low to make it back to the hill. The other guys came in soon after that.

Jeff had to leave, but we ended up running back up for round two, with Scot flying his first tandem with Duck, and Larry joining me for some more cloud surfing action. Scot landed as the wind started to turn super east, and soon after that the drizzle action in the bay got pretty intense, so Larry and I headed around for a landing in Punaluu. I didn't leave with much height, but I ended up crossing the valley to scratch my way up at the Punaluu ridge, under the lowest cloudbase ever, finally joining Larry for a landing in front of Ching's Store. Great landing, Larry, and congrats on your first time at a new LZ. Thanks again for the refreshments!

What a fun weekend. Happy vernal equinox to everyone!