A Zipline Adventure


On May 21, 2011, I was in Kona, saying goodbye to Kona Village and my friends of many years. As an active participant in Trip Advisors--I was the “go-to guy” for all questions having to do with the village--I kept hearing about the zipline tour in Hawi (www.bigislandecoadventures.com/) which was pretty new. I didn’t know what a zipline was, really, but decided that I owed myself the opportunity to find out about it while I had the chance.

When I mentioned my intentions to my friends, they sounded impressed that an old guy would be interested in so exciting and dangerous a form of recreation, and my son Galen was so admiring of the idea that there was no way to back out. However it was great fun, and I had a ball. By the way, skydiving is dangerous; ziplining looks dangerous, but it’s not.

I need to say a word about the videos, however. I had a camera hanging around my neck, and I tried to capture as much of the experience as I could. It turned out to be very difficult to do, and the videos show that. Not only was the camera hand-held, my attention was more on the experience than on the videoing of that experience. I tended to turn as I zipped, and couldn’t get the hang of facing forward. Hence a lot of my experience was looking where I’d been. Also, when I was being hooked up and again when I was unhooked, I left the camera running, and rather than chop those segments out, I left parts of them in.  If you get seasick watching them, please accept my apologies. (You should see the parts I left out!)

When I first checked in, I had to step on a scale. They have a no foolin’ weight limit, and that’s for the benefit of the cable and for the guides who have to stop you at the end of the zipline.

This is the Hummer that took us to the starting place. I rode in the elevated seat in the back, which was fun, but there were disadvantages.

Look at the back of the harness, (circle, right), and notice the junction in the middle of the back. The Hummer seat was thinly padded, the ride was rough, and the harness was digging into my back. I rode below on the return, which was more comfortable.

The other disadvantage of the back seat was that the wind was in my face, and so noisy that I couldn’t hear what the guide was telling the people as we drove up to the ziplines. Still, it was interesting, and I’m glad I rode back there--once.

Click on the picture.

This was the intrepid crew of eight. We all had helmets with names on them--mine was Joker. 

We were warned to be prepared for rain, since they go, rain or shine. However the day was perfect in every way.

The guides, Sistah S and Matt,  were good natured, competent, and strong. You’ll see why they had to be pretty hefty people. By the time we’d reached full speed, we were going 30-35 mph, and their job was to stop us and unhook us at the end of each zipline. There are eight lines, and they took turns working the beginning and end.

The first couple of ziplines were short and non-threatening, to make sure everyone was harnessed comfortably and knew what to expect. (Click on the picture)

At one point we had to cross a little chasm, too short for a zipline. So they built a suspension bridge. We were hooked onto the cable for safety. The first of our group to cross the bridge was having fun and seemed determined to stress it to the max, but they respected my wishes not to shake the bridge as I walked across.

After the first five ziplines, we had a break where they provided snacks and restrooms.

For reasons having to do with physics and the force of gravity in particular, it’s quite important to ensure that the beginning of the zipline be higher than the end. As a result, for most of them we had to climb steps to get hooked up.

The final two zip clips here are not in consecutive order but I’ve paired them to illustrate my ultimate mastery of being able to face forward, which is a lot more fun. My problem was that I was overcorrecting, so I kept twisting. Next time....

On the final landing, I was running before I hit the ground, which is desirable, but that’s hard to do if you come in backwards or sideways.

It was an adventure. I don’t like heights and was fearful that I’d freak out, but I felt utterly secure in the harness and it was no problem at all. Besides, I was so preoccupied with the camera and with trying to steer that I forgot to panic. Would I do it again? You betcha.

(However, I just learned that ziplines are not regulated in Hawai’i the way amusement rides are, so I might have to think twice about it.)