For this zipping rookie, there wasn’t much time to think any complete thoughts on the fast, spine-tingling ride down my first zip line in Kapalua. But as the ground beneath me seemed to fall away into a deep, green gulch while I sped downhill toward a sturdy landing platform, two distinct things ran hastily through my mind.
The first was: “Over there is where Lanai and Molokai would be if there wasn’t so much damn vog in the air today.”
The second thought was a bit more complex: “I hope this little orange helmet will keep my head from splitting open if the line suddenly snaps and I plummet 200 feet down into that field of sharp-looking bamboo shoots.”
The day I picked to take my first zip line adventure was seriously voggy. From sea level it looked like a gossamer curtain had been haphazardly pulled shut between West Maui and Molokai, but after a bumpy ride up the West Maui mountains through the yellow-green Maui Land & Pineapple Company fields, the vog laid low overhead and obscured everything past the resort and condo-lined shoreline.
I felt like I was inside a big Maui snow globe in the hands of an excited three-year-old. But then again, I get to see those gorgeous views on a daily basis, so I wasn’t as disappointed with the weather as the tourists in our small group.
The nine of us strapped into identical harnesses and helmets for our four-line course along the lower of Kapalua’s eight zip lines. Each one had two parallel lines, so our guides strapped us in side-by-side and we raced to the bottom in pairs.
Before we took the plunge off platform on our first line, the guides gave us some basic instruction. “Penciling”—pointing your toes with your legs together and making yourself as aerodynamic as possible—would make you zip faster. The “Starfish Position” slowed you down and involved sticking your arms and legs out like you suddenly got stuck in the middle of a big, aerial jumping jack. Landings required us to place our hands on the cushioned bar above our heads and kept our legs together and bent so the guys catching us at the bottom didn’t get a face full of tennis shoe.
Naturally, there was no instruction on how to convince your legs that it was a good idea to jump off a second-story platform over a hard, rocky surface. I eventually figured it out, and the short first ride was over with a gentle thud as my zip lining gear connected with the spring-loaded brake system and I came to a swinging halt.
The lines got bigger and faster, but easier and more relaxing with each initial leap. By the end I was even asking for pushes from the guides to make me zip as fast as I could. The lack of trade winds meant that the rides were slower, which left me more time to contemplate my impending doom and falling to an adventurous death while wearing a ridiculous looking helmet and a big, excited smile.
The danger was truly minimal. Zip lining is really one of those controlled risks that are actually very safe in the grand scheme of things. I mean, the oldest guy in our group had 10 years on my grandfather and the guides said that the day before, more than 50 sixth graders made their way across the same course I had done.
The fun comes from riding longer lines, like the 1,800-foot line I rode (which isn’t even the longest line of the course) and the beautiful views of water and mountains that you just can’t get from the ground. If sixth graders can enjoy that, then so can I. MTW