It turns out ziplining upside down and backward isn't all that hard. Grabbing my harness near my waist with both hands and then pushing my legs and feet skyward was really all it took. After that, the rest of my body spun almost naturally away from the rapidly approaching arrival platform and a dramatic view of Oahu's northern coastline as I raced over several lush acres of banana plants.
Adventure-seekers well versed in Hawaii's diverse collection of activity offerings will remember when Oahu was the only major island in the state where ziplining was not an option. Kauai, Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii all catered for years to travelers seeking a pulse-pumping chance to soar over the destinations' stunning natural vistas, while Oahu officials were apparently committed to keeping ziplines off the Aloha State's most populated island.
All that changed late last year when Climb Works Keana Farms welcomed Oahu's first zipliners to its facility on the island's North Shore. Not long after, the folks at Kualoa Ranch opened their own zip course, and Oahu went from zero zip products to two in just a matter of weeks.
C.J. Hughes, the zipline tour operations manager for Kualoa Ranch, told me earlier this year that Oahu County officials have long been focused on preventing big theme parks on the island and previously saw ziplines as a similar concern.
"They were a little bit afraid that ziplines might be the next step to roller coasters," Hughes said.
Both the Kualoa Ranch and Climb Works Keana Farms zip products feature substantial educational components, however, providing visitors with information about Hawaiian culture and Oahu's agriculture, elements which likely helped county officials see the tours more positively.
The Climb Works Keana Farms zipline experience includes informing zipliners about sustainable agriculture on the island.
Looking to sample that adrenaline-education business model firsthand, I joined a Climb Works Keana Farm zip tour last month and was impressed. Lori Lindsay, Pleasant Holidays' lead concierge for Waikiki, told me she felt the same way after her first Keana zip earlier this spring.
"It was fantastic," she said. "They certainly added a major cultural component, telling legends about that whole area and explaining how more than a million Hawaiian people survived in the Islands thanks to a self-sustainable philosophy long before the first Westerners arrived."
Aaron Campbell, the Keana Farms manager who partnered with mainland-based Climb Works to develop the zipline tour, told me the venture was created, in part, to improve awareness about sustainable agriculture for both visitors and residents.
"In today's world, to educate people you have to use different methods," he said. "You have to deliver the information in an exciting, fun way, [and] hopefully each individual has some kind of an a-ha moment here where they say 'OK, I get it,' [and] maybe that's just realizing it's a lot of work to grow a cucumber, so maybe we shouldn't be so wasteful with what we have."
Home to 11 small farming operations, Keana Farms grows more than 1 million pounds of produce annually, Campbell said. Along with tremendous views of the Pacific, zippers will see a rich diversity of plants and fruits on the tour, including things like papaya, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, corn and even curry.
Along with the Hawaiian culture and sustainable agriculture education components, Keana Farms gives clients a turn on not only eight exciting zips, ranging in length from 500 feet up to a half mile, but also an ATV excursion, two rappels, one ascension activity and a collection of sky bridges. Plus, the guides do their best to encourage people beyond their level of comfort, introducing the company's philosophy of Climb, an acronym for challenge, learn, inspire, master and believe.
Meanwhile, Lindsay sees the product as a wonderful chance for families to share a lifetime experience they'll never forget while getting outside of Waikiki to enjoy Oahu's gorgeous North Shore.
"It's a great bonding experience," she said. "So if there is a mother and her 20-year-old son, it's something they're always going to talk about and laugh about, [and] it's definitely something good to do with a potential future spouse. You'll get to see the real person come out."
Commissionable to agents, Climb Works Keana Farms zip tours begin at $169, and children must be at least 7 years old. Visit www.climbworks.com/keana_farms.