PACIFIC PALISADES (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thirty-five year old Jorge Atramiz is lucky to be alive and not seriously hurt. Originally from Venezula, Atramiz is considered one of the top 20 paragliders in the world. But yesterday, mother nature put him to the test after he took off from Makapuu.
"I was pulling out to the valley to be far away from the clouds, but one of them was coming really fast and sucked me up," he said. "And that was the last thing I saw."
Those few seconds of cloud blindness pushed Atramiz over to the Leeward side of one of the Koolau fingers. For gliders, that wrong side of the mountain to be on because downdrafts can wreak havoc on gliders.
Atramiz said, "When I landed safely, I knew I was safe already."
Friends and firefigters stayed in contact with Atramiz via cellphone.
Paraglider friends say Atramiz's 11 years of experience and natural acrobatic abilities like those skills he showed off in the movie, "Neverending Thermal", allowed Atramiz to land, instead of crash.
Atramiz's paragliding friend, Thom Therrien said, "If it was anybody else. If it was me. They wouldn't be sending a chopper after me.
Atramiz spent about 18 chilly hours on the mountain about a quarter mile down from the main ridgeline overlooking the Pacific Palisades area. He had no food or water, which he normally carries with him, but forgot yesterday.
Unstable winds and nightfall yesterday kept HFD Rescue One crews from reaching Atramiz who was at an elevation of around 2,800 feet.
And when HFD's Air One returned to the air this morning, thick cloud cover over the location held them back.
Atramiz had to wait another 2 and half hours until around 9:30 a.m., when finally, rescuers' window of opportunity opened. The clouds cleared.
"There were still clouds in the area in different parts of the mountain and Jorge actually facilitated it, but climbing to an area that was not cloudy and we were able to take advantage of that opening," said Honolulu Fire Captain Terry Seelig .
He called it, a "precision" rescue. Adding that, "The pilot did an excellent job of bringing the helicopter in close to where Jorge was probably a 60 degree incline on the ridge. "He put it in close enough, with one skid touching. And Jorge jumped inside the helicopter, backed away and flew home," said Seelig.
Atramiz said there was no time for fear, only focus when something like this happens. He insists his sport is very safe. But he admits, llike other activities in Hawaii, mother nature isn't always predictable.
"It's like surfing you know," said Atramiz. "Enjoying nature and sometimes nature is bigger then us. We got to be ready for that."