Stepping off of a platform over a deep canyon is not something that comes natural to most people. Certainly, not to someone with a fairly strong fear of heights, like myself. However, when you take on the Catalina Island Zip Line Eco Tour, that is exactly what you are told to do.
I recently took the Zip Line tour, my first trip on any zip line. While I must admit to some nerves, by the time I got to the top of the first platform, I was fairly confident I’d take the big step in stride. The zip line guides who were leading the tour did a great job in preparing and educating our group on exactly what we needed to do.
Fernando Trujillo and Luke were the guides assigned to the group a friend and I were teamed with. Both of the guides started by fitting us all into harnesses and helmets and then used a simulated line to give us a tutorial of how all the equipment works and exactly what the process would be.
That was where Luke explained the importance of stepping confidently off the platform. The lines have slack and he said that people who hesitate have actually bumped their rear ends on the platform, because the line gives to the weight. So being off the platform before your weight is transferred to the line is important.
We then boarded a bus for the ride to the top. Luke explained that he and Fernando were also trained naturalists through the Catalina Island Conservancy and could answer most questions about the islands plants and animals, as well as some of the history.
“If we don’t know the answer, we’ll probably just say something confidently and hope that you believe us,” Luke quipped.
As I said, Luke did most of the talking and was quite entertaining. Fernando was the quiet one, but picked his moments to interject his thoughts. Both of them worked well together and definitely made the excursion fun.
Fernando was born in Mexico, but grew up in Indianapolis. He’s resided on the island for three months and said he enjoys working on the zip line.
“I like the fact that the job never gets monotonous or boring. Every tour is different. Sometimes we get less energetic people who need some uplifting energy before enjoying the zipline. Other times we get individuals who are eager to get going, for example. You never know what you are going to get,” Fernando said.
As for me, by the time I got to the first platform, I was ready and stepped confidently off the platform. My instincts were to try and hold myself up with my arms, which did not last long. However, once you relax, your weight slips into the harness and the ride turns into a rush.
With five zip lines, you have time in between runs to enjoy the view and the fresh air.
The zip line is now in its 10th year, having opened up in 2010. The lines are up to 600 feet above sea level and the longest stretch is 1,100 feet. The first stretch is the shortest and the guides refer to it as the bunny slope. It allows some of the more apprehensive visitors a chance to ease into the ride. I’m told about two or three times a week, someone gets to the top and decides not to take the ride. But for those who do, I’d say it’s a heck of a fun ride.
Ted Apodaca is the editor of the Catalina Islander. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 562-317-1100.