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Billabong Clipper Seaplane in Honolulu
Kick Off Event for Two Year Surfing Safari

On January 19, 2006 the vintage Billabong Clipper seaplane flew past Waikiki Beach and landed in Keehi Lagoon in Honolulu. The plane was filled with top surfers, including three time world champion Andy Irons of Kauai. Billabong's seaplane is embarking on a two year surfing safari to locate and experience the best surfing spots in Hawaii and other South Pacific island groups. Hawaiian Airlines is sponsoring the project in order to celebrate Hawaiian Airlines' seaplane roots and Hawaii's surfing legacy.

Billabong Clipper Seaplane
Copyright © Billabong Clipper

Billabong January 2006 Announcement

In a spectacular sight not seen in decades, the Billabong Clipper seaplane took flight from the warm waters of Honolulu's Keehi Lagoon on January 19, 2006, and roared past Waikiki and Diamond Head, vividly recalling the golden era of "Flying Boat" aviation and publicly announcing an ongoing adventure travel project partnership between Billabong and Hawaiian Airlines.

After over a year of development, the Billabong Clipper project combines a 50-year-old military seaplane with the latest in high-tech gear and the world's best surfers in a unique expeditionary approach to seeking out the most remote wave-riding destinations on the planet. The Grumman G-111 "Albatross" amphibian is 62 feet long, features a 96 foot wingspan and a range of over 2500 miles. In its current configuration it seats up to 13 along with over a ton of cargo including a 15-foot Zodiac with Honda outboard and a rack for dozens of surfboards and surf equipment. The aircraft's painstaking refurbishment was completed in California and Arizona and it recently completed the 2200 nautical mile, 15-hour transit from the West Coast to the Hawaiian Islands.

The mid-Pacific unveiling of the Billabong Clipper occurred off a dock adjacent to Honolulu International Airport, virtually the same spot where Hawaiian Airlines began its service to neighbor islands with a pair of seaplanes some 76 years ago. With the flying boat moored feet away, Hawaiian Airlines President Mark Dunkerley and Billabong's Vice President of Marketing Graham Stapelberg presented an up-close look at the Billabong Clipper aircraft and a project overview to assembled VIPs and select media. In a nod to the traditions of seaplane arrivals of glamorous "Clipper Era" of the 1930s, a Hawaiian band and hula dancers entertained attendees. Following the brief ceremony, the cream of Billabong's global surf team boarded the aircraft and prepared for departure in a process sure to be repeated continually in the coming years.

Surfers taking part and taking off were three-time World Champion Andy Irons of Kauai, big wave and ASP tour legend Shane Dorian of the Big Island, top-rated women's pro tour competitor Keala Kennelly of Kauai, rising star Jason Shibata of Oahu and big wave hero Mike Parsons of California. Dorian and Parsons have been named to the Billabong Clipper's water operations staff, and will be actively involved in training with the aircraft in preparation for upcoming adventures to remote islands and atolls. The Clipper project will be based in Hawaii through much of this winter and will be visiting the Neighbor Islands in the coming weeks. Test flights in recent days have circled Oahu, Maui and Molokai.

Billabong Clipper Pro Surfer Passengers
Billabong sponsored pro surfers and staff welcomed the Clipper's arrival in Honolulu. From left to right: Jason Shibata, Graham Stapelberg, Shane Dorian, Steve Clark, Andy Irons, Keala Kennely, Rainos Hayes,and Mike Parsons
Copyright © Billabong Clipper

The most commonly asked questions at the event focused on where the Billabong Clipper will be headed after its Hawaiian phase is completed. And no clear answers were divulged.

We have a well-developed plan for our upcoming adventures with the Clipper, but I'm afraid the details are Classified information," said Billabong's Stapelberg with a smile. "We are fortunate to have Hawaiian Airlines supporting the project and as they have routes and aviation support facilities in Tahiti, Samoa and Australia, so you could perhaps use that as a rough outline. Though there could be a few stops on the way...."

Video of the Billabong Clipper Flying Over Hawaii:
- Billabong Clipper Video Clip.

Hawaiian Airlines January 2006 Announcement

Equipped with a state-of-the-art seaplane and quest for new adventure, Hawaiian Airlines and Billabong launched a surfing safari in January of 2006, to seek out and find the big waves and perfect rides of the Pacific.

Over the next two years, the Billabong Hawaiian Clipper will visit legendary surf spots, appear at all major surfing competitions, and transport surfers, photographers and journalists to hard-to-reach islands and reefs in the South Pacific to experience new surf breaks.

For Hawaiian, the exploration celebrates Hawaii's surfing legacy while recalling the golden age of "flying boat" aviation that Hawaiian pioneered for Hawaii in 1929.

Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian's president and CEO, commented, "This partnership with Billabong is a natural for Hawaiian Airlines, having introduced aviation to the Pacific with amphibian aircraft 76 years ago. And what's more Hawaiian than surfing? We're excited to be promoting Hawaii and this universal message to new people and places throughout the Pacific."

The Billabong Hawaiian Clipper will spend the next several weeks flying around Oahu and the Neighbor Islands before heading to Tahiti with several stops along the way.

For Billabong, the island-hopping surfing safari will create images and memories that capture the spirit of surfing at its essence. "We applaud Hawaiian's sponsorship of the Billabong Clipper and its commitment to support surfing in Hawaii and throughout the Pacific," said Graham Stapelberg, vice president of marketing for Billabong USA. "I'm sure every surfer out there will want to join us as we discover these awesome surfing spots in some amazing locations. It'll be surfing the way it was meant to be."

Those lucky enough to go along will have the perfect aircraft for the experience. The Billabong Hawaiian Clipper is a propeller-driven, World War II-era Grumman Albatross seaplane that has been refitted as the "ultimate surfing exploration craft." Outfitted with a retro 1940s Hawaiian Airlines logo, the aircraft is 62-feet long, has a wingspan of 96 feet, can fly more than 3,000 miles before refueling, and has a maximum speed of 250 miles per hour.

The Clipper can land on runways or the ocean, making it ideal to explore waves found in remote island settings, especially those accessible only by sea.

Hawaiian is an avid supporter of surfing and has sponsored numerous surfing meets and events through the years. In December, Hawaiian served as presenting sponsor for the Billabong Pro Maui, the year's final Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) women's event, held at Honolua Bay. Last August, Hawaiian sponsored the Duke's Legends Surf Classic at Waikiki Beach to help raise funds for scholarships and grants presented by the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation.

Hawaiian began interisland service for Hawaii on November 11, 1929, using two Sikorsky S-38 amphibian propeller planes. Hawaii's first commercial aircraft had a carrying capacity of eight passengers and two crew members, and a top cruising speed of 110 miles per hour.

The inaugural flight from Honolulu to Hilo with a stopover on Maui took more than three hours. The following day, Hawaii's first airline made its initial flight to Kauai and within a week seaplane flights were underway to all islands.

For more information about Hawaiian Airlines, visit their official Web site at HawaiianAirlines.com.

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