Conquering The Koko Head Stairs
It’s not often I can claim that one of my columns actually made a huge impact in someone’s life. But based on a series of emails I received from my old friend “Oregon Dave,” I’m feeling pretty good.
Oregon Dave is actually 57-year-old David Cassidy, a former Navy officer who is business manager at Anne Namba Designs in Honolulu. A lifelong University of Oregon football fan, he knows I’m a USC grad, so he has needled me in recent years about the Ducks-Trojans rivalry.
“As a true Duck fan, I must hate Lane Kiffen,” he says. “It’s the law.”
He says he expects to be at the USC-Oregon game in Los Angeles Nov. 3, and further expects both teams to be undefeated. On that point, I hope he’s right.
Perhaps it was the rivalry that made him respond to my column from May 2011 when I wrote about finally conquering the Koko Head stairs – all 1,100-something grueling steps in a heart-pounding but exhilarating climb to the top.
Oregon Dave said he had tried the stairs before, back around 2005. “I absolutely hated it,” he recalls. But because of my column, he figured he’d give it another shot. “I read the article and thought, why not?”
He put on his dusty old Oregon cap and drove out to Hawaii Kai. On his first attempt, he didn’t make it to the top. On his second try, he did. And he kept going back. As of last week, he’d climbed to the top “180 times. It took me 31 minutes that first time. Two or three weeks ago, I made it in just 18 minutes.
“I don’t know how much weight I’ve lost, but I’m guessing it’s more than 20 pounds. I went from being a Tubby Trojan to a Dashing Duck,” he adds. “My knees used to hurt a little, but now I’m totally pain-free.”
He now climbs the mountain at least three or four times a week, mostly in the late afternoon, and he tries to avoid the crowds on weekends.
“The weekends are way too busy,” he says.
Besides the weight loss and health benefits, Oregon Dave says he likes the people he encounters along the way.
“Everyone is so friendly,” he says. “It’s very collegial and everyone is so supportive of one another. I meet people from all over the world. Some of the regulars are older guys and some of them go up and down the mountain as many as four or five times a day.”
He says not every climb has been perfect. He slipped and sprained an ankle once on the descent, and he almost fell through the rain-slicked beams of the bridge on the way up one time.
“I caught myself with my elbows,” he says. “You always have to be careful. It can be hard going up, but if you don’t look where you’re going it can be dangerous coming down.”
Oregon Dave makes sure he takes it one step at a time.
“It’s a hot and sweaty workout. Plus you get the great view and all the fresh air,” he says. “It’s a multiplier effect of getting in better shape and losing weight. I try to go once up to the top and back and then I go up again (about halfway), crossing the bridge, and then down again. It’s that extra trip that is really making a difference for me now.”
That dusty old Oregon cap is now part of his workout uniform, and the weekly climbs have become something he greatly looks forward to in his daily life. He’s now referring to himself as “Skinny Dashing Oregon Dave.”
And to think it all started with a little column in MidWeek written by a longtime rival.