Hamming it up: Big Island radio operators compete in contests
Amateur radio operator Lloyd Cabral sits in the station he built inside his Hawaiian Paradise Park home, headphones and finger moving on a CW, or continuous wave paddle, typing a message in Morse code.
At the other end is an operator over 2,400 miles to a beach in Coos Bay, Ore.
Cabral, whose call sign is KH6LC, has been an amateur radio operator for more than five decades.
Amateur radio, or amateur radio, is non-commercial two-way radio communication.
“This hobby is one of those hobbies that there are 50 million (avenues) you can pursue,” Cabral said. “On the tech side – the antennas, the study of propagation and construction equipment and construction antennas – then there are people who just like to talk.”
But Cabral and a core group of six operators, along with other guest operators – including Robert Van Geen from Waikoloa, call sign NH6V, and Stan Froseth, call sign AH6K0 – are on the competition side of amateur radio, or “sports radio”.
“I built the station, and we’ve been pretty active and pretty successful since 2005,” Cabral said. “We represent Hawaii in national and world competitions and we have done quite well.”
Competitions typically last 36 to 48 hours, during which operators try to “work” or connect with as many different people at as many different stations in as many different states and countries as possible.
Depending on the number of transmitters running, Cabral said operators working on a competition can reach between 6,000 and 8,000 people in 48 hours.
Competitions, in which there are no financial prizes, can be organized in different ways.
“We are specialized and known for… Morse code. This is what we do, ”Cabral said.
“We are trying to keep the tradition (going on),” Van Geen said.
For many, the skill is like playing music, Cabral said.
“So you have to keep your chops in place. … You cannot be away from or away from the antenna for a long period of time, then come in here and expect to do well.
Cabral has been in amateur radio for 55 years and first graduated at 15, while Van Geen has been an operator for 45 years, also graduating at around 15.
Froseth, who got his first license in 1968, has only been active for about 14 years.
“It was before the Internet, before the cell phone,” Cabral said of his interest in amateur radio. “So the idea of having a radio in your house, a little radio, and wires outside – on the roof or in a tree – that you can talk to people potentially all over the United States or countries foreigners – I remember the first time I (contacted) someone in Japan. I was a teenager. I mean, it was a big deal. I remember where I was and what I was doing.
Froseth got into amateur radio the same way.
“When I was a kid I found an old radio that had shortwave bands. I was listening, and the things I was hearing were hams, and I thought, ‘What is this?’ and before you knew it, I was doing it too.
But the group does more than competitions.
Cabral station joined other amateur radio operators in Hawaii for a special Kamehameha Day celebration on Friday.
A special event call sign, K6K, was broadcast from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“But it’s not a competition,” Cabral said. “It’s an operative event, so on our side, there is no pressure, there is no stress.
According to information from the event website, the idea is to allow as many operators as possible to reach the station operators and learn about King Kamehameha I.
Cabral said organizers weren’t going to use Morse code, so he reached out.
“Well, that’s what we do. It’s our thing, it’s kind of what we’re good at. We’re kind of known for that.
It feels good to be part of the celebration of Kamehameha Day, he said.
“Our thing is to represent Hawaii all over the world, and that’s really cool,” Cabral said. “We expect to make a lot of contacts. … It is also the object of this competition. It’s really about making sure Hawaii is represented at these national and international events.
According to Cabral, there are over 600 licensed amateurs on Big Island but a very small number are active.
“Part of the fun of working at a resort like this, whether it’s a real contest… or a special K6K event, is having a bunch of us,” said declared Froseth. “There will be like two or three in (the station) working, and there is a lot of banter and suggestion, laughter and shouting. … Sometimes people come by just to see us, amateurs and non-amateurs. It is therefore a real, tidy community.
For more information on Cabral station, visit kh6lc.com.
Email Stephanie Salmons at [email protected]