For over twenty years, the center of North American land-based kite traction has been the unlikely Nevada border town of Primm. Lured by the funky ambiance and inexpensive hotel rooms in this casino-town, and by the Ivanpah dry lake bed just outside the back door, kite buggy enthusiasts from around the world have been making pilgrimages to Primm ever since kite retailer Fran Gramkowski brought his son Fritz to the desert to celebrate a spring break. Fran and local Vegas retailer and buggy-enthusiast Corey Jensen have held numerous events over the years – each growing ever-bigger – until the North American Buggy Expo (NABX) was created about a dozen years ago. Administered by a committee of devotees led by Floridian dean jordan, NABX is held annually in early April, usually a week before or after North American land sailors and blokarters arrive. (blokart is a compact, land sailing vehicle.)
Desert weather in April is always in flux; many days begin with no wind and finish with moderate and steady breezes in the afternoon. Others start with blistering winds and don’t change for the entire day. A heavy rainstorm, something that rarely happens, can drive everyone from the lakebed as the dry surface becomes so slippery it’s hard to walk and damage to the lakebed occurs with cars in the slop. Almost every NABX has a variety of winds during the week, challenging the most avid buggiers.
NABX attracts an eclectic bunch to the desert and is growing due to the popularity of other kite-traction sports, notably kite skiing and kite surfing. A mostly younger crowd than those of us who have buggied for 20 years, these fliers will be the future of the sport as they set aside their mountain boards and climb aboard buggies for the first time. Pioneer kite buggier Peter Lynn has been to the desert several times and has been impressed by the surface and potential for high winds and high speeds. Indeed, a record speed was set by Brian Holgate (just over 84 MPH) about a week before this year’s event.
Japanese friends Miki and Tsune Baba come to the desert almost every year, since there is nowhere in Japan that offers the discount lodging and great expanse of space for the sport. In the only buggy race I ever entered, 1995’s Buggy Roo in Australia, Tsune and I took the top two spots. He is an experienced buggy rider ready for the challenges of the desert. Another long-time attendee is Susan Orgeron, who camps on the desert floor for the week and brings her well-behaved dog, Beau, to enjoy the buggy scene.
Finally, a longtime sponsor of the event is Revolution Enterprises and Joe Hadzicki of San Diego, California. Joe is one of the holdouts who has never gone to the inflatable and twin-skin kites favored by most riders. Instead, he uses a Power Blast Rev that provides great acceleration and notable upwind performance. As buggy speeds get higher and higher, framed kites may well be in the future evolution of the sport. Speaking with Craig Hansen (avid buggier and head of Peter Lynn Kites) just a week after this year’s event, he recognizes the limitations of bridles and fabrics as wing loads increase at such high speeds (now approaching 90 MPH).
Much of the pleasure in going to NABX is knowing that there are plenty of people who will help even the newest of kite buggiers and land-sailors. The Flexifoil team [Craig Sparkes, Will McKean (Ginger-boy), and Dave Roberts], Blake Pelton, dean, Corey, Joe Hadzicki, and Jose Sainz all make a trip to the desert safe, fun, and exciting. Kite buggying is a sport with a large learning curve, and with tips on equipment, safety gear, and flying technique, NABX continues to grow. Stress-free racing teaches buggy skills that many take years to master, while trick-riding clinics and out-and-back challenges build confidence and character.
Only one thing left to be said: come to NABX 2013!
Record-setting buggier Arjen van der Tol is currently recovering from a serious snowkiting accident in Norway. The enormous expense incurred by Arjen (Fast Arie) puts a financial burden on top of the physical one that Arie is courageously fighting. Help Arie by visiting the NABX website and going to www.nabx.net/articles/the-american-effort-to-help-arjen.html
. A small donation will get you a shirt and put a few dollars toward Arjen’s medical expenses.