Charlie Watson
From Discourse 11

The author in a custom stock buggy.

It’s winter here [in New Zealand]. It’s been fairly mild, so I can’t really complain, but summer seems a long time ago. Last year I didn’t spend so much time in the seat, so when my Christmas holiday approached, I decided that I was going to ride my buggy as much as I could and jam with my buddies. I finished work on Friday, Dec. 17, 2010. I would have 18 days off and I wanted 10 rides. Not an unreasonable target if the wind blows.

Saturday, Dec. 18: The wind was blowing and the tide was reasonable, but I just didn’t get out on the beach. No reason. Then it rained and the wind dropped off, and that was that.

Sunday, Dec. 19: Things to do that don’t involve the wind.

Monday, Dec. 20: I headed down to the park to do a light wind test on an old pink kite my brother bought online for $40 bucks. He had no idea how to set it up, so he left it with me. It seemed like something was missing. It’s only six square meters, but once I had it tuned up, it pulled like a truck. I should have taken my buggy. Three days down and still no time in the seat.

Tuesday, Dec. 21: Raglan. The beach is very odd. Lots of moguls and pools where there is usually flat sand. The only decent bit of riding is between the bank and a big pool along a narrow strip of flat that runs down to a small flat area, and some very wet moguls in front of where the kite surfers park up. The 6 is hauling and it is a great ride even if it is a bit challenging holding the line. After half an hour of struggling along the corridor, I drop to a

4. Not quite as much power but much easier to thread through the moguls and set up for a quick run down the strip. Fantastic.

Wednesday, Dec. 22: Nothing.

Thursday, Dec. 23: Raglan. The big beach is back with a nice mogul field by the water. When it’s nice and warm, I enjoy bouncing around in the rough dropping wheels in the water, even if I do cock it up sometimes and have to drive straight through some deep water. My Twister 2 is in the air.

The author’s Twister 2 in Raglan, New Zealand.

This is one of my hand-me-downs. I have a bag full of kites from various Peter Lynn folk. The T2 came from Craig Hansen. He is a big lad, our Craig. He rides fast and jumps a big, heavy buggy with real style. One day he pushed it a bit hard and trashed some bridles on his 3. I got hold of it, repaired it, and I like it. Medium aspect and a bit dumpy, it pulls very nicely and it’s always where it is supposed to be. Now it’s not a race kite, but I was riding when Craig used it on an 88 kph (about 55 mph) run down my beach, so it will go as fast as I want to go. Today the wind is blowing straight down the beach, so it’s short runs on the flat with a whole bunch of zigging and zagging in the rough. Best ride in a long time.

Friday, Dec. 24: Strandon/Fitzroy, New Plymouth. We headed off down to Taranaki for a Christmas holiday with the aim of sharing Pummet’s beaches and having a nostalgia trip. I have ridden in Taranaki many times, but 10 years slipped by since I last put my buggy on the Naki sand. Cudby lives there and Northern Al has connections with the district, so there was potential for some real fun. After a quick hello at my ma- in-law’s house, I headed to the beach. As I pulled into the car park, Plummet appeared still wet from a session in the surf. While I was setting up and he was packing down, we met a local who has a buggy in his shed, but he’d had a bad moment while learning and never carried on. Plummet abandoned me for Christmas Eve with his family and I hit the beach with a nice big wind. The twister was my first choice, but it quickly scared the heebies out of me. It is a high lift kite and I am an old school stunt kite flier who tends to throw a kite high when I want it to stop grunting. That’s not really how high lift kites work. I jumped in and headed off on a 1.5 kilometer down-winder to the boulder bank. All was good until I turned around and realized that the wind I was beating into was blowing slightly off shore and was lumpy. Some of the lumps were really big, so I constantly told myself not to throw it high. Back to Strandon and I found a great figure eight course using boulders as course markers — short bursts of acceleration followed by big slides. Got to be careful though. There were boulders at one end, fields of driftwood at the other, and I was flying a kite that scares me when the wind is up. After a while the wimp took over, and I dropped to my 1.6. This is a hand me down from Peter himself, one of the many ex-demo kites that he had in a big pile in the corner. It may be small, but it is a C Quad and it works very well in a big wind. Smooth power, great positioning, upwind, downwind, up hill and down dale, it has it all. Even though it is just over half the size of the T2, it had sufficient grunt, and I spent the next hour feeling a lot more comfortable but a tad slower, never hitting a rock but not getting cocky about it. It’s a great feeling walking off that beach up a ramp surrounded by driftwood and boulders and knowing that they may have come close, but there are no bruises.

Saturday, Dec. 25: Christmas Day, Strandon Beach, New Plymouth. Christmas goes well with lots of family and food and kids and all the good things that make it a good day. When the tide goes out, it is buggy time. I get the call – Al has been drinking and needs a ride. I find him in an extremely good mood and we head to the beach. We pull in and Cudby is waiting. Brett Cudby. The legend. The fast, tall one, race winner, 100kph club, trickster, jumper, and one of those guys who can hold a bigger kite than he really should be able to and still keep it all pointing forward. 10 years out of the seat and he is ready for a taste. I throw him my wee peel. This was Phil Mcconnachie’s high wind racing kite: 2.5 square, Icarex and spectra. It’s actually my wife Lorraine’s kite and we got it at the big international fest in Napier in 1995. All these years later and it still flies fine. I tweaked the A and B lines a few years ago, and the tow points needed sorting, but apart from that it has given me 16 years of service. It was my number one high wind kite until I got the 1.6 in 2009. It’s one of those kites that is a bit soft when it’s locked in, but if it’s worked, it can really pull. Power from speed is good power, and Cudby is throwing it around like he never stopped. He blasts a 50kph down-winder before handing it back. I get out the 1.6. Before long I am sliding around boulders, dodging Al with an NGen who is skating in his absurdly wide buggy, spending very little time pointing forward. I hand the wee C Quad to Cudby and he is playing around the boulders like a man who never went away. I have been trying to have a Christmas Day buggy for years. When it finally happened, it was perfect.

Al Noblet in an NGen on Christmas Day in Strandon.

Sunday, Dec. 26: Boxing Day, Strandon, New Plymouth. After a day at Wanganui watching motorcycle street racing, I got to the beach a bit late. Plummet, Al, and Cudby were gazing at a windless beach with a look of despair, but I was quite pleased. The flag wasn’t moving. Not that flags should be trusted, but airports have socks for a reason. I had wanted to see what my 8.5 C Quad could do in practically nothing. What it does is it flies. It popped up in the sky, and with a bit of teasing it stayed there. Al ran it in a circle, and when it came back to the direction where the wind should have been, it pulled quite hard. This particular kite sat in the corner at Ashburton for years. It has a split leading edge spar which I bound with cellotape and never quite got around to replacing. It still flies well. Cudby and Al bailed on us shortly before a steady three knots kicked in and I got in my buggy and started riding. If the wind is steady, kites really don’t need that much to do what they do, and in the case of an 8.5…not much is three knots. Within a few minutes it’s gusting to five and Plummet has his self built carbon land board out and is setting up some 15 meter sausage kite. I know those de-powers work, but they are big, fat, bulgy things that remind me of a pack of sausages. For the next two hours we rode the beach from end to end, dodging rocks and bathing in the glow of the New Plymouth city lights when the sun went down. Riding through the sunset with a buddy is about as good as it gets, even if it wasn’t so speedy. I love riding at night. The reflection of the lights on the wet Taranaki sand was glorious and quite good for visibility with no head lamps. Plummet hit a rock, but I managed to avoid one in a very tricky emergency avoidance action. I did run over a stick, and my feet bounced off the pegs as I was heading towards something nasty. It is surprising how quick I can find the pegs when I am about to smash into a rock the size of a car. Off the beach at 10pm.

On a perfect Christmas Day in 2010, the author buggies at Strandon Beach, New Plymouth in New Zealand.

The author buggies in front of the “Bowl,” a scoop in the hill that wind rushes up, creating a turbo zone. Good for a quick take off or a fast finish, also a great spot for tricks.

Buggier Brett Cudby, described as: “The legend. The fast, tall one, race winner, 100kph club, trickster, jumper, and one of those guys who can hold a bigger kite than he really should be able to and still keep it all pointing forward.”

Monday A.M., Dec. 27: Ngamotu Beach, New Plymouth. Up at 6am, Plummet rolls along at 6:45, and by 7:30 we are playing tennis ball tag with Port Taranaki as a back drop on a lovely short beach with hard sand and a banking effect. After filming Plummet jumping over me and trying some stuff for the upcoming Naki Nut Buster, we start up some pursuit racing. Last time I raced. I came second in the loser’s race at the 1996 national champs. I was never that fast, but no one is watching, so we set a course and have a few heats. The plan is to start one at each end and try to pass the other guy. I am out with my 4.2 C Quad. I got this kite in 1999 and have used it a lot over the years, but I have to say that it’s a bit of a prick of a kite. A lot of people never really got into C Quads. Some of them refused to adapt, and others never tried one set up with offset strops. There is the whole thing with the bag, and a lot of people took an instant dislike to them the first time one nosed over and fluttered to the ground. Personally, I like them. More wrist, less arm – how hard is that? That’s all the trick is. I have a bunch of C Quads, and I hardly ever luff them. Except for my 4.2. I’ve had it 12 years, and I drop that thing on the ground every time I use it. It is scarred and bruised as a result.

The author’s 4.2 C Quad kite.

When I got it, Jenny Cook told me: “It’s Pete’s personal surf kite. It’s bridled forward a little, so pay attention to the brake lines.” It’s great on the straight, but it is so easy to lose it when turning. Its one saving grace is that it has amazing performance. It was my light wind kite for many years, and it is only a 4. I have ridden it all over the Mooseland dunes and jammed Raglan so many times that all its handling issues are completely forgiven. I still swear at it when it’s falling from the sky, but I don’t really want it cursed to eternal damnation because there will be another day when it’s the right kite for the moment. So we are racing. Plummet has a 10 pack of sausages, and it is even until he makes a wee error and I get the win. Amazing. Then another. Plummet upsizes. I should do the same, but I stick with the 4.2 and get well and truly savaged by the land boarder flying a 15 pack. So 3-2 to Plummet, but I won the tag so we leave the beach 3 all. Unfortunately, I joined the dreaded “beaten by that damned boarder” club. That club is quite big now.

Ngamotu Beach, Port Taranaki, New Zealand.

Monday P.M., Dec. 27: Oakura Beach, Taranaki. Al is sliding, Plummet is jumping, and my boy Matt has his sport kite screaming. Cudby turns up with his own buggy and is straight into trick mode, spinning and standing all over the beach. Amazing that he still has his form after so long away. I am riding around throwing tennis balls at people, with my 4 threatening to throw me on the ground. We stop for a beer and chips before going back for the money shot. I trade for my 4.2, and we all end up on a small section of beach, giggling and yahooing, riding as hard as we can without taking each other out. It’s been a while since I’ve been out twice in a day, and both rides are brilliant.

So far so good. Seven rides, five days in a row. I haven’t done that for a long time. Cudby is keen to ride, and his bearings are spinning, so I leave him my 4 and my beloved 2.2. I will be back in a month to collect them at the Nut Buster. This is what you do for your buddies, but I can’t help thinking that it’s a bad idea.

Tuesday, Dec. 28: Raglan at dark. Time to head home. It’s only a three hour drive, but by the time we pack up, do the farewells, gas up, buy the groceries, and stop at a friend’s, it always takes most of the day. The plan is to get in an early morning session at Back Beach. That’s a real wind-swept, rock- strewn hellhole. I’ve had some great rides there before, and I did all the other beaches, so I am keen. Wake up at 6am. Raining. Nope, that’s not going to happen. We get in to Raglan, and I unload the car and head to the beach at dusk. The whole place is pink, quite beautiful really. Big SSW blowing, which is very rideable but always lumpy, so out with the Peel. Plenty of power and feeling quite safe. After a quick blat in front of the car park, I start the long slow tack south to the surf club 2.5km away. Riding through long shallow puddles, taking note of the exposed rocks, I get to the surf club and notice that it is not pink anymore, it is dark. So I am wet, all alone in a lumpy wind, 2.5 km from the car at night with no light, and I just can’t stop smiling. My MP3 player is blasting the rock’n’roll, and I start the run back. The south-north run on Ngaranui is a beautiful thing. I have done it so many times over the years, and it never gets old. In the dark with stars above was awesome. I missed all the hazards and got a nice boost as I hit the Bowl. The Bowl is a scoop in the hill by the trig. The wind rushes up it and creates a turbo zone. The paragliders use the Bowl to get lift. I was on the handles of a tandem glider once – a few eights off the Bowl and we were way up in the air. On the beach, it is good for a quick take off or a fast finish, but it is also a great spot for doing lots of skids and tricks. There I was in the dark, drifting in front of the Bowl. I haven’t got much left in the way of tricks, but I love drifting. Back in ‘97, Peter told me that the geometry of the new buggies and the performance of the new kites should allow us to do power slides that are only limited by the space available to us. Ever since then, I have tried to drift as far as I can. When it’s all good, some are hundreds of meters. Eventually I pointed it forward again and did some speedy runs in front of the car park. Off the beach at 10pm. Six days in the buggy in a row.

Wednesday, Dec. 29: Raglan. Pack up and head to the beach. The wind is blowing in the worst possible direction. Alternative: ride the grass. I just can’t do it – you don’t ride on grass when you live at the beach.

Still Wednesday, Dec. 29: Back at the beach at 7.30pm. No wind.

Thursday, Dec. 30: Raglan. Light offshore wind, and a feeble ride. Kite keeps falling out of the sky – three times on the ground, and I am off home.

Friday, Dec. 31: New Years Eve. Nothing.

Saturday, Jan.1, 2011: Raglan is on. I go to the 2.2 CQuad, and…it’s not in my bag. That’s right, its 300 kilometers away with Cudby. Why did I do that? It’s my best kite. My 2.2 CQuad was brought back from China for evaluation. Once the Ashburton crew had measured and flown it, I got it. It changed a bit over the years, but it was always good. It started out with a GRP spar in the front. It sagged a little in the gusts, but that was fine as it was like a self-reefing feature. That spar died one day in a crash when one of the spines drilled into the sand, and the leading edge bent into a very undesirable shape. I was watching it at the time (from afar) and it was quite spectacular. A carbon spar was installed and has never broken. I ripped all the left bridles off it while climbing a steep bank at the Moose Meet. I should have charged the hill and carried some speed, but I meekly crawled up it, and on one big swing the left let go, and I ended up riding down the bank backwards. I re-bridled it with an old set of flying lines and, combined with its carbon spar, it is stiff and solid. Of all my kites, the 2.2 has been used the most by far. It’s more like a 3, and it’s only since the twister came along that it started coming out less. Even if I got a full set of modern foils, I couldn’t imagine going for a ride without taking this. Unfortunately, that is the situation I am in. It’s not here. The wind is moving around and I take out my T2. I head to the Bowl, but its not working. There are brilliant moguls and a nice line through the moguls back to the beach. The south end is working well, and I end up riding funny angles with six BloKarts, two class 5 land yachts, and a home made land yacht with car wheels. I passed a class 5 last year. It wasn’t really trying too hard, but I thought it was a good trick.

Sunday, Jan. 2: Raglan. Northern Al is on the beach. He has a 3.8 reactor and I have my T2. Beautiful long runs. The day Craig did 88 with my Twister, Al was pulling away with this Reactor. We don’t quite get 80, but there is good solid speed to be had. I introduce our northern friend to pursuit racing: 3-1 to Al, but I got one, which was okay. We have a sneaky training session for the upcoming Restaurant Parking Competition at the Nut Buster. He takes a while to get the hang of it, but once he is dialed in, he has some good form. This all paid off a month later when I presented him with the 1st place trophy. Don’t tell anyone – I am a race official, and I should be neutral.

Al Noblet buggies around boulders in Strandon.

Monday, Jan. 3: Raglan. I head to the beach with my family. There is a solid wind, and my first choice is my 4, but it’s in Taranaki. 3 or 4.2? Wimp or hero? It’s a tough decision. I decide to be brave, and the 4.2 scares me a little on the launch. I settle in and am rewarded with some real speed and good long drifts. My family disappears. In my search for them, my buggy riding brother, Tom, appears from a pool of water. He runs off to the car for his 3, and before long we are taking turns doing full length runs of the beach. Tom had my spare buggy in his car, but we left it there as it is a funny old beast that is not very comfortable to ride. Matt Lord had this made in 1994. We keep it around as it has huge sentimental value and is quite useable. My good buggy is, however, very comfortable. I have spent eleven years tweaking it, and it works just how I like it. I t ’s my third. Mark Sommerville sold me my first along with a 7.5m peel. It was a very old classic and worked well. Compared to a modern buggy, it was a bit flimsy. It was repaired a few times, but I nuked the Moose, rode the dunes, did my PB, and rode it on many West Coast beaches. Peter sold me my first Comp, and I rode it for two years. In ‘99, I came out of it and broke when I hit the ground. I sold it during the eighteen months I was healing. Jenny sold me my current buggy. It’s a 2000 custom stock Peter Lynn Comp. It has stock parts, but mostly upgrades: long down tube, thick wall rails, composite axle, modified seat. I made the pegs, and it’s set up to be light, comfortable, and stable, but a bit loose. Al’s buggy is on the back of his van in the car park. I found out later he was kiting on the water – I am a bit worried about him. Water! What are you thinking, lad? You can’t even drink that stuff. Tom discovers water’s poorer qualities when he dunks his 3 in a pool. I have never poured so much water out of a kite, but I manage to fly it back to base camp, and it takes a long time to dry. Fantastic day. My family reappears and leaves us to it. We fly the 3 dry and keep riding until the wind drops.

Tuesday, Jan. 4: Raglan. Out on the beach with family and friends, soaking in puddles, flying kites, and making sand castles. We pass around the old family stack and it’s looking fine. The 4.2 is behaving itself, the line is good, and I have a fun but slow ride with the stack. What a perfect way to finish the summer holiday.

Final tally: 14 kite sessions, 13 rides with only one dud, two night rides, a two ride day, and a six day run.

Funny thing is I used all my kites except my favorite. I got that back a month later, and he hadn’t even used it.