Bobby had been interested in kiteboarding and had subscribed to a magazine to get a grasp on how the sport worked. While at a festival at Jekyll Island, GA his wife asked him what “Flexifoil” was. He responded that it was a kite company, and she pointed over her shoulder and said “well a guy has a booth set up right over there with a banner that says Flexifoil”. So he walked over to check it out and sure enough there was a thing there called a kite buggy and several kites set up around the booth. Bobby is known to his friends and family as a conversationalist and this is the day he met Angus Campbell of Coastal Wind Sports. An hour later, he walked away with quite a bit of knowledge and a new hobby in a bag. Not long after he went to the beach to set up and fly the new HQ Beamer III 3m, Angus had closed up the booth and made his way to the beach to fly with Bobby. A friendship was born and as Angus always likes to say, “the hook was set”.
Within the first year and after acquiring several more kites, many suited for jumping, Bobby borrowed a buggy from Angus to use on another family camping trip and on this trip, he got it together enough to start linking turns and making a figure 8 pattern on the sand between the surf and dunes. A new passion and outlet for the power in the kite had been found.
A few years later and Bobby and his family moved across the country to Tracy California. Through the years on The Power Kite Forum, he had several guys that lived in the area that would become fast friends and riding buddies. Dirk Hemza and Dino Arias, known as ScrewyFits and Dakitez on PKF, both lived within 45 minutes of Tracy and the famed Sod Farm near Lodi, California. Dirk and Dino had cultivated a good relationship with the owner, and Bobby and the guys could gather there and ride on the fields of sod in their buggies. It was great camaraderie and they became close friends during the sessions there. Lots of kite flying, buggying, and one fine day Dirk made one of his famous Bacon Bombs on his portable grill. I’m sure they all cherished the time there together sharing the passion.
When the move the California was in the planning stages, his wife made a comment one day that since they were moving out west, that he might ought to look into being able to go to that “kite thingy” they have down in the desert in early April. As if he hadn’t already spent hours figuring out the travel distance, route and lots of other details he’d need to know to pull of getting to attend his first NABX.
This experience would set the stage for maybe the most glorious news a kite buggier could ever learn. Even before his second NABX, there were already plans for he and his family to move to Henderson, NV, which happens to be only a 40 minute drive from Ivanpah Dry Lake. Knowing he was going to have Ivanpah as his home riding spot in just a few months, he bought an Exxtreme Apexx buggy that belonged to Jeroen “Ozzy” Potters. This happens to be the buggy that Fast Arie set the new speed record in due to the tires on his buggy being worn out from previous speed runs. After some minor adjustments, it seemed like the buggy was custom made for Bobby. He has said often, that no matter how crazy the conditions are, he’s never had a nervous moment caused by the buggy. It feels like a part of him and that is a huge confidence builder for learning to ride at a place like Ivanpah.
That confidence allowed slow steady progress with personal best speeds creeping up in 2-5 mph increments into the 50s and 60s, eventually getting into Popeye the Welder’s coveted 100 kph club. Later he would set a personal best of over 65 mph with a 5m HQ Ignition LEI kite. Who knows what the future holds?
Some of Bobby’s favorite riding spots were mentioned above but also include Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine, Florida, along with Jekyll Island GA, and of course Ivanpah Dry Lake. El Mirage Dry Lake is another favorite due to the wide open spaces, riding through the bushes and enjoying the butter smooth surface. Also Sunset beach in Oregon is a new favorite place to buggy for the long runs as much as the good company there at the SOBB events.
Some of the mentors that have inspired Bobby or become close friends due to the kite buggy sport, are Angus Campbell, Dirk Hemza (also for his fabrication skills) and Dino Arias, Fast Arie and Ozzy for their amazing kite and buggy skills. Stephan van Bommel for his world class kite and buggy skills as well as a true friend. Chris (Pokitetrash) Rieke. Eli Anderson was mentioned as one of the most talented kite buggiers in North America and a good friend as well. Popeye the Welder for the friend he is, the knowledge and art he has added to the kite buggy community through his custom handmade buggies, and his selfless support of the sport through his website and Facebook pages. And certainly Brian Holgate, fellow local rider, friend, co-organizer of Ivanpah Buggy Expo, as well as the fastest person to ever pilot a kite buggy.
Bobby was hesitant to try to list some names of people that have become his friends through the sport and IBX because they couldn’t all be listed, but he made it clear that there were hundreds of others that he cherished the chance to share a lakebed or beach with whether the wind is blowing or not. He says he hopes he has always made it clear how important each and every friend of the wind is to him.
Just last fall, Bob lost a mentor and very close friend he met through kiting. Don Leech, known as tridude on PKF, lost a years long battle with Cancer. He was always willing to chat on the phone, drive to a kite or buggy meet up, or coach Bob to the next skill level he was working on. He was a true friend to Bob and many others till his last day. Bob would like to honor him here today.