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Kite Skating.Bob Childs and the original kite powered skates - the Wheels Of Doom!

Childs Play

American Kite Magazine vol.7 no.1 1994

Bob Childs figures there are two kinds of wheeled-kiters in the world; "Some people like to fly sitting and other people like standing."

Usually it's the people standing up who get all the attention, but Childs noticed that at kite festivals he attended it was the sitters - the buggy pilots - who were hogging the limelight, while he and other roller-kiters skated in obscurity along the asphalt perimeter. That's because the buggies could navigate the uneven terrain of the flying field, while Childs and other kite skaters were "out in the parking lot dodging cars. I thought, what can I bring out on the field?"

Childs looked at grass skis, a la Steve Shapson, "but when the wind's cranking, he's going about two mile per hour." Childs looked at the German platform skates, ski boots fixed to a large wheel front and back, "but they were too cumbersome," he says.

Then, last summer, he looked at his daughter's scooter. "Perfect", he thought, as she scooted passed. Childs bought some scooter wheels of his own and bolted them to a pair of Rollerblade skate boots. "The wheels are 12 inches in diameter, knobby and inflatable", he explains. "Now they are off-road inline skates that can go anywhere you want to go. They are my answer to the buggy craze."

And a better answer for him, Childs says. Whereas buggies can slide sideways when sailing across a stiff breeze, Childs boasts that he can keep his course by leaning over harder against the pull of the kite. "You can run steeper lines because you can power-up against the kite and cut harder upwind. When I'm in a good lean, I can almost reach out and touch the ground. I'm really cranked over!"

When he hits the beach with buggy pilots, Childs says he has no trouble keeping up. In fact, he says his skates are faster than the buggies, though he hasn't yet tested his limits. "I'm not sure I want to be rolling 40 miles per hour on a pair of skates just yet." He calls his invention the "Wheels Of Doom."

Nomenclature notwithstanding, Childs considers his skates safer than a buggy. "The amount of lean dictates your speed," he says. "You can cut an incredible angle upwind to lose speed. Besides, with a buggy, you have 30 pounds of metal cage to complicate a crash. At least the skates are attached to my feet and not bouncing around on my head."

Childs honed his skills in the variable winds of Boulder, Colorado, where he owns It's A Breeze Kite Designs. He says anyone who knows how to skate and how to fly a kite can pick up kite skating fairly quickly. But he doesn't expect the sport to become widely popular. "It will always remain a satellite to buggying," he says.

The kite skating universe also includes Mike Sterling of Portland, Oregon, whose "Frankenskates" employ four electric-wheelchair wheels on each foot; then there's the original kite skater, Lee Sedgewick.

In January Childs made a trip to the Buggy Boogie Thang on Ivanpah Dry Lake in Nevada, where he showed off his skates for the world's top buggy pilots and clocked the fastest speed on the lake.

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