Never head downwind of a Kiwi. Especially when he’s riding around in a BloKart, as Time Out discovers
It’s late afternoon in Jumeirah 2 and three Kiwis have converged to sail. The group regularly meets in this open, dusty expanse to roar across the wasteland with just the power of the wind. But while it looks like sailing, there’s no water here – this is entirely land-based and can reach speeds of 70kmph. ‘Imagine that, only a foot from the ground,’ says Dave Bradley, one of the Gulf’s most passionate exponents of BloKarting. ‘You’re up on two wheels, flying along and just trying to keep control. That really satisfies my extreme side.’
BloKarts were designed by a New Zealand engineer and take all the principles of land sailing but makes it more mobile. Powered by a large wind-catching sail fixed to the back of an engineless go-kart, the entire kit can be assembled and disassembled in a matter of minutes and fits into a rucksack the size of a bodyboard. ‘I’ve explored a lot of the UAE on these,’ says Bradley, ‘Umm Al Quwain near Barracuda is fantastic – all that flat sand is good for speed and excellent for making tight spins. I was just in Hatta at the base of the Hajar mountains. The hard, rocky terrain there is perfect, it’s as if you’re travelling through an African desert.’
BloKarts have recently gone on sale at Go Sports, but Bradley’s team are offering demos and familiarisation experiences through Dreamdays. They’re keen to really get the local interest off the ground here, beginning with a 10-week local league that starts at the end of September.
As Bradley talks, we keep getting distracted by the grinning, red-faced Kiwi making tight doughnut-turns in his BloKart. This all looks far too fun to talk about any more, so we commandeer a kart, get in low and strap on the seatbelt. The controls couldn’t be simpler. Anyone familiar with the mechanics of sailing will find this a doddle: one rope keeps the sail taut and a single bar provides steering. That really is it.
With firm instructions to keep the BloKart perpendicular to the shoreline, the sail tight and the wheels well away from a patch of soft sand in the centre of the wasteland, Bradley pushes us off. The sail slaps into life and we start to gain speed.
Noiselessly, gracelessly, the kart shudders over the rocks. It continues to gain momentum before a sharp jolt on the steering bar causes it to lift ever-so-slightly up onto two wheels and spin right around into a precarious-feeling hairpin turn. It’s intense, made even more so by the sensation of being only shin height from the worryingly rocky ground. Hurtling back in the direction of the group, it suddenly dawns – I have no idea how to stop. While letting go of the sail seems like an obvious answer, letting it out even slightly actually catches more of the downwind and results in an exhilarating burst of speed. Bradley clearly gets the idea and signals for us to head into the wind. After another precarious banking motion, we head in the direction of the beach and the kart rolls to a halt.
While this is, undoubtedly, firmly in the realms of big, expensive toys, there’s another side to BloKarting that sets it apart from the assortment of other adrenaline-seeking contraptions. First off, it’s completely green: no fuel, no loud, droning engine. Secondly, it’s actually a good, safe way to learn some of the mechanics of sailing without having to shell out for a boat. One BloKarter told us that he has even purchased a sidecar for his kids so that he can teach them the rudiments of harnessing the wind before they can even swim. Furthermore, BloKarting stands apart by having rapidly established a local, active community. The upcoming Duplays blokarting league will be raucous. You can bet we’ll be there – wind permitting. Dreamdays (800 2080) can organise BloKarting sessions. Dhs120 per person for a half-hour session. Blokarts can be purchased from Go Sports in Ibn Battuta Mall and Mall of the Emirates at around Dhs8,000-9,000 for a full starter kit. Go Sports have a ‘try-out’ sheet in each store, where potential BloKarters can jot down their details and the BloKarting team will be in touch for a demo. For more info on September’s Duplays BloKarting league, go to duplays.com.