First there was 'scudding', where fliers could be dragged along on their feet at high speeds by powerful Quadrifoil kites. Not content with staying on land, they soon discovered 'bumping' which, supported by three or four powerful kites, lifted them to heights of 30-40 ft. Now Peter Lynn, inventor of Land Lizard, has created a safer alternative with a three-wheeled stainless steel contraption that resembles an oversized tricycle. The sport is not yet officially recognised but it is quickly gaining credibility in Cornwall, where Britain's 50 or 60 die-hard buggyists compete once a year in speed trials. Although London may not enjoy the advantages of Cornwall's endless windswept beaches, Hackney Marshes provides the next best thing. It is flat, relatively unpopulated ('the main danger is colliding into people walking past,' says Hayden) and extremely windy.
When I arrived it was snowing heavily. Inside a group of tents, people were sitting on rugs untangling kite strings and slurping from cans of Red Stripe.
Outside, Hayden and his friend were trying to raise an enormous Peel kite which would mobilise myself and the Land Lizard. I was instructed to fly the kite in a figure of eight by pulling alternately on the two strings while pushing the wheels in the opposite direction. Lowering myself into the seat, I instantly surged foward while instructions were yelled from behind. 'Pull hard left. Now right. Now even up. Now steer left.' Too late. The kite nosedived, landing between some formation stunt fliers and the tents. On the second attempt I caught a big gust of wind and shot away, leaving the photographer standing. The pull on the kite was almost uncontrollable. On a very windy day the power generated by a Peel kite can lift several small cars off the ground. I felt a gush of euphoria as the snow sprayed up beside me - an exhilaration and sense of speed akin to skiing.
Mobilising the buggy is easy enough but controlling your direction is near impossible. And don't expect to be able to brake - stopping is an alien concept for buggyists. 'You just have to steer in a different direction when you run out of space,' Hayden reassures me. I terminated my final ride by skidding backwards with my arms bent behind my back clutching the kite. I was told that had this happened in high winds I would probably have fallen out and broken both my arms.
For adrenalin junkies who want to harness the elements the only bad news is the expense. A brand new Land Lizard costs pounds 330 and powerful kites start at pounds 300. However, you can buy both second-hand for half that.
Despite the expense, the number of buggy owners in England has more than doubled over the last year. The appeal appears to lie in the buggyist's fascination with the potential power of the wind. 'It's incredible that you can put a simple piece of material up there,' says Hayden, staring towards the heavens. 'Then suddenly it's got enough strength behind it to kill you.'
2pm Sun, Hackney Marshes, London E8. Stockist: Kite Store Ltd, London WC2 (071-836 1666). Information: Jeremy Boyce, East London Fliers (071-275 8799)
(Photograph omitted)Reuse content