Kite buggies preparing for Greenland, designer Eric "MTwater" talked to ExplorersWeb

Posted: Aug 30, 2011 02:30 pm EDT

Two men from The Netherlands, Eric MTwater and Arjen Fast Arie van der Tol, plan to take their kite/snow buggies to Greenland and travel from Dye II south, then turn north to Baffin Bay, and eventually head back to Dye II. According to them, they will cover 4,500 km during the expedition that will last from May to June 2013.

Arjen holds 2 kite buggy world records. Eric, the designer of these buggies, talked to ExWebs Correne Coetzer about the buggies, the winds on Greenland, the challenges they face, and how they keep in contact with each other during fast travel in strong winds.

ExplorersWeb: Who design these buggies?

Eric: Design by me. Fabrication by Xxtreme buggies.

ExplorersWeb: What kites will you use?

Eric: Peter Lynn depower kites for high wind conditions and Peter Lynn Vapor race buggy mattresses for low wind conditions.

ExplorersWeb: Tell us about the wind patterns in Greenland please, because you are going to kite north-south and south-north.

Eric: Wind patterns basically follow an east to west or west to east direction caused by the katabatic wind effects flowing down the ice cap, similar to your experience on Antarctica.

This means that most of the time we will have the wind at a 90 degree angle to our travel direction.

Wind speeds will be higher at lower altitudes. Since the maximum height of the icecap is about 3.000 meters, we expect to find good winds somewhere between 1500 to 2500 meter above sea level.

Besides that, the Peter Lynn Vapor mattresses are very efficient kites with very good upwind performance (much, much better than any depowerable snow kite).

In case the wind direction will not be favorable, we still will manage to build up speed in the direction we wish to travel.

ExplorersWeb: How do you steer your buggies?

Eric: Identical as how beach buggies are steered (steering is done with the feet).
See the videos and pictures on our website.

ExplorersWeb: Is there a possibility that you can lose each other doing fast speeds in strong winds? What safety measures do you have regarding this?

Eric: Could be a real possibility. We intend to bring modified Garmin Rhino GPS/walkie talkies.using the walkie talkie function it sends every 30 seconds GPS signals to the other Rhino so each of us can see where the other person is on his own GSP display. We will be trying to modify the GPS in such way that it will beep an alarm when the other person is too far away.

Besides that, the slowest person will always be travelling in front so the faster person cannot speed away.

Secondly, the slowest person will be required to look back over his shoulder frequently as to be ensured that he is followed.

ExplorersWeb: What are the biggest challenges on kite buggies?

Eric: When riding a kite buggy on land (at the beach shore line), the challenge is to control the kite movements with your hands whilst steering the buggy with your feet.

The faster one travels in a buggy, the more apparent wind the kite experiences and the more power it generates. Only wheel drag and aerodynamic drag of the driver/buggy eventually limit the top speed.

When travelling in a snow buggy on Greenland, our greatest challenge will be to stay warm, since we will be seated in the buggy and kite forces are absorbed by the harness we wear, we will experience little physical fatigue.

Therefore dressing up warm while doing nothing physically demanding in combination with wind-chill on the Greenland icecap will be paramount for a successful completion of the roundtrip

ExplorersWeb: How does your snow buggy differ from your land buggy?

Eric: Only from the fact that we are using snowboards instead of wheels.

ExplorersWeb: Greenland doesnt have big and many sastrugi as Antarctica but it can have its share. How comfortable is your snow buggy over these snow dunes?

Eric: This is one of the concerns we have whether we should add suspension to the snow buggy. I would prefer not as it only could complicate the design, add weight.

I had several discussions with people that did the South-North crossing already and yes we will encounter sastrugi.

This will slow us down, but we still expect being able to cross at moderate speeds as long as the sastrugi are not higher then 15-20 cm.

ExplorersWeb: What will you do when you have no wind to kite?

Eric: Relax, sleep, play cards , wait.

ExplorersWeb: Future preparation?

Eric: February and April 2012, we will go back to Norway for further testing and getting additional winter training. Well need sponsors for equipment and transport. If you have any suggestions.just let us know!

Snowbuggy 2011 - model nr. 4 from MTwater on Vimeo.



Eric "MTwater", 44 years old is a freeride snowboarder since 1989 and kite buggier since 2006.
Working in the international oil and gas industry since 1986. He makes yearly mountain trips carrying a snowboard on his back and hiking/climbing to the highest peaks in the Alps to decent them riding his board in powder snow and overnight in mountain huts, see www.Whitemotion.nl..He cycled through Central America and crossed South America in a 4x4. In 2011, Eric became nr 1 during the Dutch kitebuggy Open races and will be promoted to the Master Class in the 2012 season. With his Snowbuggy.nl buggy team he covered 791km during the SPO 24hr races. Since 2006, Eric is the promotor of crossing Greenland using a snowbuggy. Eric has designed several types of snowbuggies.

Arjen van der Tol set the world speed record of 133 km/h with a kite buggy on March 30, 2010 at Ivanpah Dry Lake, Primm (California) during 2010 NABX (The North American Buggy Expo). He and a team of 2 other buggiers also hold the world 24 hr distance record of 1050 km.

The Greenland expedition will be unassisted (no resupplies) and wind supported with kites attached to their buggies.


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Eric: "When travelling in a snowbuggy on Greenland, our greatest challenge will be to stay warm, since we will be seated in the buggy."
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"The slowest person will always be travelling in front so the faster person cannot speed away."
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"Only wheel drag and aerodynamic drag of the driver/buggy eventually limit the top speed."
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"Wind patterns basically follow an east to west or west to east direction caused by the kabatic wind effects flowing down the ice cap."
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Arjen Fast Arie van der Tol
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Eric MTwater
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