Encephalitis no barrier for extreme sport kitebuggy enthusiast living life in the fast lane

Rob Lukin may struggle to walk every day, but that does not stop him from flying down the beach at up to 90kph.

For the past 12 years, the Port Lincoln man has been doing the extreme sport of kitebudding.

“I guess I am chasing the adrenaline,” Mr Lukin said.

“You’re milking it for that extra bit.”

Difficult to master, the sport requires piloting a three-wheeled kite-powered vehicle, often at high speeds.

But the 59-year-old, who is is part of Extreme Kites, a group of kitebuggy enthusiasts, has plenty of patience and perseverance.

solo world traveler

It’s that tenacity and zest for life that saw him backpack around the world in a wheelchair for two-and-a-half years and become the first in his family with a university degree.

But it was not the life Mr Lukin thought he would be living.

Mr Lukin is from a Port Lincoln fishing family and, in his 20s, spent holidays heli-skiing in New Zealand, camping, surfing and pursuing extreme sports.

Rob Lukin says he met many friends while backpacking around the world.(Supplied)

But a trip to the Murray River at 24 left him fighting for his life.

He was struck down by encephalitis, suspected to have come from a mosquito bite.

He left him paralyzed, but after months of rehabilitation, he learned to walk and talk again.

“It damaged all my brain stem, so all my motor stuff,” he said.

The first thing he wanted to do was get back to full-time work.

“It took me a few years, but I managed to go to uni, and … I got my computer science degree,” he said.

Mr Lukin said he worked for Motorola as a software engineer.

“I loved that job,” he said.

“I never got bored any single day.”

A whole sector was made redundant, so he took the payout and headed off to travel around the world for a year.

He didn’t come back to Australia for two-and-a-half years.

Man with gray hair sitting on a walker at a white sandy beach with clear blue waters in back ground and headland on both sides
Mr Lukin is part of Extreme Kites, a group of kitebuggy enthusiasts.(ABC Eyre Peninsula: Jodie Hamilton)

Mr Lukin stayed at backpackers and hostels and sometimes under stairwells and on park benches.

He traveled with a trailer hooked on to the back of his wheelchair until he was mugged in Spain, and it was stolen.

“They did me a favor — I had too much stuff,” Mr Lupine said.

His sister Lisa Wiseman said her brother had a positive attitude towards everything he tackled.

“I’ve never once in all the years heard him sit back and go, ‘Poor me. Why did this happen to me?'” Ms Wiseman said.

“After he got sick, he played wheelchair rugby. He just hasn’t given in.

“He’s just said, ‘Well, I’m going to find what I can do’.

“Now he’s got his kitebuggy, which he’s just brilliant at — I think he’s up there with some of the best in the country, and he loves it.”

‘Can I do that?’

Mr Lukin was taken with the sport after he first saw it in 2010 at Port Douglas.

“They had a buggy there, so I said, ‘Can I do that?'” Mr Lukin said.

“And he [the pilot] said, ‘Why not?’

Man in helmet in three-wheel buggy being pulled by lines.
Mr Lukin says he loves chasing the adrenaline.(ABC Eyre Peninsula: Jodie Hamilton)

90kph top speed

Now Mr Lukin travels between Port Lincoln and Queensland, chasing the right winds and smooth beaches.

He used to set up the buggy and pack it down himself, which took him about an hour.

But after injuring his shoulder he has got some help to set up so he can spend his energy on flying the kite faster.

“My personal best is 90kph on a beach down near Wilsons Prom,” he said.

“It’s very windy down there.”


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