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An Interview with Jason Gilkes, Owner of Segway of Barbados Adventure Fun Rides

A total of eight international teams took part in the 2010 Woz Challenge Cup, which is endorsed by Steve Wozniak co-founder of Apple Computers Inc and a player himself; including two teams from Barbados and the rest from the USA, Germany and Sweden. The final match took place on June 13th and having won all of their matches, the host team, Flyin’ Fish took on the Blade Pirates from Germany. Over 600 spectators turned up, many of them families out to enjoy an afternoon of entertainment, sport and socialising, just as they would at a normal polo match. The home crowd was not disappointed for under the glare of floodlights, the defending champions clinched the cup a second time, winning 3-1. With two successive wins under their belts, instead of hosting the tournament again next year, the tradition has been waived and so the Flyin’ Fish are off to California, to defend their title as World Champions.

Very impressive you might say, but how did it all begin in Barbados and what else are these 2 wheeled, stand-up scooters used for? The man behind it all is Barbadian, Jason Gilkes, who four years ago, set up the tour company, Segway of Barbados Adventure Fun-Rides. Their popular Cove Bay tour basically gives visitors (mostly on cruises) a chance to see a part of the island they would otherwise never get to see. The 1½ trip takes in the panoramic eastern coastline of Barbados, from the parish of St Lucy and at the end riders are rewarded with a rum punch. They operate a fleet of 20 Segway PT’s (an Off-Road X2 model) taking out about 3 tours a day, 7 days a week and each group with between 3-4 guides depending on all machines being used.

So when asked how it all started, Jason told us his story “I was actually living in the US when the inventor of the Segway launched it and I happened to see the launch on TV. Thought it was a really cool and unique invention, however, it was a bit premature for Barbados terrain. In 2006 after returning from studies in the US, I was looking to do something very different and wanted to get involved in the tourism sector. I remembered the Segways, looked them up and realized they had evolved into some really cool off-road type machines. I basically called up Segway and enquired about the cost, how do I get them and do they have anyone representing them in Barbados or the Caribbean. Months later I did a business plan, got a loan and imported 22 Segways to run tours. Placed the order and waited for them to arrive. To this point I had never even seen a Segway in real life. Weeks after I went to Segways facilities and got trained to repair and service the Segways. I am now a qualified level 2 service technician, authorized Segway dealer in Barbados. We are also an authorized Segway tour operator. I got the Segways, started the tours and was looking all over the internet to see what else I could do with Segways....hence Segway polo was born. Barbados has a high following of horse polo and I thought this would be a sidekick to horse polo. I called a few friends, grabbed some old polo sticks my father had lying around (he used to play regular polo), got a small foam ball and started Segway polo in Barbados. Everyone I introduced it to enjoyed it so much that we eventually had enough players to form a team.” The rest is history as they say. “We went to Germany with zero expectations and almost completely blindfolded. We had very little knowledge of the correct rules of the game and how the actual team should be structured…We sure took everyone by surprise. We learnt after the tournament that there was a bet amongst the US and German teams that we would be knocked out very early in the competition and be a bit of a walk over. After our first game, which of course turned out to be also the very first game of the tournament, we were up against one of the teams that were expected to win and we crushed them 4-0. That's when we sent shock waves throughout the Segway polo community. They did not see that coming”.

And the name? “One of our players, came up with the name Flyin' Fish....as of course it's part of our culture, the flying fish and also it blends well with the fact that when you ride a Segway, it's almost like you are gliding much like a flying fish does. (Mind you, a flying fish does not actually fly....it glides). Further we are a small island surrounded by water..Voilà!”

What’s this I hear about the police using them?! “They utilize them as a means of increasing their presence. They are not used to outrun or chase criminals but rather, allow an officer to conduct 10 times more patrols on a Segway than he can on foot. Therefore reducing the opportunity for would be criminals to perform any criminal acts. Also the Segway is a battery operated device and therefore there are no emissions (Eco-friendly). They are also non-intrusive. They are a perfect fit for the boardwalk. They are also quiet, zero noise pollution.”