Huntington Beach man reviving abandoned RC Tank Club to keep hobby alive in Orange County
Families got together for a morning of fun with remote-controlled firepower in Huntington Beach hosted by the Irvine RC Tank Club last Sunday.
Father, sons and daughters coordinated their attack plans in mock battles played out over a field of miniature lookout towers, bunkers and trees set up in the shade beside Lake Huntington at Huntington Central Park. Dirt and gravel flew in the wake of tiny motorized treads rolling over scaled-down berms and barriers.
“My intention is very simple,” Irvine RC Tank Club President David Nguyen said as battles were getting underway. “I would like to have our youth get out of the house instead of staying in their rooms playing video games by themselves. His dad’s in the other room, sister’s in another room. So now, they go out into the park, play together.”
The model kits used in RC tank battles can cost upwards of $200 each, and that can be a barrier for some. But the Irvine RC Tank Club had more than a dozen loaners available for people to try out on Sunday, and does so at most of its other events. About a third of these were purchased through fundraising, and the rest came from Nguyen’s personal collection.
Other RC tank groups aren’t as willing to put expensive and painstakingly detailed miniatures in the hands of newbies, said Tang Manisuta of the Irvine RC Tank Club. Most tend to be made up of members who have already invested heavily in model kits and gear and are not necessarily focused on bringing in new people.
The Irvine RC Tank Club had been practically abandoned for years before Nguyen, a Huntington Beach resident, reached out to its former president and got permission to take over its social media pages in November. The group was still small as of May, with about six core members helping to set up events.
But Nguyen hopes making it easier for newcomers to get into the hobby will help the group‘s membership grow and ensure that a community for their favorite activity flourishes in Orange County. So far, the club has hosted four battles in Huntington Beach, one in Stanton, and is attempting to set up events with officials in Santa Ana, he said.
“I thought people in O.C. should have a club today,” Nguyen said. “This is the hobby I enjoyed, before when we were young. We were playing outdoors in the dirt, and now with technology people stay at home with their electronics.”
In between skirmishes last Sunday, families got to know each other by discussing shared interests like military history, model building and crafting. Some like Norm Princen of Long Beach used to be into models when they were growing up but had no idea they could be used in remote-controlled combat with other people.
He said he was just as enthralled as his son when they stumbled upon a miniature battle hosted by the Los Angeles Tank Club at the American Military Museum in South El Monte a few months ago. That’s when the 60-year-old engineer decided to buy an RC tank for Benny’s ninth birthday, which they just finished putting together the night before the Huntington Beach meet-up.
“They’re kinda rinky-dink at the moment,” Norm Princen said of the laser signal receivers fitted to their model so it can register hits from enemy guns. “I want to do a more permanent thing later, but yeah, they at least work. I barely got them in the mail this week and got them installed last night.”
Quan Tran of Fountain Valley said his sons, 12-year-old Maxwell and Wesley, 9, had never dabbled with RC models before. But the kids quickly got the hang of the controls and even managed to shoot down a few opponents. Their father said the tank battles reminded him of the military-themed video games his kids play at home but with the benefit of face-to-face contact with the people they’re competing or teaming up with.
Manisuta also plays video games but said that pastime is unlikely to leave him with anything tangible no matter how much time he might sink into it. But whether he wins or loses an RC tank battle, he still gets to inspect and tinker with his personalized model and keep the satisfaction of knowing that he built it himself.
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