• Chris Davies. Edited by Martin Galley

Introducing the RPM Pekapeka fairway driver

New Zealand’s rare endemic long-tailed bat is taking to the skies around the globe, in one of the biggest bat migrations of all time, as this new fairway offering from RPM has wide appeal for players of practically all skill levels. There’s more about the tiny flying mammal at the end of the review, too.

Figure 1. Cosmic RPM Pekapekas

PDGA-approved on July 5th 2021, the RPM Pekapeka is a small-diameter, high-glide, speed-nine, slightly understable fairway driver. It is quite unusual in featuring a convex lower wing surface. It is initially available in Atomic (solid colour) and Cosmic (translucent/transparent) plastics.


Side-by-side comparisons to the Innova Sidewinder are inevitable, as it has the same flight numbers and so I tested it against my 173g Champion example.

Pekapeka Dimensions and Mould Description

According to Simon at RPM the Pekapeka mould was inspired by the Innova Roadrunner, which shares a slightly convex lower wing surface, but Pekapeka has more stability, and is not an out-of-the-box roller disc.

Pekapeka profile image
Figure 2. RPM Pekapeka cross-section showing convex lower wing surface.

Pekapeka's rim is 2 mm wider rim than Roadrunner and matches up nicely with the Sidewinder, but is 0.5 mm shallower. You can feel this, when comparing them in your grip.


Figure 3. Pekapeka's gentle convex lower wing surface and clean leading edge. Click to zoom.

To offset the slightly shallower rim depth the inner rim angle is more vertical than the Innova product, providing a more pronounced and more-square engagement point for the index finger joint, and makes for a more solid power grip.


The Rim Thickness is 19.5 to 20 mm. The diameter varies between 211 mm (Atomic) and 212 mm (Cosmic). Pekapeka is legal up to 176 grams. Rim Depth is reported as 11 mm but comes in at ~11.5 mm.

Figure 4. Close up of a gold stamped cosmic Pekapeka

As is traditional at RPM, the new mould has been heavily polished to present high-shine surfaces – especially on the lustrous solid colours of Atomic items – a gift to disc dyers everywhere. They look very appealing even under 10x magnification when it is easy to see RPM distinguishes itself from other less-fussy manufacturers. There is no flashing on the bottom edge of the wing, and the parting line flashing is nil to minimal, with all examined examples being praiseworthy in terms of overall production quality. And so we can say with some confidence customers won’t be performing QA for the manufacturer as some other makers prefer.


The First Run (“1R” stamp) was 15,000 discs – the largest first run of any RPM disc by far.

Figure 5. Click to zoom.

Testing regime

I picked two 173 gram Atomic/Cosmic Pekapekas at random, and put them up against my trusty 173 gram Champ’ Sidewinder, and proceeded to play 3-drive-no-putt disc golf.


First Impressions

Were positive, right from the first throw. The glide of 5 is the correct rating, provided the nose is kept flat. Good distance can be obtained without it ever flying higher than 2-metres in the air.


For newer players with low arm speed, Pekapeka will act as an overstable fairway driver, starting to fade fairly quickly out of the hand.


Competent players of the game will see a small and fairly late turn before a gentle fade if sufficient altitude is provided.


Experts and power players will find this an easy disc to flip up, and over into anhyzer flight.


Figure 6. Pekapeka in it's natural environment.

Throwing the Pekapeka against the Sidewinder shows both moulds to have a flight shape so similar they are practically indistinguishable. I feel very confident almost any Champion Sidewinder user can simply swap it out for the Pekapeka, without any interruption to normal throwing outcomes. And so as a patriotic Kiwi I have done just that. Bye-bye trusty Sidewinder!


Natural flight shape under power

Pekapeka wants about 70-80 metres worth of airspeed to stand up and fly straight, and this isn’t going to be a first fairway driver disc, even with the -3 turn rating, as it takes quite a lot of airspeed before the full -3 turn becomes apparent. For most competent players, the flight shape will be more like -1 1 with just a gentle turn from a flat release.


In terms of aerodynamic roll forces, Pekapeka only rolls left gently as it fades, and so you’ll get quite a lot of lengthy forward skips, rather than skips that end up moving strongly left or right.


This is a disc that deviates only a small amount from its thrown line and shares this feature with the slower, speed-7, River which has been in my bag for years.


Does the plastic change the flight shape?

Figure 7. Pekapeka daytime roosting location.

I was not able to detect a difference between the flight shapes of the two plastics, with the discs often landing within 3-4 metres of each other. However, my personal preference is for Atomic, as it feels better in my hand.


Moulding effects, appearance, stamp, and upcoming runs

As RPM progress, so too does their ability to create extremely attractive discs. Some of their swirly items are almost too gorgeous to throw, while their solid colours are often astonishing. Artists know a good blue is very hard to find, but RPM are cranking out some simply stunning Atomic blues recently, from milky sky blue to shockingly intense blue. Keep an eye out!

Cosmic items vary from almost transparent to quite translucent, with the addition of metal flakes having a much bigger visual impact than in Atomic.

The lovely Pekapeka stamp is faithful to the appearance of the long-tailed bat (Chalinolobus tuberculatus) and is about half life-size. The 1R (First Run) stamped Pekepekas are all fairly close to maximum weight, but RPM plan to do a run of lighter discs down into the low 160s in the future, so this will be an excellent option for lower power players.


Conclusion

Simon, Woody, Jackson, and Marty at RPM are to be congratulated on producing a disc of wide appeal, and easy flight shape. Not a pure beginner’s disc, but a brilliant addition to the bag of any other player. Here at Vortica, we’re excited to see another widely appealing mould from RPM, and we’re greatly encouraged by the quality and flight shape of the Pekapeka.


The long-tailed New Zealand bat – Chalinolobus tuberculatus

When the continent of Zealandia broke away from Australia around 80 million years ago, mammals had yet to evolve and thrive, and so only three species of mammal are endemic to New Zealand. All three are bats and were blown here from Australia in the very distant past. Only two species remain in 2021.

The almost cute Pekapeka, NZ's native long-tailed bat.

It is a lovely coincidence, but one of the only places in NZ you can regularly see Pekapeka in nature is at the Paradise Plates event south of Queenstown. Just before dusk, they take to the sky around the margins of the Paradise forest, especially at the Garden Of Eden and around a massive eucalyptus there. The bats are tiny – with a wingspan typically around 20-25cm, and each time they flap their wings, they leave a tiny Batman symbol in the evening sky. Often they explore the forest floor at night, looking for insects – their main food source.


To see one, or a group feeding on the wing is a truly special experience and yet another excellent reason to play the Paradise Plates event.

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