REGION — This weekend, a 27,000-gallon “ocean” in front of the San Diego Air and Space Museum will host eight rousing World War II-era battles between battleships, heavy cruisers, light cruisers and submarines of the Axis and Allied powers.
And at the center of the action is San Marcos resident Rob Wood.
Wood, who recently moved from the Bay Area to North County, has organized these “battles” — waged between radio-controlled robotic model warships — since 2007 in the Bay Area.
On Saturday, Balboa Park will play host to the city’s first Battle Pond as part of the inaugural Balboa Park Maker Faire, billed as a “family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement.”
“We’re really excited about bringing the action to San Diego,” said Wood, who moved to San Marcos in May after living in the Bay Area for 33 years. “It is definitely a unique experience.”
The battle takes place on the 27,000-gallon pool, which is populated with 20 three- to six-foot-long wooden replica battleships outfitted with ball-bearing artillery.
During a battle, selected audience members get to control a ship’s direction and gunfire with a remote control, while the crowd cheers for their “team” (the audience is divided into Axis vs. Allies). The side with the last floating ship is the winner.
Videos of Battle Ponds in the Bay Area show thousands of people populating rows of bleachers around the pond, cheering as the opponent’s ships are pelted with cannon fire.
For the first time out in San Diego, Wood said the bleachers will only fit 600 people, but he expects seats to go fast because of the demographic San Diego serves.
“I think the battle pond is definitely one of most popular attractions in the Bay Area, and it is not a Navy town,” Wood said. “Even though it’s the first year, San Diego is a Navy town. I think that when word gets out and if it is promoted properly, a lot of active duty and retired Navy people will be coming to these battles.”
Wood said that the Western Warship Combat Club, of which he is a member, just finished building seven cruisers that will be operated by people chosen out of the audience — one will be reserved for an active-duty naval officer — which also will generate more interest in the event.
“It’s addicting,” he said.
Wood, who describes himself as having “Navy in my blood,” got his start in model ship warfare in 2002, after he decided to give up his longtime hobby of giant-scale model airplane racing.
“It is very competitive and very expensive,” he said. “In those races you have these huge mid-air collisions that destroy the planes, and I was tired of going home with my pride and joy in a garbage bag.”
He saw his first battle in 2002 and “got hooked.”
Wood said he is excited to get others hooked in his new home region after seeing it become so popular in the Bay Area.
The Maker Faire is Oct. 3 and Oct. 4 in Balboa Park. Visit sdmakerfaire.org/ for ticket prices and exhibit information.