From 27 January to 11 February the world’s kitesurfing champs will descend on Cape Town to compete in a big air kitesurfing contest of world renown. The best of the best will face each other to determine who the King of the Air is. During the competition period the legendary Cape Doctor hits wind speeds of over 30 knots. Contestants are provided with perfect swells to wow the judges with their best extreme maneuvers.
In this year’s competition the top nine kiteboard champs from last year will go up against nine new riders that were chosen from video submissions. Watch them master the waves and see who can walk away with the sought-after title. An exciting new location has been announced for this year’s competition. Kite Beach, Blouberg, will offer riders more consistent wind speeds. Be prepared to see bigger and bolder moves!
The Competition: History
The first Red Bull King of the Air was hosted in Maui in 2000. The Hawaiian island’s famous windsurfing spot, Ho’okipa, was perfect for the riders to show off big air moves. Back in the day, kite technology was still in its infancy, the raw power of the kites leaned to the dangerous side.
The event was hosted in Maui five years in a row as the biggest annual kitesurfing event. But as the sport went through its growing pains, a lot of pro riders lost interest in big air maneuvers. The competition started to feel like same old year after year.
But then new equipment breathed fresh wind into kitesurfing’s sails and the elite riders became more interested in honing their skills, showing off style and technicality. The focus on the moves did entail that most tricks were performed closer to the water, almost like wakeboarding or normal surfing.
Around 2007/08, a few kite surfers like Ruben Lenten became jaded by the state of kitesurfing competition formats. They started experimenting with wind speeds to test the limits of kitesurfing equipment. Hunting for stronger and stronger winds, they began trying to go higher and further. Previously these conditions were seen as “unride-able” winds.
The more comfortable these riders became with testing their skills against the wind, the more they experimented. Soon the “mega loop” was born. This is the moment the rider forces the kite into a huge loop, oftentimes the kite going underneath them while in the sky. These can be done up to 40 feet high. The challenge is then to maneuver the kite right-side up again before the rider lands.
In 2012 Ruben Lenten and a few other passionate kite surfers launched the Red Bull Len10 Megaloop Challenge, hosted in Big Bay, South Africa. Lewis Crathern (UK) took the title that year. And so the Red Bull King of the Air competition was revived after eight years in hibernation.
In 2013 the competition had 24 of the world’s best kite surfers compete for the title of King of the Air. The competition attracted the most extreme big air specialists and they all flocked to Big Bay to show off their skills. Jesse Richman from Hawaii made it to the top after eight hours of epic kitesurfing action. And the rest is history. The Red Bull King of the Air competition brought kitesurfing back to its roots, reviving the essence of the sport.
The Competition: 2018 Lineup
Big names such as Ruben Lenten, Aaron Hadlow and Kevin Langeree are part of this year’s lineup of the world’s best riders. The competition works on a “flag out” format. Each round four riders hit the waves and by the end of the round the lowest-scoring rider gets “torched”. Thereafter the scores go back to zero and the clock is reset. Last man standing is crowned the king. The weather-window opens on the 27th of January and the competition will kick off on the first day with perfect conditions.
Tips for the most epic KOTA experience:
- You will look up at the sky a lot, remember your sunglasses
- The African sun is potent, put on strong sunscreen
- Pack in enough snacks and drink lots of water
- Bring comfortable seating with you
- Don’t be afraid to show your appreciation, hoots from the crowd will put extra wind in the riders’ sails
- Be ready to experience the most extreme big air kitesurfing contest in the world!
Aaron Hadlow (UK) | Ruben Lenten (NL) | Lewis Crathern (UK) |Steven Akkersdijk (NL) |Lasse Walker (NL) | Oswald Smith (RSA) | Reno Romeu (BRA) | Jerrie Van De Kop (NL) | Jesse Richman (USA) | Kevin Langeree (NL) | Aurelien Petreau (FRA) | Joshua Emanuel (RSA) | Marc Jacobs (NZ) | Ross-Dillon Player (RSA) | Antonin Rangin (FRA) | Sam Light (UK) | Gijs Wassenaar (NL) | Liam Whaley (ESP)
This will be next level kitesurfing, an epic experience is guaranteed. Last years’ champ Nick Jacobsen (@nick_jacobsen) has suffered an unfortunate injury and won’t be competing this year. The Danish daredevil broke his fibula in South Africa while training, moments before the event kick-off. He’s put his money on Lasse Walker (@lassewalker) as a big possibility to snatch up the title this year.
Jump in on the discussion: #kitesurfing
Can’t make it to the beach to enjoy the epic kitesurfing action?
Not to fear, you can watch it live on redbull.tv
Alex Vliege | Gregory Thijsse | Reinier Korstanje | Vita Vitezskav Adamicek | Arek Jerzelkowski |Chris Bull
To crown the King of the Air hawk-eyed judges will critique style and technique, rating all the fancy maneuvers that riders will use to try impress them. Who will be the last man standing?
Olaf Van Tol (contest director) | Sergio Cantagalli (sportive director)
To find out more about the competition, visit redbull.com