King of the Air 2019 Round-Up
One of the biggest competitions in the world of kitesurfing finished last weekend with yet more thrilling, edge-of-the-seat spectating as riders put on a show that certainly did not disappoint the thousands that turned out to watch. Stakes were high, conditions were testing but in the end, there could only be one winner. Everyone at F-One would like to say a huge congratulations to Dutchman Kevin Langaree who won his third King of the Air title! We thought we’d give all those who are interested a little run down of the history, rules and results of this competition, including how some of our very own riders got on this year.
For those that are perhaps new to kitesurfing or unfamiliar with this event, Red Bull have been hosting the competition now for 19 years, after launching in Ho’okipa on the Hawaiian islands of Maui in 2000. Kites were raw, powerful, dangerous and, compared to what’s on offer today, uncomplicated and safety measures were few and far between. Hailed as the ‘fastest growing water sport in the world’, the equipment used in kiteboarding accelerated in line with its popularity and the format of the competition changed as these advances left more room for manoeuvre(s). The event has since moved to South Africa and has taken place at various bays there before it was moved to kite beach for the first-time last year, which is where it will remain for the foreseeable.
Previous winners include:
2013: Jesse Richman, USA.
2014, 2018: Kevin Langeree, The Netherlands.
2015, 2016: Aaron Hadlow, UK.
2017: Nick Jacobsen, Denmark.
The event is invitational only and the top 9 competitors from the previous year alongside 9 from the ranking of online video competitions and wildcards are involved, ensuring that only the elite of the elite take part each year. Safety and fair play are two of the most important factors in judging the competition and any riders deemed to be unsafe in their performance will be disqualified immediately. Judges use the categories of Big Air and Overall Impression in order to rank the competitors, the latter of which is determined by 70% height and 30% extremity. There is no limit to the number of moves or combinations a rider can attempt throughout the duration of a heat, but only the best three tricks will contribute toward the final result. Variety is key here, as the overall goal is to crown the most complete Extreme Big Air rider as the winner.
The Competition: 2019
In terms of this year’s competition, it’s been a nerve-wracking few days over in Cape Town as kitesurfers from far and wide awaited the favourable conditions needed in order to finish the event and crown a winner. Many have dubbed it the ‘worst ever’ for wind – a big shout by all accounts as those involved with past competitions can attest, but certainly a tall ask for competitors. Even riders at the top of the game were struggling to use their expertise in these less than desirable conditions and performances were hit and miss. The first few rounds were fantastic to watch and some of the best boarders the world has ever seen were shredding out on the water, but everyone was looking forward with anticipation for finals.
The first semi-final featured F One rider Liam Whaley up against Lasse Walker, and it seemed nothing could stop Liam as he perfected one huge sent handle-pass after another, firing him into the final. Nick Jacobsen and Jesse Richman were put up against each other in the next semi, both crowd-pleasers that were sure to put on a show for the spectators. It did not disappoint and after a gruelling battle to the end, Jesse went that little bit higher to confirm his place in the final and another legend of the competition was sent to the stands. The third and final semi-final saw F-One rider Aurélien Pétreau against last year’s winner, Kevin Langeree. A tough draw by all accounts, but Aurélien put on a fantastic display featuring huge board-off kiteloops and a fantastic variety of tricks and manoeuvres to threaten Kevin’s bid for a consecutive title. In what was the closest semi-final, Aurélien just lost out to the Dutchman with his head held high after a phenomenal performance.
The final showdown was as thrilling as you might expect and then some, with the stakes high for every competitor. It was 12-minutes of jaw-dropping jumps, testing tricks and mesmerising manoeuvres, and Kevin pushed himself to the very limit and crashed; a rare occurrence for a kiter of his level. After a fantastic final, Kevin Langeree made history to become the first person to win the KOTA three times, with Jesse taking second and Liam taking third.
Visiting the Event:
Whether you’re a keen rider in awe of the professionals or you love to spectate exciting and adrenaline-fuelled events, why not put next year’s King of the Air event in your calendar? Many won’t need an excuse to visit South Africa, and there’s plenty of opportunities to get some time on the water for yourself between heats. Check out our extensive range of kitesurfing equipment, including twin tip boards, so you can try a few tricks of your own while you’re there. Remember sun cream and sun glasses so you can fully appreciate just how high the riders can go, as well as food, water and something comfy to sit on. Spectators should also bring loud voices and words of encouragement – nothing shoots a rider up into the air quite like the support of a crowd.
We hope you enjoyed our update on the King of the Air 2019; we already can’t wait for next year! Take a look at some of the other events coming up this year with our recent blog post, Kite-surfing Events in 2019. Did you go and watch the competition or have plans to visit next year? Let us know via the comments on our social media channels!