Go behind the scenes with Aaron Hadlow and filmmaker Laci Kobulsky as we investigate their new project, TWENTY, a full-length kiteboarding film. Get to know these two a little bit more and find out about possibly the biggest kite movie of the year by checking out the article!
In 2018, one of the most respected figures in kiteboarding – Aaron Hadlow — dedicated his time to filming a full-length kiteboarding movie called “TWENTY”. He teamed up with Eastern-European filmmaker Laci Kobulsky, and together they give us a glimpse at the movie’s first shooting location.
Aaron Hadlow on Cape Town, Red Bull King of the Air, and the Future of Big Air
How did I get to Cape Town?
My parents brought me to Cape Town for the first time in 2001. By skipping the cold winter in England and continuing to kite, I improved a lot. Every year, we continued to go and that fast-tracked me to a level where I could compete on the world tour. I found that the harsh conditions prepared me well for the long competition season in different spots around the world. Nowadays, it is home to the Red Bull King of the Air, and I focus on Big Air during my time in the area.
I think by visiting Cape Town year after year, my kiteboarding became refined and consistent. I would spend my time learning the moves, and by mastering them there, that meant I could take anything the conditions on the World Tour could throw at me. We have been to some tough kite spots over the years, so that helped me out.
Now there is a lot of talk about big air, Red Bull King of the Air and a new tour. Cape Town has played a massive part in all of this development. The wind there allows you to jump and push this side of the sport like nowhere else. Over the years, I have become comfortable in these intense conditions, and this is why it is a discipline that I like and can do well in.
Cape Town Then & Now
The area where the majority of kiteboarders go is Table View. It is unrecognisable compared with when I first arrived. The rate of which building and suburbs are created is alarming— for example, Big Bay was once a small road with a run-down car park and small lifesaving shack. Now, Big Bay has two shopping malls, high-rise apartments and many new estates. The beach and vibe is pretty much ruined because of it! But the wind continues to blow, so the people continue to come for the great lifestyle and hard but consistent winds. The main difference on the water is the number of kiteboarders. It shows how much the sport has grown. I can remember kiting the full length of the main beach with maybe 5-10 kites during my first year. As anyone that has visited recently knows, that is just unimaginable today.
Best Spots Around
The main beach in Table View is great for a bit of everything. I like to ride big air and hit kickers. You’ll also see people wave riding and doing a bit of freestyle. If you head to Cape Point, there are a few spots out there that work well for big air as the waves are bigger and the wind is stronger. You can visit Langebaan for some flat water; a great spot for learning and freestyle. If you are willing to travel around a bit there are some excellent spots up the coast, so you can pick your conditions and keep it fresh if you are there for a longer duration.
There is something about the wind in Cape Town that boosts you. The consistency of powerful wind and the cross-shore angle that it blows gives you a perfect 90 degrees to square up to the waves for a massive launch and take off. You can also travel to the point to upgrade the wind speed and wave height. For confident big air riders, it is a challenging spot and allows you to learn a lot.
Me And Big Air
I learnt to kite in 2000, so I have seen the sport evolve. Back then, there was only big air, so I guess I have been at it since then. Year after year in Cape Town, Ruben and myself pushed each other to do the biggest kite loops— even back in the mid-2000s. I competed in the KOTA back when it was in Hawaii and again since the event has made its comeback. Luckily, riding in these strong winds comes naturally to me and doing well at the last few KOTAs has given me the motivation to take it further.
For me, it is the adrenaline that makes me always come back to big air. It really can get my heart pumping. There is an element of risk involved, but once you are out there the rush is unreal, and the feeling of some of these moves are amazing.
Sometimes, when the conditions are challenging, I can be a bit nervous before heading out there, but honestly, once I get on the water, I feel at home. Yes, there are some risks, and in a competition environment, these grow as we push closer to our limits. I’ve learned to believe in my ability and commit to the tricks. The reward is satisfying.
My Biggest Achievements in Big Air
I have a had a few great years at the Red Bull King of the Air with two victories, a 2nd and 4th. The last two years were disappointing as I know I had what it takes to win, but sometimes it just doesn't work out in competition. I am happy to have landed some big moves that are rare in the sport, like the mega loop handle pass, which is the highest risk move in the sport. Also, this year, I wanted to learn a mega loop board off to have it in my bag of tricks.
I arrived in Cape Town one month before the event. When I arrived, I heard a lot of talk and saw a few people trying kite loop board offs. I knew it could come in handy, so I spent some time giving it a go. In the event, I managed to take it one step further with a front roll. This won the best trick at the event and was a good trick for me to land as most people associate me with handle passes and a more technical style.
It is hard to see where the big air discipline will go next. Despite being around since the start of the sport, the format in this new era is hard to lock down because it is very expressive and subjective. There are more people taking it seriously and more events popping up. With time, I think the format will iron itself out. I would like to keep pushing the extreme side of the discipline. The show factor is great, but certain conditions and tricks can be taken to another level and change the game entirely.
The Story Before The Movie
Honestly, if you would tell me three years ago that I would be filming a kiteboarding movie with legendary Aaron Hadlow, I could only laugh. How, then, have we embarked on this journey? Well, it was all a matter of passion and good timing. Aaron visited Brasil during the time I was working there, and I shot few clips, nothing big but enough to introduce the two of us. One year later, I was working in Sicily, and he came to visit the spot for three days. I took him around and filmed him on a long lens from a tripod in order not to get in the way. Conditions were super, and he managed to land some incredible tricks. After we checked them on the computer, he decided to stay later and focus on a proper video edit. I was keen, so we ended up with an edit called “Reflection”.
Two years after that, I contacted Aaron to see if he would like to make another edit, but he surprised me when he wanted instead to shoot a long movie project! Without realising the implications, I said YES and went full in…
We can all agree that Aaron is one of the most iconic and unique riders in kiteboarding. He has contributed to many disciplines like nobody else. The concept for the movie is to showcase each discipline he is involved in; big air, wakestyle, and park. For each discipline, we chose the best spot, so throughout the whole year, we are travelling together in search of the best conditions for each of these disciplines. The final movie will be not only about the tricks; it should give the viewer the idea of each discipline, describe what moves are dangerous, difficult and while also offering a taste of the excitement of each style. We will also show viewers a little bit of our travel story and, of course, hit on the history and development of Aaron’s influence with each discipline.
Oh yes, the name of the movie is “Aaron Hadlow: TWENTY”, try to figure out what it is supposed to mean…
First stop – Cape Town:
First stop of our journey was Cape Town – I guess every kiter can guess that the discipline we wanted to focus on there was big air. This place is a second home to Aaron, and you cannot find better conditions around the world for extreme big air kitesurfing.
The start of the shoot was a failure. I went to take my flight, and I found out that the RSA started a VISA policy for my country (Slovakia) last year, so I had to move my trip one week later and travel to the embassy to get things sorted out. Luckily, it all went fine, and I managed to get there a few days before the Red Bull King of the Air.
We did not shoot much before the event since Aaron was saving his power for this event, which is right now pretty much the biggest competition in kitesurfing. It would have been good for the movie if he would have won his third title, but I was still happy with his best trick – mega loop board off front roll. Making new innovative moves is what Aaron is famous for.
Cape Town all-in-all was a difficult one. We were shooting a lot of stuff, interviews with Aaron’s friends and parents, Aaron kiting with his dad and, of course, extreme kiteboarding, which is very demanding for the athlete. For me, the big challenge was how the action was so far away from the beach. Usually I like to film everything up close, so the viewer can feel right in the middle of the action. In Cape Town the wave breaks quite far out, so all the mega loop madness is happening really far away, which we know from the camera angles from various edits. We wanted to get something different and better for this movie. The rescue came in from my Mavic Pro drone. While it does not have the best camera on the drone market, it is far superior with its flight skills. I managed to fly this small guy in up to 30+ knots of wind, so we captured the enormous mega loops launched from the big waves outside. Some of the action you can watch in first episode of new Internet show Aaron Airs, but the good stuff will come out later…
Three Highlights From The Shoot:
- Aaron kiting together with his dad in Langebaan – It is always nice to see a passion in sport deeply rooted in family. Aaron’s parents are one of the main reasons he is so successful up to this day. They supported him from beginning, traveled together to spots and competitions and trained together. His dad Ian spends most of his days now on a mountain bike, but he went back on his kite, and I was able to capture some fantastic drone footage. The best was when both Hadlows tried to jump together, and it was Ian who managed to land while his son crashed! His father’s still got it haha.
- Mega loops on the drone – We wanted to show unique angles for the movie and something not ordinarily seen are huge mega loops from the drone, since they are performed in very strong winds of 30+ knots which are usually too much for drones to handle. But I found out that Mavic Pro can manage to go slowly upwind (4-5 km/h) when in sport mode. We are looking forward to sharing this footage with you!
- New trick – More than anything, Aaron is known as an innovator. During his early career, he brought many tricks and its variations into kiteboarding. Of course, with age and progression of the sport it became harder. Most of the doable variations were already adapted by kiters and the most dangerous ones are tested by young, motivated riders who don’t have a sense of fear. I was stoked that Aaron was still able to do new variations of mega loops with board offs, as we saw in Red Bull King of the Air.
What Is Next
With one discipline finished, we have two more to go. You will find our next destinations in following articles. You can always follow the hashtag #aaronhadlow20 to get a sneak peek. We will also keep you up to date in our show Aaron Airs, and the movie will premiere at the beginning of 2019. After that, you will also be able to watch it online. Stay tuned!
By Laci KobulskyProfessional kitesurfer for CrazyFly Kites, his passion is wakestyle, but also video & photo production. Currently he is helping Alby Rondina to manage his kite center in Sicily.