The dust has settled, and the Cape Doctor has gone back to rest. Day 1 of the 2023 Red Bull King of the Air is a wrap, and we’re still reeling from the results! Wednesday’s event was a reminder that there are no certainties in competitive kiteboarding. With some big upsets and some surprising Round 2 eliminations, the identity of the next King remains a mystery.

While we impatiently await the next strong southeaster, when the event will pick up from Round 3, we’ve rounded up some of the key moments and hottest topics from Day 1 of King of the Air!

Jeremy Burlando on Top Form

There were no surprises from Jeremy Burlando in Round 1 Heat 1, and it’s clear that JBo has truly found his form. With the highest-scoring heat of the day (25.76), including the highest-scoring trick (7.2), he is one to watch on Day 2. We’re unsure if it’s the kid or the kite, but we know Jeremy is on his way up!

Lots of love for Edgar Ulrich

For anyone who was questioning if Edgar Ulrich could still be competitive after taking 12 weeks off from kiting to take part in (and win!) France’s Love Island, the question has been answered. Edgar had a mega heat in Round 1 Heat 2 and got a higher score than one of this year’s favourites, Andrea Principi! Edgar earned a ticket straight to Round 3 and put Andrea into one of the hardest match-ups of the day.

King vs. the Prince

In an exciting heat between Marc Jacobs, Josue Ferreira, and Joshua Emanuel, 2021 Red Bull King of the Air, Marc Jacobs, showed us that this year may not be a repeat of last year, and the youth will have to fight if they want to get anywhere near the finals! Marc showed supreme control with heat without any crashes and clinched his spot in Round 3, but Josue bounced back in Round 2, showing that he won’t go down easy!

South Africans are a force to be reckoned with!

Jason Van Der Spuy and Luca Ceruti showed off the results of their hard work, both taking 1st place in their heats! Jason pipped Jamie Overbeek and two-time King of the Air Aaron Hadlow in Round 1 Heat 3 before heading back to the beach to support his training partner and friend, Luca Ceruti. Luca put together a flawless heat, showing more consistency than competitors Giel Vlugt and Beto Gomez. Both of the boys are straight through to Round 3!

Lorenzo Casati is Back in Action

King Casati is back with a whole new set of equipment. His all-new Harlem Force kite turned heads on the beaches of Blouberg, and he proved that he’s here to get back on the podium with a strong performance in his first heat, Round 1 Heat 6 against Stijn Mul and Timo Boersema. We’re looking forward to seeing how he does in Round 3 against Aaron Hadlow, one of the most successful kiters of all time.

Hadlow Still Has It!

In Aaron Hadlow’s 10th appearance in the Red Bull King of the Air, he showed that experience offers a clear advantage. Aaron has some new tricks in the bag, and while he had to fight his way through Round 2 and Arthur Guillebert to secure his spot in Round 3, we know he’s still got a few cards up his sleeve to play against Casati in their face-off.

Cohan Van Dijk Exits Early

In one of the biggest upsets of the competition, Cohan Van Dijk exited in Round 2, in an insane match-up against Andrea Principi. In a Round 2 heat that could have been a semifinal or final, this one was sure to end in heartbreak, and today, it was Cohan with a ticket home. It was an unlucky matchup so early in the event, but we know we’ll see Cohan again soon!

But Was it Windy?

With some whisperings that the wind was too light, it’s clear that KOTA 2023, at least on the first day, did not deliver quite as much wind as 2022. However, the wind was blowing, and the kickers were about as good as it gets. The nature of a big air competition means that you have to be the best on the day, and deal with whatever the conditions are. Lighter wind may mean whipping out a different strategy, and this unknown component can result in some real excitement!

With an unusually quiet wind window, not going for it on a day with enough wind to get things started would have been taking an unnecessary risk. With strong wind conditions not guaranteed before the end of the wind period, holding off could have meant the difference between having a 2023 King of the Air or not. Luckily, there is another promising day of wind to complete the event next week, so stay tuned!

The King of the Scoring Sheets

Going out and sending your best tricks won’t be enough to claim the title. Strategy is everything in King of the Air, and knowing the judging criteria inside and out is essential to being able to maximise your scores. The judges look for the 3 highest scoring tricks and add an overall impression or variety score to calculate the final heat score.

This year, the judges have emphasised that they want to see height, and lots of it, with a nice mix of extremity and technicality! High jumps with extreme kite angles and some spicy rotations (body and board) will get the highest scores. Judges also clarified that the actions before and during the loop are the most important and that several spins after the loop, while the rider is already descending, won’t count. However, we are certain that the extra grabs and spins impact the overall impression.

Overall, the impression has proven to be a make-or-break element of building a heat, and doing tricks to the inside (right foot forward, near the beach) and implementing handle pass tricks look to have had a major impact on overall impression scores. This overall impression score was the source of some big upsets in Round 1! You can find out a bit more about the detailed Judging Criteria to prepare yourself for Day 2 of the event here.

If you haven’t had a chance to watch Day 1 of the 2023 Red Bull King of the Air, you can watch the entire replay on the Red Bull website!

Keep an eye on our social media channels for the Day 2 announcement!

Header Photo of Beto Gomez by Craig Kolesky / Red Bull Content Pool

Profile Photo of the 2023 Red Bull King of the Air trophy by Craig Kolesky / Red Bull Content Pool

Fri 1st Dec, 2023 @ 6:00 pm

By Crystal Veness
Editor at IKSURFMAG, Crystal Veness hails from Canada but is based in South Africa. When she isn't busy kitesurfing or reporting on the latest industry news for the mag, she is kicking back somewhere at a windy kite beach or working on creative media projects.

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