Red Bull King Of The Air First Round Replay and Report!
Unless you have been living under a rock, you will be aware that the biggest kitesurfing event in our sport went down in South Africa today! Spoiler Alert, if you haven’t seen it yet watch the replay before reading the article. Sadly the wind gods didn’t quite deliver as we had hoped, and like a hung-over co-worker they showed up a tad late and arguably a dollar short!
The good news is that despite waiting nearly 5 hours for the event to get underway, it did finally get going with the wind touching 20knots at Big Bay in Cape Town. It was a tough call for the organisers and an even tougher job for the riders. Ideally they would like at least 35knots and really anything over 40 is needed to deliver the spectacle everyone had come to see.
In that tough first heat were Jesse Richman (2013 King), Sam Light, Billy Parker and newcomer Lasse Walker. The wind gods were smiling though and within minutes of the heat starting the wind filled in a little more allowing guys like Jesse and Billy to really get to grips with the conditions. Sam rode well, but the light winds didn’t play to his powered style and choice of boots. It was the same tale for Lasse and he went out first, looking underpowered and not really in contention despite getting a few kite loops in.
Fair play to those first four riders for taking on the first heat and taking up the challenge of riding in front of so many people in less than ideal conditions. For us it was Jesse Richman who looked the most dominant with Billy Parker impressing with his variety, pulling a huge kiteloop, a massive board off and getting some decent height.
In the end the judges gave it to Billy Parker, the commentators were somewhat incredulous, the shock apparent in their voices, as it was in our own heads. We had it pinned with Sam and Jesse and with Jim Gaunt interviewing both those riders as if they had gone through to the third round we were left scratching our heads. Perhaps the judges had seen something we hadn’t?
“Great first day at the #KingoftheAir. Stoked to make it through my heat and advance to the 3rd round. Really stoked to be back out there and pumped for the rest of this event. Had a few flash backs to my last heat out there and glad this one went a lot better and was way more fun. Feeling strong, stoked and ready for a wild day of action tomorrow.”
Heat number two took to the water in quick succession, hats off to the organisers for running everything like clockwork, it was a very smooth affair with exceedingly short transitions between the heats! Heat two was largely a Dutch affair with Steven Akkersdijk, Jerrie Van De Kop and Kevin Smidt all ganging up on Nico Etienne the wildcard rider from France.
Unlike the first heat, which was a 50/50 mix of boots and straps, Heat 2 was a fully suited and booted affair. For us the standout rider was Nico Etienne in this heat, he was going huge and the stats from the Woo Sports tracker echoed that as well, placing him top 5 overall for the day with a height of 10.9m, which was impressive considering the building winds.
Kevin De Smidt bowed out early on this one, nothing to do with his fine ginger mop we are sure. It was a very tough heat to call, the wind was up and down like a whores drawers and the mega loops that all the booted riders wanted to do were a bit of a lottery. On big kites you sometimes get round and sometimes you don’t… In the end the heat went to Jerrie Van De Kop, with Steven Akkersdijk taking second place and both those riders making it into the third round.
The Red Bull King Of The Air uses a double elimination format, which means that if you get knocked out in the first heat you have another chance to battle it out with the other losers in the second round. The first two riders of each heat would progress to the coveted Round 3 spots and the last two left to battle it out once again.
It’s a solid format and does mean that you get a second chance, this gives riders a chance to throw caution to the wind in the first round and they were certainly giving it all they had. Whilst the wind may not have been ideal, the riders class and ability rose above it to put on a cracking show!
Heat 3 saw the master himself Ruben Lenten battling it out with DJ Superstar Gianni Aragno, Antonin Rangin and Sam Medysky. Ruben was the only rider opting to wear boots in this one and we were treated to some amazing tricks. Sam Medysky pulled off an awesome board flip, super risky when you consider if you drop your board you are going to end up miles away from it, but he landed it smoothly sending the crowd wild!
Antonin was also pushing hard but had some really hard crashes too, he literally exploded on impact in one crash and lost his board. Gianni Aragno was doing some huge jumps and some nice kiteloops, but the best loop of the heat award went to the legend that is Ruben. Despite the tricky winds he was nailing it and looked totally focused.
In the end Sam went out first, which we felt was a little misguided and Ruben Antonin and Gianni were left to battle it out for the rest of the heat. When the red flag came up it stayed in that order with Ruben and Antonin getting the coveted 3rd round spots. Ruben was obviously stoked to go through, it is arguably his competition, yet one he has never won!
“Luckily I was pretty powered with my Best Kiteboarding LEN10 Extract 11m prototype that I had never ridden before but there were some big lows in the wind, which made the impact on the body quite hardcore. Taking all that risk wasn’t for nothing though, I came out on top in my heat so I progressed immediately to heat 11 in round 3.”
5 times World Champ Aaron Hadlow was a crowd favourite for the next heat and he didn’t disappoint. This was one of best heats of the day with Aaron totally dominating getting a mix of handlepasses, kiteloops and huge airs! Reno Romeu, Alexandre Neto and Joshua Emanuel were a mere sideshow in a masterclass from one of the best kiters on the planet!
Reno impressed with some huge jumps and Alex and Joshua did well to get some big moves in, Alex went out first and then predictably Aaron took the heat win with Reno in second and local boy Joshua taking the third place spot. Aaron also jumped up the Woo Sports leader board with a huge jump of 11.8m and hangtime of 9.5 seconds, smashing the previous efforts that had gone before him.
“I’ll be up against current #kingoftheair @kevinlangeree and team mate Tom Hebert in the 3rd round tomorrow.”
Heat 5 was another nail biter with King Of The Air hero Tom Hebert heading up against the man that touched the sky, Lewis Crathern. Local rider Andries Fourie and Tiem Ritveld had a tough time ahead of them to catch the judges attention. Tom was riding well powered up on his North Evo and as usual went huge, although we didn’t see the usual showboating he is known for. Perhaps he is saving something for later in the comp, opting to play it safe in the early rounds.
Lewis was looking underpowered riding his boots and switched kites early in the heat to give him some more power. As usual the wind was starting to spoil the show and with the sun setting the conditions were getting harder and harder. Tom put in a huge leap of 13.1m to take the crown on the Woo Sports leader board for the day.
It was Lewis however who impressed the judges the most and convincingly won the heat leaving Tiem and Andries to battle it out again in Round 2. Despite flashes of brilliance the conditions were really starting to take their toll as the day drew shorter. The Cape Doctor is known to “pulse” as the sun sets and some riders were getting lucky thumps of wind while others were left falling from great heights, or worse still, not even getting up there.
“It was a great day even though only the first part of the event was ran, I won my first heat and I’m into the 3rd Round! Stoked”
With just one heat to go left in the first round and the organisers keen to push on Kevin Langeree, Nick Jacobsen, Luke McGillewie and Johnno Scholte took to the water. It’s fair to say this competition is dominated by Dutchmen and with two great riders from Holland going against the big Dane Nick and local hero Luke we were set for a real last stand showdown.
“If it ‘aint Dutch it ‘aint much” the saying goes, maximum respect goes to Kevin Langeree who was riding with an injury. He crashed on his surfboard yesterday and needed eight stitches in his hand! With a washing up glove on to keep the seawater out he put on an impressive display that made him look far from injured!
Nick was also very impressive riding his brand new kite from Cabrinha that he has been working on with Pat Goodman the designer there. We didn’t see his signature one footed mega loop, but we did see some huge airs. Strapless wave rider Luke was proving he hadn’t forgotten his roots and got some decent hangtime in too, but in the end it was the Kevin and Nick show.
“Really stoked to have won my first heat today and it’s nice to get the dust of the board. Not that my boards ever get dusty but you know what I mean wink emoticon. My hand is feeling better than I had expected.”
As the sun set the final heat was declared with Kevin winning and Nick also progressing and Luke and Johnno being the last of the losers to head to round 2 tomorrow. Despite waiting for nearly 5 hours for the wind to show up the organisers and riders did an amazing job to get through 6 full heats of competition. Lets hope Mother Nature plays ball tomorrow and the Cape Doctor is on time!
The amazing talent on display, some of the riders are in a class of their own and proved that despite tricky conditions they can really go massive and still put on a show!
The team behind the event for pulling off what could easily have been a washout!
Riders like Tom, Aaron, Johnno, Nico, Kevin, Jesse and Jerrie for all going over 10m despite the wind being pretty light!
Red Bull and all the team involved for live streaming the event, amazing!
Woo Sports for providing some pretty impressive tracking information.
The commentary online was lacking once again, the guys are kiters, yet apparently can’t tell the difference between an Evo and a Vegas, their background info is also seriously flawed and sometimes it just made the whole thing painful to watch. To someone who knows nothing about kiting, it is fine, to the trained eye it’s a poor show.
Commentary at #kingoftheair is terrible… Can't tell between an Evo and a Vegas, Lancing has a pier and Tom Hebert grew up on a 14ft boat!
— Kite Bro (@kitebro4reals) February 11, 2015
The moment they considered running more heats after Heat 6 when the wind had clearly deserted the event, we were worried for a second or two!
The wind not really playing ball, this event really needs to be 40 knots plus!
The wipeouts, some of them were hideous, luckily there were no serious injuries!
A couple of the heats where the wind left for a bit, no one wants to see a kiter getting 10 foot of air in a big air comp!
The Next Round!
Overall we can’t wait to see the rest of the event at the moment the organisers are waiting for the best wind to run the event which looks like tomorrow or Saturday, we’ll be streaming it live once again and will let you know when the event is happening! Lets hope the Cape Doctor shows up in a real angry mood and blows us all away!
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