Red Bull King of the Air veteran Lewis Crathern (UK) takes the win at the Asian qualifiers, securing his wildcard entry into the Red Bull finals in Cape Town next year!
Hosted by the KTA and the SPOT kiteboard centre in Zhunan, Taiwan had been selected for the Asian qualifier, as the country boasts some of the most consistent high wind conditions to be found in Asia. Throughout the winter monsoon months, the wind speeds can average 30kts daily and combined with the locations plentiful supply of ‘wave-ramps’, the venue ticks all the boxes needed for the big air action of the Red Bull King of the Air (KOTA).
Running from the 21-25 November 2019, the event lived up to everyone’s expectations from the word go. The opening day provided great wind that peaked over 30kts at times, for the competitors from the 7 nations who were riding to the max. Each taking every advantage they could from the plentiful supply of ramps, to ‘go big’ and impress the judges.
Given, that many Asian riders do not get too many chances to train in these sorts of high wind conditions in their own countries, it was impressive to see the range of moves and heights these guys were achieving. Notable performances from these early rounds came from Christian Tio (PH) who recently took a Youth Olympic silver medal TTR Boarder X. Asian Champion Yo Narapichit Pudla (TH), Sylvain Seynaeve (BE), Sriwichai Chaengla (TH) and of course Lewis Crathern (UK).
The Asian Champion Pudla, was certainly throwing down the gauntlet in the early rounds, as he put in the most comprehensive heat of the first day that combined a very tidy performance of old school and wake style moves, with plenty of the power and height that the KOTA judges were looking to see. Crathern, as expected, was going big, showing the windswept, but appreciative crowd, exactly why he is one of the sport’s most consistent big air competitors. The 18-year-old Boracay rider Tio was busting out his powerful wake style moves, with Seynaeve and Chaengla looping hard and combining some very stylish board-offs, to make their presence felt.
The weekend of the event although still consistently windy, did not hit the KOTA regulation 25kt min to complete many more rounds of the double eliminator, being run by the Red Bull Competition Director Sergio Cantagalli and Head Judge Alex Vliege.
Those intervening days were not wasted though, as the crew and riders alike took the opportunity to explore Zhunan and join an on water session or two, with the Chinese Taipei Kiteboarding Association crew. Who were in for the weekend to support the event and host a great party bash for the Red Bull riders.
The final day of the KOTA Asian Qualifiers brought back the strong wind, with 35kts and higher at times. So with the local TV news crews and supporters gathered for the day, all were treated to a spectacular display of big air riding in clear skies and near-perfect conditions. The final heats were dusted off with some impressive riding for not only the leading riders but also some lifetime bests from the newer competitors to the scene.
In the end, though the final that had been on the cards, came to be a reality. Chaengla and Seynaeve had ridden brilliantly in their heats but had to settle for the runners-up final, although neither could be disappointed with their performances.
The much-anticipated finals did not disappoint, as all three riders pushed their performances up another gear as they chased the Cape Town wildcard opportunity. Crathern’s experience began to show as he dialled some truly huge mega-loops – very at home in these conditions jumping on his favourite side and picking the right kickers to add that extra boost.
Pudla and Tio though were not letting Crathern out of their sights. Tio, who was also riding in boots like Crathern was beginning to match him jump for jump, with Yo Pudla’s wide range of board-off moves and airtime stamping his mark on the finals also. The normally faultless Pudla, however, did take a couple of mad wipeouts, that left him a long way downwind and losing a lot of time to get back into the jump zone.
Tio rode a pretty much faultless final. He was hard on the heels of Crathern, who held onto his overall lead with the better height and power of his moves. In dying minutes of the 15-minute final, Crathern also dropped back onto the beach, for a quick board change that allowed him to add a final massive board-off, to seal the deal and his place in South Africa.
Top 5 Riders
1. Lewis Crathern (UK)
2. Christian Tio (PH)
3. Yo Narapichit Pudla (TH)
4. Sylvain Seynaeve (BE)
5. Sriwichai Chaengla (TH)
To find out more about the 2020 Red Bull King of The Air, please click here.
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