INTRO: From the front line at the Red Bull King of the Air
WORDS - Kiteworld editor, Jim Gaunt
CAPTION | 3rd place Steven Akkersdijk, 1st place Kevin Langeree, 3rd place Ruben Lenten / PHOTO | Craig Kolesky / Nikon / Red Bull Content Pool
CAPTION | King Kevin with the King of the Air trophy / PHOTO | Craig Kolesky / Nikon / Red Bull Content Pool
Well, if you were one of the 6,000 people on the beach, or if you caught the live stream from the Red Bull King of the Air yesterday, you will have probably been totally absorbed by the kitesurfing action going on at Big Bay, Cape Town. On top of that, every rider I spoke to was seemingly having even more fun than the cheering crowd, each raving about the view they had from the air each time they hucked a jump and looked back over the masses of people on the beach and on the grassy bank.
This is the second official Red Bull King of the Air in two years, last year's event won of course by Jesse Richman (with an unofficial prelude event in 2012 in the form of the Len10 Mega Loop Challenge, which was won by Lewis Crathern).
It really was more like being at a football match than a kitesurfing match. Weaving my way along the beach to grab and interview riders it was amazing how close people could get to the action. The high tide at Big Bay comes right up to the grassy bank and many were stood for most of the event with their feet in the water's edge with rider's boosting just a few metres away. Ringside for the ultimate big air wrestle they were.
Red Bull decided to stop running the King of the Air in 2002 because the event wasn't producing anything new and they like to support progression. The event returned eight years later injected with the thrill of the mega loop.
Yesterday's event allowed for an increase in scoring for variety shown by riders than last year's event resulting in Kevin Langeree taking the win with a consummate ease in throwing enourmous big airs, the softest touchdowns but also showed his immense competition experience releasing the odd mega loop in the later rounds to also tick the extreme box.
Huge praise must also go to Ruben Lenten for coming in second and performing with his consistent and unique style incorporating his late grabbed and tweaked powerful loop variations. He has a lot to do with this event and the pressure on him to perform in an event so focused on 'extreme' is considerable. Steven Akkersdijk completed the all-Dutch podium thanks to a series of the dirtiest mega loops that we say yesterday, frequently getting above his kite.
I had the pleasure of being on the organisational committee for the King of the Air once again this year, and also moved from the judging tower to become live stream beach reporter, giving me a front row view of the action. I'll be attempting to break down the impact that yesterday's event could have on the sport with the help of the key riders who put a lot on the line yesterday.
Big thanks to Red Bull for putting the event on and huge respect to event director Sergio Cantagalli who held strong, resisted the urge to run the event days earlier and was rewarded with the windiest conditions we've probably seen in a full day in Cape Town this side of the new year. Race Director Olaf Van Tol ran a super clean event programme, Alex Vliege and his team of judges picked their way through the heats well and of course the riders for putting on such a good show.
You can catch the Live Stream in full again, with commentators Brad Symington and Colin Heckroodt, who are joined throughout the event by Kiteworld's very own head tester Chris Bull, plus competitors Lewis Crathern and Sam Light.
Issue #68 will feature our full report from behind the scenes of the King of the Air and will be out in March. SUBSCRIBE HERE
Check out EPISODE 12 OF THE KITE SHOW, guest hosted by Ruben Lenten and with guests Jesse Richman and Sam Light.