This interview is taken from Issue #62 - CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO KITEWORLD MAG
INTRO – He came, he ripped he conquered. Still only 20, Jesse was KPWT Champion 2008 and 2009 and in 2007 set the hang-time world record at a staggering 22 seconds. Blessed with massive talent on all the boards we ride and with an ability to hit everything from ramps, waves and sliders, Jesse is an amazing all-round athlete. He's also packed with immense amounts of power, strength, tenacity and, with a low centre of balance, also tends to bounce out of wipeouts still planing. Really good fun on and off the water, he is certainly a popular champion and no one doubted he deserved the title. Here's some reaction from the Hawaiian hurricane himself
CAPTION | 'Thanks boss!' / PHOTO | Craig Kolesky / Nikon / Red Bull Content Pool
CAPTION | Having the strength and technique to unhook and throw massive kite loop handle-passes unlocked the win for Jesse / PHOTO | Craig Kolesky / Nikon / Red Bull Content Pool
You haven't competed full time on a world tour for a few years, but seem to be picking off the key events, such as KSP Mauritius and now this event. Are you just picking and choosing key events that you like the look of?
Pretty much. The KSP Mauritius was an incredible event, just because the conditions were unbelievable. Having the right conditions is really what makes a contest. Since I got the invite from Red Bull for this event around December I've been so stoked. I gave Robby a call and talked it over with him and just said that I have to go to this event. I knew everything about it was going to be incredible and it was in every way. I see more events being run like this, more like the Eddy or the Red Bull Jaws event where, instead of a one week holding period like most world tour events, they have a two week holding period in a spot that is almost guaranteed to produce good conditions, like here in South Africa. Without the right conditions you can't showcase the sport properly. When all the stars line up it can be unbelievable.
Do you get to practice in the type of conditions that we had on Sunday very much?
Yeah, living on Maui we get a lot of conditions really similar to the conditions here in Cape Town. In the summer it gets super windy and gnarly; the kind of conditions I love, for sure.
Were you surprised by the standard of riding at the event?
There were definitely a few riders that I hadn't really heard of, but every single rider absolutely killed it. There wasn't a rider that I didn't think had a chance of winning and you just couldn't predict the end result. It was an incredible group of riders.
Did you have a plan coming into it? A few riders said they just hoped it was too windy for people to unhook; it was for most but you managed successfully a few times. Did you think you had a little edge coming into the event?
These are definitely my conditions and I've focussed on this kind of riding since dropping off the tour. I felt like I had a bit of an edge over a few riders but I didn't feel like a favourite, and certainly didn't expect to win. I hoped to do well, I knew I could and that I had it in me. This is by far and beyond the biggest event in kiteboarding, in my opinion at least, and I can't believe I won it. It's an incredible feeling.
What do you think your biggest move was in the event and what do you think you'll be working towards in the next couple of years?
I had two kite loops in the final that were probably two of the biggest kite loops I've ever done. I had a few other jumps that were really massive, too. I was scared shitless during a kite loop 5 and those were probably the windiest, most powered conditions that I've ever really unhooked in. I had a few where the bar was ripped out of my hands and I was pretty stoked to land that one. The arena was set up perfectly and the sound system was amazing - we could hear everything on the water and felt like rock stars. Everyone was cheering and it pushed you so much harder.
You do all styles, from wake-style, to big wave riding, strapless wave riding and obviously big air as well. How important do you think it is to have an event like this that separates kiteboarding from all the other sports?
The unique thing about kiteboarding is that we can do so many different, crazy things and I just like to see the sport progressing; seeing kiteboarders doing things that nobody else can. Wake-style can get a little bit boring because we're trying to copy wakeboarders, it's the same with strapless surfing sometimes and the fact is that the surfers and wakeboarders are still better than us at those styles of riding. But when it comes down to huge waves, going massive or going crazy there are times you can really only use the kite; that's where our sport shines and is when people freak out. I get so pumped on that.
Your brother Shawn also represented the Richman family well in the event. You're both on the same team now, that must be a lot of fun?
I'm stoked to have Shawn on the team. He has such a unique style of riding and does everything his own way. We push each other so hard and we're so ridiculously competitive it's insane. He's three years older than me, so he had a little bit of a jump start on me but I have been trying non-stop to pull through and kick his ass in every way. It's a constant battle and we both beat up on each other non-stop. It's so much fun.
Do you think you'll take training for this kind of riding even more seriously now, knowing that there will probably be an event next year?
Definitely. This is where I want to see the sport going. As painful as it is to ride in it, it's where our sport shines and is so exciting. This was a really intense event. I can't say there's been an event like it before and just being a part of it was incredible and really pushed us to go out and give it everything we had. I just put everything on the line right then and there. I really hope to see more people stoked on it and see more people getting pumped on kiteboarding and its extreme manner.
Physically how hard was it?
It was absolutely ridiculous. My entire body was cramping up and every muscle was starting to freak out. When you're in the final you can't stop though. I'm mentally way too stubborn to back down until the very last bit, so I pushed it as hard as I could and I'm definitely paying for it now. But that's what we've got to train for now. We know what we have to do.
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OUTRO: Kiteworld editor Jim is the beach correspondent on the live stream for the 2014 Red Bull King of the Air and will be catching the riders as they come in and out of the water to get their reactions. When you're trying to hold the most extreme kiteboarding competition of the year, you need the 'real big' winds!
Winds are unpredictable this week in Cape Town, but first possible start looks like Sunday 2nd February. You can tune in live on the livestream that will be beaming the event out to wherever you are. Catch it at:
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