The first opportunity for King of the Air 2017 explained
Kiteworld editor Jim Gaunt is livestream commentator for the Red Bull King of the Air and sat alongside riders, crew and fans throughout the day yesterday in an agonising wait for wind.
The King of the Air is the biggest event on the kiteboarding calendar and for the last four years has produced an annual spectacle of wonder and inspiration for kiteboarders and general watersports fans the world over.
The basic premise of the event is for the riders to jump as high as possible and then perform stunts that only kiteboarders are capable of. Simple ideas make for a clean and clear format that a spectator with even the most basic understanding of the sport can turn up and enjoy. For real fans, ‘KOTA’ is the only ‘true’ kiteboarding event as it’s not influenced at all by the other sports that kiteboarding is so often linked to in terms of tricks or trends, like wakeboarding, surfing, sailing etc.
There are subtle technical advances and scoring criteria changes for this year, but what remains consistent is that need for a big wow factor and visual appeal.
The 2017 17 day wind window is proving particularly shallow when it comes to producing a suitable five hour period of at least 30+ knots of wind to get the event completed in one go. So it’s come down to a question of attempting to run short rounds where possible, getting us ever closer to the big rounds and the climax… if reasonably possible.
Sports director, Sergio Cantagalli / Photo: Craig Kolesky – Red Bull Content Pool
As we rolled up to the beach yesterday, it was clear that we weren’t going to be faced with a classic King of the Air day as the flags gently fluttered, but there was still potential for a late afternoon / early evening sharp increase in conditions, enough at least to make good headway through round one.
The difficult element for all involved is that this is such an important event for kiteboarding, it’s heavily invested in on the ground, and emotionally followed around the world, which makes any call to run it or not run it, huge.
Calling a start to round one so late last night in obviously below-par conditions wasn’t a reflection of the vision or the legitimacy of the event. The truth is that we really have just one more chance of a solid forecast for several hours of back-to-back good conditions for the event, and that’s on Thursday, but it’s important to bank as much competition time as possible, however Friday and Sunday are showing shorter windows to possibly finish things off.
Kevin Langeree is out of the contest through injury, but has posted this weather report looking ahead to tomorrow!
And here are Windguru’s predictions for the upcoming Big Bay big air barrage:
CHANGES TO THE RED BULL KING OF THE AIR
Firstly there’s a slightly re-worked judging criteria that places more emphasis on height that’s then combined with extremity. There’s also an extra 25% available for the overall variety shown in the heat.
Judges are also testing out a new scoring app to show live scores for future events and all this takes time. Any ‘real time’ experience is highly valued.
The Judges / Photo: Ydwer van der Heide – Red Bull Content Pool
And finally there’s the livestream, with changes and improvements going on there with more cameras and increasing availability for high impact replays and action coverage.
The King of the Air is a highly respected event for the future and all livestreams will also be aired live on Red Bull TV this time, so as the fifth year of the King of the Air unfolds in Cape Town, so too does another year of progression in front of and behind the scenes.
The back-stage components came together in a short period last night, unfortunately the Cape Doctor’s own mechanics faltered as Oswald Smith, Gijs Wassenaar and Lewis Crathern did little more than perform visual confirmation that no matter how much we hope, 18 – 20 knots are not yet capable of pushing the extreme, no matter how advanced and efficient our current kiteboarding gear has become. What was there to lose by trying?
With new moves already landed off camera in the build-up to this event and the constant progression being pushed, reflected by the injury and withdrawals by Kevin Langeree and Jesse Richman, this year’s King of the Air promises to have all the thrills and spills we have come to crave each year.
Let’s just hope that the Doctor turns up the dial and also gives us a little more juice in our prescription for Thursday.