Red Bull King of the Air 2016 build-up

King of the Air podium 2015 Kiteworld Magazine Issue #79 2016

This feature is taken from Kiteworld issue #79, released January 2016
Red Bull King of the Air logo



The two week waiting period kicks off on the 30th January. Although the 24 competing riders are capable of putting on an amazing show in 25 knots, they truly assemble in Cape Town for the prospect of competing with each other – and in front of the world – in winds closer to 40 knots. We enlisted the help of extreme big air athlete and competitor, Lewis Crathern, to explain more about what you should be looking out for as the contest hots up.


Lewis Crathern North Cape Town boost Kiteworld Magazine 2016

Lewis boosting huge on the 2016 North Vegas – Cape Town.  Photo: Craig Kolesky


WORDS – Lewis Crathern


Follow the wind forecast and live conditions now through the King of the Air Spot station at Big Bay

WindGuru Kiteworld Magazine


This event is about displaying the skills that we develop on our home beaches on a world stage. It’s harder to distinguish yourself from the other riders in the form of visual height and extremity in 25 to 30 knot winds. Competition experience and tactics rather than extreme big air ability start to play a bigger part in lesser wind conditions.

“Yes, there are some extraordinary riders who are capable of putting on an incredible show in 25 knots, but the addictive, intense, terrifying, rewarding, life-changing experience of practicing Megaloops has infected many kitesurfers worldwide. It stemmed from two individuals: Ruben Lenten and Aaron Hadlow.”

The event criteria focuses a lot on ‘extreme big air’, which is related to ‘risk’. The Megaloop takes courage, piloting skill, strength and commitment and is therefor a must-have move in any KOTA participant’s repertoire. 25 knot wind conditions don’t very well allow the rider to consistently gain enough height to throw really powerful, wide, aggressive loops. Yes, riders can loop in 25 knots, but it’s more of a lottery as to whether the bigger kite won’t stall. Stronger winds mean more risk through power and therefore more courage – but more height means that it’s up to the rider when to pull it.

Lewis Crathern Red Bull King of the Air Kite Show

Look out for Lewis’ pre-event build-up interview on The Kite Show this week! Photo: Toby Bromwich

Of course, the KOTA is not just a Megaloop event, so let’s not forget about variation, which features heavily in the judging criteria. 25 to 30 knot conditions are best for performing moves like board-offs as the board doesn’t blow all over the place in your hand. Unhooking has its place at the event, too. The sent handle-pass appears during most heats as it also displays plenty of risk. Although this move can be done in a wide range of conditions, however, it takes bravery and technique in close to 40 knots. It’s possible though and, when combined with rotations, is very impressive.



Aaron Hadlow mega loop KGB Red Bull King of the Air champion

Aaron Hadlow mega loop handle-pass. Class act. Photo: Craig Kolesky / Red Bull Content Pool

Possibly the most unique set of moves in kiteboarding, combining wakestyle and extreme big air in one move. There are maybe only five or ten guys in the world who can properly perform these moves. You might think the riders would be looking for a lower wind speed in the big air spectrum, but, believe it or not, they can be done in 35+ knots at huge heights and with grabs and rotations thrown in, too. I’ve seen it, live in a PKRA final in Leucate; and I’m not even sure that the judges knew how to score it.

Perhaps the fact that most riders now ride in boots has had something to do with the decline? Are the special few who can perform these tricks now growing up and starting to consider the risk involved to be too great? You surely remember Aaron Hadlow’s Mega Loop KGBs to win the event last year? They were in around 25 knot conditions, but Aaron has the ability to inspire moves like that. Just imagine the performance in stronger winds! That sort of electricity and bravery is what the King of the Air is all about.


WindGuru King of the air final wind stats Kiteworld Magazine

Real wind chart for the February 15th 2015, the actual KOTA final – the key times as any experienced Cape Town rider knows, is between 4pm and 6pm, which is exactly when the organisers managed to run the final. Hopefully the 2016 event won’t be such a goose chase for everyone and we’ll see strong wind coming in early, and hooning from 3pm onwards!



Ruben Lenten Red Bull King of the Air Boogy Loop

Ruben Lenten – front roll mega loop, 2014. Photo: Craig Kolesky / Red Bull Content Pool

Should we get the magic 35 – 40 knots, after the rare Megaloop handle-passes, there really is one standout move for me from the last five years: Ruben’s Boogy Loop – the Front Roll Megaloop. Performing these sorts of loops in 40 knots is to demonstrate the ultimate understanding of the move, co-ordination and feel – as the consequences are huge if things go wrong. Expect the hairs on the back of your neck to stand up when one of these goes down, especially one handed, such as Ruben’s Grabbed Boogie Loop with a one handed bar spin. These small details are huge displays of skill, and in stronger winds they are all the more apparent and easier to see.


King of the Air podium 2015 Kiteworld Magazine Issue #79 2016

2015 winner Aaron Hadlow, flanked by Kevin Langeree in second and Jerrie van der Kop in third.  Photo: Craig Kolesky / Nikon / Red Bull Content Pool



Steven Akkersdiijk Mega Loop Red Bull King of the Air 2014

Steven Akkersdiijk Mega Loop Red Bull King of the Air 2014. Photo: Craig Kolesky / Red Bull Content Pool

Cape Town is capable of delivering 35 – 40 knots, no doubt, so when it comes timed with the event window, it will be really special. Our understanding of running this event for the last few years is that the thousands who come to watch the event are ready for an exciting kiteboarding show, regardless. If the wind is around 25 – 30 knots then I think the riders will be more prepared for that eventuality this year and could explore the tactic of kite-swapping during a heat. One kite might be more suitable to loop, while another more suitable (especially if rigged up on different lines) to gain better height and hangtime. As the wind approaches 35+ knots riders will employ this kite-swap tactic less, switching instead to their preferred strong wind kite, working up towards finding the rhythm for their Megaloops.


Follow the event at | |

Follow all the wind forecast and live conditions through the Windguru King of the Air Spot station at Big Bay:

WindGuru Kiteworld Magazine




Back to Magazine

Related Articles