The Red Bull King of the Air is underway with day one done and dusted!
Here’s the highlights
Words: Kiteworld / Photos: Red Bull Content Pool
The Red Bull King of the Air 2019 fired into action yesterday at Kite Beach in Cape Town. Kiteworld Mag was on the scene with editor Jim Gaunt co-hosting the livestream and head gear tester Chris Bull on the judging panel. Here’s our pick of some of the standout performances as well as yesterday’s replay in case you missed it!
We’ve picked out some of the best bits and where to find them on the livestream!
Marc Jacobs rode with proper power and showed a solid range of variation during his heats. His indy grab backroll mega loop board-off was really impressive and had he landed it in his final heat of the event it could well have been the trick of the day and would certainly have carried him through to the next round.
He did favour riding with his right foot forward though, which meant he was doing most of his tricks coming in to the beach and wasn’t able to utilise the kickers for extra height on his outbound tack. If only he could have landed that last trick!
Watch Marc’s last heat at 2 h 27 minutes on the livestream.
Angely Bouillot and Hannah Whiteley
In the women’s big-air display, Angely and Hannah were absolutely sending it with sound support from the crowd. Women’s big-air riding has really come into its own in the last 12 months with female riders performing well in last year’s GKA Air Games and Angely in particular showed an insane level in high winds at last week’s ‘Queen is Born’ competition. To see these two sending it on big-air’s most vaunted stage was pretty epic!
Reigning KOTA champ Kevin is looking seriously dialled-in right now and he overcame Jesse in the final heat of round four (the last heat of the day) which had a bit of a ‘grudge match’ feel to it as the two former team mates, both of whom have won King of the Air before, faced off. Jesse did some huge sent handlepasses but Kevin managed to seek out a big kicker, hit it hard and stuck a massive backroll mega loop board-off to seal the deal. With Joshua Emanuel having to pull out of that heat after finally succumbing to his rib injury, both Kevin and Jesse knew they were through to the semi-finals but the pressure was still on to get a good ranking in the next round so it was a pretty intense showdown to round out day one.
Watch Kevin and Jesse’s in round four at 3 h 50 minutes,
The flying Hawaiian was something else. He’d had most of December off due to injury (although he told us he did manage a couple of casual sessions at Jaws during that time) but he’s back to full fitness and, as KOTA had been on his horizon all winter, he was giving it everything.
He did the biggest handlepasses of the day, some insane loops and what makes his riding even more bonkers is the fact that he’s only just joined the newly-emerged North Kites team and had only ridden his kites for about five hours in total up until yesterday morning.
Watch one of Jesse’s handlepasses 15 minutes into the livestream.
Aaron’s won this event twice in the past and he’s someone you should never discount when KOTA rolls around. He’s consistently shown that he’s able to mix up his favoured mega loop-focused riding style with more technical tricks and old school, big-air manoeuvres but he looked undergunned during his day one heats and, when he took a hard crash in round three, he was out of the running. We were all a little gutted to see him go because he’s featured in some of the most epic final heats in King of the Air history over the years!
Check out Aaron’s kung fu pass at 31 minutes.
KW cover-boy Joshua put in a warrior-like performance befitting of his man-mountain stature. Having injured his ribs 3 weeks before the event he’d been considering pulling out at one point on the run up the competition and he was in quite a lot pain yesterday. He’d even been ordered off the water for 8 weeks by his doctor so in theory he shouldn’t have even been competing but the stoke from the crowd had him fired up and he was going all-in with some sizeable mega loop variations.
It was taking his toll though, and we saw him being checked over by the medics in the riders’ area in between heats and yet he kept battling through. Eventually the pain levels became untenable though and he had to call it a day at the end of round four, leaving the heat early before the flag-out. What a performance though! #Beast
Watch Joshua pushing through round three at 3 hours 5 minutes
Dutch charger Lasse Walker was looking calm, measured and composed and we could definitely see him making his way to the finals based on day one riding. He managed to push past Ruben Lenten with the biggest straight mega loop board-off of the day and he’s another rider who’s able to mix it up and change his tricks and his equipment to suit the conditions on hand. That’s essential for any rider that wants to do well at King of the Air these days, and Lasse knows it.
Skip to 3 hours 17 minutes to see Lasse take on Ruben
Posito was absolutely going for it and getting his kite super-low in the loops (and it’s a kite that’s not strictly designed for that – the CrazyFly Hyper). He did a variety of sent board-off combinations and was probably one of the most exciting riders to watch because of what he was going for and his hooked and unhooked high-risk landings (which didn’t always pay off). With a little more experience here in Cape Town conditions he could do some real damage at this event in the future.
Posito’s final heat starts at 2 hours 44 minutes
At 35 years-old, Aurelien Petreau is the oldest competitor in this year’s King of the Air and he’s the only rider still in the running who’s not actually a full-time pro. He does perhaps the slickest double backroll mega loop going and although his kite angle wasn’t as low as some of the other riders’ yesterday, his fluidity is unreal as were the height and innovation he brought to the show.
Aurelien went big in round four. Watch his heat at 3 hours 17 minutes.
Nick didn’t put a foot wrong on day one. He wasn’t riding outside of himself, but he went big with some impressive floaty airs and a high level of technicality as well. His usual showmanship and flair were there in spades and although there was no single thing that really stood out from his heats, as a complete performance it was hard to beat and he was the smoothest rider on the water.
Watch Nick beat Liam Whaley to earn his spot in the semis at 3 hours 33 minutes
Ruben was looking super-switched on to his new Ozone kites with the biggest boogie loops of the day when conditions still allowed earlier in the day. He went big in both directions, but he does base much of his riding around mega loops / boogie loops and he rides in boots so doesn’t do any board-offs. In true high wind conditions, Ruben is a strong bet for the podium but KOTA has evolved away from purely mega loop-based riding and that can become limiting for him in lighter winds.
Watch Ruben boogie at 1 hours 3 minutes
Liam took a while to warm up, but by his second heat he was riding just as well as he was last year when he took second. He injured himself last year doing a board-off in shallow water in Tarifa but he only broke a bone, not a ligament, so he’s recovered 100% and there’s no reason to rule out a repeat of his unreal 2018 debut performance.
His freestyle level is seriously high and he manages to fire out technical handlepasses at points in a heat when perhaps no other KOTA rider could. On top of that, he also has the double backroll mega loop in the bag and that’s a relatively new trick at this event that only the big-air specialists were regularly doing up to now. Liam Whaley has everything he needs to do well at King of the Air 2019 – keep an eye on him!
Liam nearly stick a powerful kung-fu pass at 48 minutes into the livestream!