Friday, 25 January 2019 20:06
Steven Akkersdijk Turning and Burning!
The Red Bull King Of The Air 2019
After watching last years 2018 Red Bull King Of The Air both live on the beach from the Red Bull VIP stand and then again the rerun on the live stream, I think this year we need to pay a little more attention.
When I say pay attention I mean in the many aspects of what the competition is really all about.
In the beginning, when Robbie Naish won and then Floridian Flash Austin, UK’s Mark Shinn and Susie Mai now one of the judges back when there was a ladies division, we knew without a doubt that they were literally the best in the world at what they did.
Jesse at his first KOA at 13
I remember watching the news when the last item had helicopter footage of Robbie winning it and thinking that looks ridiculously cool but I don’t think I will ever be that extreme. Only a few months later I found myself on the beach strapped to a kite getting flung around and taking beatings.
2018/19 Venue Kite Beach
With a day to go to the start of the 2019 King of The Air, the buzz will be incredible with the warm and windy conditions Cape Town offers.
This time of year always sees the best of the best training but after 6 years of competing in the worlds biggest stage in kiteboarding the draw for kiting fans has become magnetic.
With Thursday 24th Jan two days before the window opened the wind, known as “The Cape Doctor” gave the newcomers to the playground a glimpse of what could possibly happen on the days of competition. 40 knots of earthmoving wind coming from the left and launch ramps approaching squarely with the left foot forward. Perfect Ramps but unlike the previous venue in Big Bay, not always perfect water to land in.
But this is my point.
Kiteboarding manufacturers like Cabrinha, Slingshot, Core, North and Naish have even been focusing on making kites that are more manoeuvrable when your 30 meter’s in the air and now decide to pull really hard on the one side of the bar.
The jury is out whether bindings or foot straps are the way to go but one thing is standard and that going to be the serious kiteboarding wetsuit for the cold Atlantic water.
Last year saw Kiteboarding Freestyle world Champ Liam Whaley landing literally the wrong way round and still managing to recover for full scoring jumps. In his first-ever attempt at the crown, he managed to almost touch it with a second place.
Lewis Crathern, hospitalized for weeks after getting it wrong alongside Tom Herbert (broken ribs) and previous King Jesse Richmond (broken leg) with quite a long list actually, paint a picture of going over the limit for these20 minute sessions and doing things not attempted anytime anywhere in any winds YET!
The waiting period starts tomorrow the 26th Jan and goes through to the last day on Sunday the 10th Feb. The worlds best have gathered alongside a hoard of onlookers wanting to see the Best Show On Earth!
The guys never used to train for the Red Bull King of the Air. Even 5x World Freestyle Champion Aaron Hadlow said he wouldn’t compete initially in case an injury puts pay to his freestyle tour hopes. Then after the first two events, he decided there was something in this competition that he liked and that was an innovation.
Even after beating the best of the best for so many years on tour, his first attempt came up empty and he had to settle for 5th place.
Then on attempt number two just before the event, he’d said to me that he had been trying a few things in his free sessions in lieu of the event.
He won! And then went on to do something up to now no one had ever done. He won the next year again!
The first two time winner and that back to back surely puts him up with the Rossi, Woods and Slater category squarely as a super freak. His dad has referred to him as one since he was little so no wonder he finds it easy to behave like one.
So simply rocking up on Kite Beach Cape Town and never having trained for this competition is not an option anymore. Liam Whaley was quoted as saying that he wasn’t sure how and what he was doing and to be 100% honest was a bit scared before the final round last year which saw Kevin Langeree take his second crown.
So this puts a bit of perspective on what we can expect in the 2019 Red Bull King of The Air.
Nick and Kev signing in 2016 KOA
A long-time campaigner with a podium back in 2014 Steven Akkersdijk is out recovering after surgery and will be sorely missed. Over the years he has thrilled us with super-duper low kite loops barely making it back under the kite on the landing and really pushing every time.
2017 King Nick Jacobsen is back! After missing out on 2018 KOA with a broken ankle. Knowing his free spirit outlook on doing things that will kill you, he is one to watch getting back in the event and lesson learnt “don’t smash it in training”.
Returning Magaloop innovator Ruben Lenten, who won the crown against non-other than Robbie Naish in 2005 at Hookipa, has yet to join fellow mate/cousin Aaron and Kevin for the double. After facing, fighting and winning his cancer battle and also entertaining the crowd's worldwide with his “ the edge is where you walk up to and the keep on walking” attitude, he is still fighting for the crown on African soil.
Ruben when he won in Hawaii before the Africa era. Can he do it again?
Previously the local contingent has had the best representation from Andries Fourie claiming the second-highest jump in the 2014 event and this year the South African representation rests squarely on Ross Dillon Player and Joshua Emanuel shoulders. Competing against the best in the world there one and the only advantage is the fact that they live, eat and sleep in the competition area for more time than anyone else during the year. This will give them the local knowledge and we could see a huge upset if a local wildcard entry hits the top in 2019.
The top 8 riders from last year are seeded while 10 wildcard and video entries make up the rest of the Royalty seekers.
2016 Venue Big Bay.
Sam Light with Lewis Crathern and Aaron Hadlow make three British riders going against Hawaiian Jesse Richman, Dutchmen and 2014/18 King Keven Langeree, KOA Journeyman Jerrie Van De Kopp with Gijs Wassenaar and recent Red Bull signing Lasse Walker.
Newcomers like Frenchman Aurelien Petreau, Janek Grzegorzewski from Poland, Posito Martinez out of Dominican Republic and Brazilian Carlos Mario will have there work cut out against World Freestyle Champ and previous KOA competitor from New Zealand Marc Jacobs.
2018 King for the second time Kevin celebrates.
With 14 days window to call it in the decision-makers Like Sergio Cantagali have an immense amount of pressure on them to call it right.
But so far the southern tip of Africa has delivered every time and the King is crowned with no doubt about the fact that he is the man who made it happen when it mattered in some insane circumstances.
Jesse chucks his body and kite at the same time. RBKOA2018
To the masses of followers of this next-level sport its business as usual. Seeing who can do what they will only dream of. The locals happily give up their beach and wether watching from the water or in the Red Bull Bar know that they are experiencing the Greatest Show On Earth!