Red Bull King of the Air - In Person!
Wow what an event!
I was lucky enough to get into the the Red Bull VIP area and see the Red Bull King of the Air event from the terrace which included free red bull mocktails and appetizers (score!). The event window was nearing its end with the remaining semi-finals and finals still to be completed. The organizers gambled on running the event on Wednesday with decent winds forecasted for the day but not too much for swell. It appears that the best conditions for the King of the Air would be nuking winds (40+ knots, which are not uncommon in Cape Town) and a strong swell. A reliable swell acts as a launching ramp, a kicker, that allows the competitors to jump even higher than on flat water. For one the realease point of the board and the water can be several feet higher than taking off from flat water and secondly the opposing force of the wave travelling against the direction of travel of the kiter increases the tension of in the lines allowing for extra lift from the kite.
The event started later in the afternoon as the organizers waited to make the call on starting the event in strong and reliable winds. The semi-finals started at around 3 or 4 pm, the winds were adequately strong for the event and we witnessed some great riding by many riders even the ones that didn't advance to the finals (the scoring criteria is debatable). The final stage was set for Jesse Richman, Kevin Langeree and Liam Whaley to battle it out in the final round. A brief intermission before the finals saw a few streakers kite through the competition zone wearing nothing more than a strategically placed oversized sock and a harness. A note to future streakers...try to avoid crashing your kite and getting stuck in the competition zone of a big kite event. I'm sure he was a bit embarrassed about that one.
The final round was exhilarating to watch. The wind seemed to have dropped a bit from earlier but they were still plenty strong for the riders to boost huge airs. Kevin went really big with various boardoffs, while Jesse did some monstrous handle passes followed by numerous rotations and Liam got technical with various handlepasses. On our mental score sheets 3 of us had Liam in first, closely followed by Jesse then Kevin. We later found out that the scoring criteria was 70% of the score awarded for height and 30% for extremity. In our personal scoring we had a greater emphasis on the technicality of the tricks. The judges scored a third King of the Air title to Kevin Langeree for boosting huge and exciting the crowd, with a well deserved second and third place award to Jesse Richman and Liam Whaley respectively.
All in all the Red Bull King of the Air was an exciting kiteboarding event to watch in person and I am happy to have been there to witness it.
Keep on shredding,