Huge congratulations to Jesse Richman for winning the Red Bull King of the air! After a seven year hiatus, the Red Bull King of the Air competition returned with a new format and was set at Big Bay, South Africa in hauling 30 knots winds and 2m waves on Sunday February 3rd.
The new format is a flag out system with the worst rider of four being flagged out after ten minutes of a 20-minute heat, and a second rider at the close of the heat, leaving two to advance to the next round. Being judged on the height, creativity and style of the tricks, Jesse dominate and won each of his heats to take over Danish madman Nick Jacobsen (2nd), wakestyle prodigy Sam Light (3rd) and PKRA world champion Youri Zoon (4th) in the final.
Jesse threw down a massive kite loop and huge unhooked back loop kite loop in quick succession in his all-or-nothing manner to secure the win. “We were all just going massive. I was stoked on doing some of the biggest kite loops I have ever done. I also probably did one of the biggest kite loop 5’s that I have ever landed. Definitely the most powered I have ever unhooked in” Jesse said.
Congratulation also goes out to Shawn Richman who came into the event with a foot injury. He was going hard and impressing the crowds with his inverted tricks, but unfortunately crashed in the quarter final against Jesse and didn’t advance. “I needed to land something big if I wanted to go through. I tried a very big kite loop with a double inverted backflip in it and just came up short, and hit the water soooo hard! My foot just exploded in pain and my head was spinning. It took me a couple minutes to regain focus” said Shawn Richman.
Kevin Langeree put on an incredible show for the spectators. “My strategy on this event was just to go as big as I could” said Langeree. “The feeling is so good when you head out fully powered and you see a perfect 2m kicker in front of you. Sometimes I just couldn’t believe how good the conditions were.” Unfortunately, Kevin, who had been absolutely killing it all day, with by far the highest jumps of the contest came unglued in the semifinals and finished 7th — killing the hopes of the two crowd favorites (Jesse and Kevin) battling it out for the King of the Air title.
Jesse, Shawn and Kevin were all riding the Torch, which was THE kite for the radical riding style in this event. “Big extreme, aggressive jumps, big fast and powerful kite loops and style tricks were what we were all going for” said Shawn.
Jesse was riding the new Naish dub TT for the competition. “The gear worked incredible” said Jesse. “The conditions were crazy and I needed everything working perfectly, as it did. The unbeatable power and lift on the Torch made it possible to go huge. The new outline and rocker on the dub made it easy to come down super hot and ride away!”
Robby Naish himself was in Cape Town to see the event first hand. “We’ve been talking about resurrecting Red Bull King of the Air for a while and today we had some of the best conditions in history. This was the best exhibition of high performance kitesurfing I’ve ever seen. Big Bay was the perfect venue for this event. If this place wasn’t on the map before today, it’s definitely going to be from now on. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many people at a kiteboarding event” said Naish.
Jesse summarized the event by saying “I never expected this and I’m so amazingly pumped! Red Bull King of the Air has been the biggest event in the world since the very beginning. I competed in it when I was a little kid and it was the coolest thing ever. To come here and win this event is unbelievable! By far the best riders in the world were throwing down in the best conditions. The conditions were perfect. Super windy with big waves as kickers. This is the ultimate arena for the King of the Air! Having Shawn there made a huge difference, he helped me with everything on and off the water, gave me tons of mental support and was fun to hang with. The whole Naish crew here was awesome and treated me so well. So thankful to be a part of such an awesome family!”
CREDITS: Kolesky/Nikon/Red Bull Content Pool and Ydwer van der Heide/Red Bull Content Pool.