History & legends
Red Bull King of the Air is South Africa’s biggest and most extreme kiteboarding competition. 24 of the world’s greatest riders face-off in a bid to command the elements and rule the sky, ultimately being crowned King of The Air.
The very first Red Bull King of The Air ran at the hallowed windsurfing spot, Ho’okipa, on the Hawaiian islands of Maui in 2000. Back then the kites were raw, powerful, and relatively dangerous and the riders were all about throwing the biggest airs. As the equipment developed and became readily available to the public, kiteboarding was excitedly hailed as the ‘fastest growing watersport in the world’.
For five years Red Bull King of The Air staged the biggest one-off annual event at the most epic spots.
As technology improved and equipment advanced, the sport's elite started to move away from big air and shift their focus toward the cutting edge of style and technicality, which ironically saw them performing tricks closer and closer to the water, resulting in the end of King of The Air.
Things began to get interesting again in 2007/8 when riders like Ruben Lenten started to experiment by heading out in 'storm force' winds and seeing how high and how far they could go. These previously un-ridden winds resulted in the birth of the 'mega loop'.
The most recent edition of the competition in 2016 was somewhat a game of thrones, as the 2015 defending champ, Hadlow out-gunned previous champions, Hawaiian Jesse Richman (2013); Kevin Langeree from the Netherlands (2014) and first-time finalist Reno Remeu to claim back-to-back wins.
Can the Brit pull-off a hat trick in 2017?
Red Bull King of the Air 2015 was a tale of three days. After waiting out the traditional two week window period – which saw enough wind to complete rounds 1 through 3, split over two separate days – the official weather window was extended by a day. That day saw the ‘Cape Doctor’ (south-easterly) gust to the required knots and the final saw past champions Jesse Richman (USA) and Kevin Langeree (NED) up against Jerrie van de Kop (NED) and multiple world champ Aaron Hadlow (GBR). Hadlow put together the performance of the day, landing two massive Megaloop KGBs twice during the semis and finals to claim the top spot on the podium.
In 2014 the top 12 riders returned to Big Bay to try their hand at claiming the title. 12 new faces, consisting of 8 riders who had qualified from the online video submissions and 4 wildcard entrants, stepped up to the plate to see if they could rule the sky. The top 24 riders went head-to-head in a unique ‘flag out ‘ competition format where, in front of a crowd of over 12 000 spectators, Dutchman Kevin Langeree edged out Ruben Lenten and Steven Akkersdijk to claim the 2014 Red Bull King of the Air title.
2013, the return of Red Bull King of the Air after an eight-year hiatus, saw the world’s best kiteboarders take to the beaches of Cape Town, an iconic location that never fails to deliver perfect winds, to compete in a competition that was new to the shores of South Africa. Amongst the 24 riders, 9 countries were represented and in the end it was Hawaii’s Jesse Richman who boosted higher than the rest and claimed the 2013 Red Bull King of the Air title.
Red Bull King of The Air 2016 promises to be bigger and better than previous years. The star-studded athlete lineup is guaranteed to push the limits, defy gravity, and entertain the crowd at Cape Town's Big Bay. Make sure you don't miss this!
Meet the Big Air legends here: