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North Kiteboarding - King of the Air 2020 - Jesse Richman

Red Bull King of the Air Registration Day

30 January 2020

Excitement was building in Cape Town on Thursday, as riders from all over the world gathered at Big Bay Surf Club to register for the 2020 Red Bull King of the air. The atmosphere was abuzz as riders greeting each other as both friends and competitors.

Hawaiian Jesse Richman said, “you can feel everyone is relaxed, but the tension is building”.

After photos and registration formalities were completed, they began a 90-minute discussion on safety and judging criteria.  With a strapless freestyle rider in the competition for the very first time, judging criteria has become a hotter topic than ever.

The judges stressed that height will only get you so far, this is not the mega loop challenge. Therefore riders will be rewarded for innovation and technicality at height, with a current ratio of 70% height to 30% extremity.

Scores will be given for the top three tricks, amounting to 75% of the score, whereby the next 25% was for the “overall impression of that heat, and your performance”.

Riders were vocal on the intricacies of “overall impression”.

North athlete, Jesse Richman questioned the decision to score innovation from the entire heat rather than the top three scoring tricks.

“Under that ruling, a riders three highest scores could technically be the same trick. And they could add in tricks during the heat to count for the innovation,” said Richman

After close to 60 minutes of discussion, the scoring criteria remained unchanged but the judges welcomed all feedback and stressed that they were after variety. Alex Vliege, Head Judge said they would be “looking for variation” and “if your whole heat is the same variety you will not score as highly, we are looking for the most extreme riders on the podium”.

“We want to make sure you guys are representing what extreme kiteboarding is”.

Highest scoring tricks come from combinations of categories; megaloops with board offs for example.

“Your board has to be off during the critical stage of the loop to score highly” said Vliege, meaning that technicality through the most extreme stage of the loop will score the highest. Between the legs is counted as a board off, but it was up to the judges whether to reward that for difficulty. On the topic of strapless riders the judges said, it’s your choice whether you ride strapless, boots or straps.

“You could do the same trick, but with more extremity you could win”  Chris Bull said comparing riding boots to strapless.

“You should put a handle on it” Aaron Hadlow commented towards Airton.

Kevin Langeree was particularly interested in butt checks. And the judges confirmed they will still be counted, as a trick but points would be deducted.

Grabbing the chicken loop instead of the bar during handle passes would also be counted as butt checks.

One topic came up that sparked discussion, was whether 8 minutes was long enough for the first heat. Sergio Cantagalli, sportive director, said that he had been watching riders over the last week and was both concerned and impressed with the amount of hang time and distance that riders had been showing in the last week. Stealing a glance at Jesse Richman, it may well be because of the Orbit’s extended hang time.

With the 2 week wind window beginning on Saturday, North Kiteboarding will be on the ground providing live updates as they happen.

Find out more about the new judging criteria for 2020 here