Winds of change
The 2022 Red Bull King of the Air was one of the most exciting and extreme showdowns ever witnessed in Big Air kiting. Heat after heat we watched jaw-dropping tricks performed at a completely new level. Saw Spaniard Liam Whaley score close to a perfect 10. And Italian Lorenzo Casati, only 17 years and a day, lead the changing of the guard to be crowned King.
Rookie victorious at 10th anniversary of windy Cape Town kitesurfing event.
Words by Red Bull. Images by Craig Kolesky and Paul Ganse / Red Bull Content Pool
Italian teenager Lorenzo Casati overcame compatriot Andrea Principi and Dutchman Jamie Overbeek to usher in a new era in the most extreme Big Air kiteboarding contest in the world, Red Bull King of the Air, as the Cape Town crowds enjoyed the 10th edition.
Red Bull King of the Air has served as the single biggest driver of Big Air kiteboarding progression and the 10th anniversary in South Africa was a celebration of how far the discipline has come over the past decade.
Capped off by three rookies in the final, the day was one for the record books with winds over 40 knots making it one of the windiest ever along with the highest single move and heat scores being set.
Jamie Overbeek, Lorenzo Casati and Andrea Principi take the 2022 Podium. Photo by Paul Ganse / Red Bull Content Pool.
Riders were judged on the amplitude, variety, execution and difficulty grade of their tricks as well as being given an 'overall impression' score by the panel of independent and highly experienced judges.
North team riders Marc Jacobs and Luca Ceruti came up against each other in Heat #9 of Round Two.
South Easterlies of 40 knots blew consistently for the two-man heat, which Luca Ceruti led into with a big dooby front roll with a third rotation and a grab.
Marc Jacobs. Photo by Paul Ganse / Red Bull Content Pool
Within 8 minutes, the defending King Marc Jacobs had three tricks on the boards.
The judges predicted a close heat, separated by less than two points. Marc had enough variations in the bank to allow him the luxury of changing kites with still three minutes left in the heat.
Luca Ceruti. Photo by Paul Ganse / Red Bull Content Pool
At this point, Luca had two of the highest-scoring tricks, but they were his only tricks. With only 2 minutes left, Luca pulled into first place and made a last minute kite change.
Marc had landed 9 tricks to Luca's three, and looked to have the impression score on variations in the bag. Then the South African went for a double loop with a delayed backroll and a grab on the way down, sending the crowd on the beach wild.
Marc responded with an S-Loop - bringing his total top-three trick scores to 22.44. A mere point above teammate Luca at 21.42.
The 2021 Defending Champ was safely, and just, into Round 3.
The Round Two impression score was an 8.18 for MJ and a 6.2 for Luca Ceruti.
"We've seen moves at a rate that we've never seen before, we've seen tricks that have never been done before," said commentator Lewis Crathern.
"Radical manoeuvres that previously would have been landed with less than a millimetre to spare are now being done with ease and comfort. The progression, wow," said commentator Colin Heckroodt.
In the first heat of Round Three (Heat 13), Marc Jacobs came up against Lorenzo Casati.
No stranger to the pressure of coming up against the giants, Casati had already beaten Jesse Richman at the GKA Big Air World Championships in Tarifa, to rank 4th overall, and then placed 2nd in Cold Hawaii.
With 4min left, Casati's scores started creeping up over the 9-point mark. A 9.82 and 9.34 - the first time in KOTA history the judges had ever awarded two 9-point scores in the same heat. Marc Jacobs had his work cut out.
At the end of the ten-minute heat, Casati had dropped the biggest score ever seen in the history of King of the Air since 2013, with 36.9 points overall (including an impression score of 9.42). Marc's outstanding total score of 30.54 would see him dethroned after Round 3.
The 17-year-old Casati, who got to wear the traditional African winner's mask after 22 heats and over seven hours of intense competition, revealed: "Just to be here and compete at Red Bull King of the Air was a dream come true for me already, but to win was a bonus. There were some really tough heats, so I'm just super happy. Thank you to my sponsors and my dad who has believed in me since I started kitesurfing."
Lorenzo Casati. Photo Paul Ganse / Red Bull Content Pool.
Sportive Director Sergio Cantagalli said: "The judging criteria and system are unique and don't conform to any other kitesurfing or kiteboarding leagues or organisations. It is an exciting time for the sport. Casati was the most complete, extreme rider on the day."
North Director of Engineering Hugh Pinfold was at the event for the first time, and expressed how stoked he was to be part of a company that supports the biggest event in the progression of our sport.
"The 10th edition of Red Bull King of the Air was one for the record books. A solid 45 knots by the semi finals. We're super proud of our North team riders @marcjacobskite and @luca_ceruti_, who gave it their all, amazing mental and physical stamina."
Keeping with the event's philosophy of progression, the 10th year saw the addition of the Porsche Golden Ticket - open to video entrants between the ages of 16 and 25 who had never competed before. This exciting opportunity saw three rookies, finalist Overbeek, Cohan Van Dijk (who went all the way to the semi-finals) and Evan Kiljn selected.
Cohan Van Dijk. Photo by Craig Kolesky / Red Bull Content Pool
They received an all-expenses paid trip to South Africa to compete in a qualification round. Van Dijk won the round and qualified for the main event but - due to the last-minute withdrawal of Italian star Airton Cozzolino (who suffered an injury in training) - Overbeek also lined up.
The Dutch teenager grabbed the opportunity and showed his class, convincingly beating world champions and previous winners on his way to the final, as did the various other rookies, including impressive Casati.
Liam Whaley. Photo by Paul Ganse / Red Bull Content Pool
The Mystic Move of the day went to Spaniard Liam Whaley for a Double Kite Loop Back Roll Board Off that scored a massive 9.94 and is the second year in a row that Whaley has taken that title.
As Adrian Kerr from Kitesurf 365 said:
"The future is now - this is the next stage of kiteboarding... it has begun".
Watch the event replay here