It's a wrap! Red Bull King of the Air 2020

12 February 2020

On Thursday 6th February, 24 riders from twelve nations went to battle in over 30 knots of wind, making jumps of over 20 metres and pulling off the most extreme moves ever seen at King of the Air. By the end of the day, Hawaiian Jesse Richman would claim the coveted African Trophy.

Here's the blow-by-blow account from Kite Beach, Cape Town, where North team riders Jesse Richman, Nick Jacobsen and Marc Jacobs went to battle with the best in the world.

10 am. Rider Briefing.

It was already blowing 30 knots, and nerves were palpable as the riders buckled in for the seven-hour event ahead. With only 15 minutes to prepare for the first heat, they were straight into it.


Round 1: Marc Jacobs

New Zealander Marc Jacobs was to come up against two South African locals; Stuart Downey and Jason van der Spuy. Marc had been training hard to perfect his left side jumps, in line with Kite Beach kickers and looked sharp. Despite the choppy conditions, Marc stomped a backroll kiteloop with a tic-tac and cruised straight through to Round 3. 

Making history in Round 1 were wildcard AIRTON COZZOLINO, the first and only strapless rider, and ANGELY BOUILLOT, the first female to compete in the event. Both were the talk of the town, but unfortunately after a couple of big wipeouts, neither made it past Round 2. 

Marc Jacobs Video Red Bull King of the Air

Round 3:  Marc Jacobs, Jesse Richman, Nick Jacobsen 

The first North rider to compete was Marc Jacobs. In Heat 13, he was up against one of the crowd's favourites, Lasse Walker from the Netherlands and Ewan Jaspan. Marc landed the biggest back-loop dangle pass King of the Air has ever seen, followed by the only Kung Fu pass ever landed at the event while heading out to sea. 


Marc was on fire and won the heat by 7 points, taking him straight to the quarter-finals.

Next up from North was Jesse Richman, versus Joshua Emmanuel and Reno Romeu, three very experienced riders. Jesse looked comfortable from the get-go, landing a boogie loop with a grab. He then threw a massive back loop handle pass, getting a lot of height and a lot of hangtime on the Orbit. With a top score of 8.42 for this trick, Jesse soared through to the quarter-final. 

Into Heat 17 already and Nick Jacobsen, the crowd’s favourite, was against Stuart Downey and Antonin Rangin from France. With his signature backroll mega-loop with a board off, Nick took to the skies. This won the judges over and Nick was straight through to the quarter-final. 

Photo Tyrone Bradley/Red Bull Content Pool

Quarter-finals: Marc Jacobs v Lewis Crathorn, Jesse Richman v Kevin Langeree, Nick Jacobsen v Antonin Rangi

The event was gaining momentum, and by the quarter-finals, the crowd had doubled in size. 

First, Marc Jacobs competed against Lewis Crathorn. Lewis, between competing, was also commentating at the event. Marc landed a clean backroll dangle pass, (himself and Jesse and were the only two in the competition to land this). After a backroll board-off tic-tac, Marc beat Lewis and was through to the semi-finals. 

It was getting even more intense as last years' finalists Kevin Langeree and Jesse Richman, went head to head in the quarter-finals. 3 x King of the Air Champion, Kevin Langeree, was no match for Jesse who stomped another dangle pass early on, scoring a whopping 7.8. The Hawaiian only needed to land three tricks to impress the judges and was through to the semi-finals against teammate, Marc Jacobs. 

Nick Jacobsen landed a big boogie loop and multiple back roll kite loops with board-offs against Antonin Rangin. Antonin Rangin landed all but one trick but was three points off a win from Nick. 

Photo Tyrone Bradley/Red Bull Content Pool

Semi-finals: Liam Whaley v Nick Jacobsen, Marc Jacobs v Jesse Richman, Aaron Hadlow v Steven Akkersdijk

The competition was getting tighter as Liam Whaley, 2015 World Champion competed against Nick Jacobsen in the semi-final. Liam Whaley, another of the favourites, stomped a tidy inverted boogie loop. Meanwhile, Nick scored two 8 pointers and looked strong throughout and ended the heat with a huge board-off boogie-loop, scoring a whopping 9.02 out of a possible 10! This epic trick won him the Mystic' Most Extreme Move'.

In the 32nd heat of day, Marc Jacobs came up against teammate and good friend, Jesse Richman. Both athletes had been performing their best all day, but ultimately there could only be one king. Marc began with a triple back roll mega loop with a one-footer. Jesse matched with a back roll handle pass with three rotations. The North boys had raised the standard - this was a real battle! 

Marc landed a kung fu pass, scoring 7.48. Jesse timed the kickers perfectly for a backroll handle pass with four rotations, to ending the heat with an 8.46. One last back roll kite loop board-off with a tic-tac, from Marc, but with the board-off coming after the loop, Jesse stole the win. 

Photo Ydwer van der Heide / Red Bull Content Pool

In the closest heat of the day, Aaron Hadlow and Steven Akkersdijk went trick for trick, with nearly identical scores throughout. With only a difference of 0.36 points, Hadlow snuck through to the final against the North team, Jacobsen & Richman. 


Final: Jesse Richman, Nick Jacobsen, Aaron Hadlow

After 34 heats and seven hours of consistent Cape Doctor wind, three legends, Jesse Richman, Nick Jacobsen & Aaron Hadlow went to battle. The crowds flocked towards the water's edge as the finalists had 13 minutes to prove to the judges they were worthy. Nick began with his distinctive megaloop one footer, and Aaron matched this to take the lead.

Jesse fought back with a dangle pass with three and a half rotations, throwing his arms up in celebration on landing. The crowds went wild every time the riders came close to shore. With two minutes to spare, Aaron Hadlow crashed out while Jesse showed his expertise by sticking the landing on the chop, after a back roll mega loop with a one-footer, grabbing yet another 8-pointer. 

Jesse Richman. 2020 Red Bull King of the Air

Waiting excitedly to hear the results, the crowds flocked around the riders. As the results came in, Jesse Richman was announced King of the Air 2020.

The crowds continued to roar as Jesse was chucked on his teammates Nick & Graham's shoulders and they marched through the crowds towards the podium. People packed in around the podium to catch a glimpse of the prizegiving, some even climbing the North & Mystic container to get a better view.

Marc Jacobs was first on the podium to collect the 'WOO Highest Jump of the Day' for soaring 20.2m. Nick Jacobsen followed being awarded the Mystic' Most Extreme Move' for his kite-loop board-off, scoring the only 9 out 10 of the day.  Aaron Hadlow was awarded the bronze medal, and Nick jumped on the podium again to collect his silver medal. 

Photo Tyrone Bradley/Red Bull Content Pool

When announcing the winner, commentator Jo Ciastula said:

"There can be only one. This guy has so much stoke. This guy is pretty much what defines this event."

As King of the Air, Jesse Richman, was awarded the iconic African trophy he screamed at the top of his lungs. There was no hiding the true happiness and the ultimate stoke he was feeling. 

"This feels incredible. This is magical. And it is amazing to have my newborn daughter here and share it with this crowd," said Jesse. 

Photo Tyrone Bradley/Red Bull Content Pool

Congratulations to all the riders who competed, putting on an epic show and raising the bar in technical performance in extreme conditions. Also special thanks to Red Bull South Africa, the Judges and everyone involved in organising such a great event. We can't wait to come back!

Find out more about the winning kite, the Orbit here


Written by Grace Seeley.