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CCC 51 state 1200x800 - 51st State

51st State

As humans we occasionally feel compelled to make lists. Generally this is so we don’t forget things and to bring order to the chaos in our complicated and squidgy brains. Since its inception, kiting has been off on so many tangents, and has produced so many landmark moments, we may be at the point where a concise record needs to be taken, and maybe even in some loose order of significance. Colin’s probably not old enough to remember a pre-internet 90’s pop singles chart – horrible moments like Bryan Adams at number one for 16 weeks straight with that dire Robin Hood Prince of Thieves soundtrack for instance – but regardless, we managed to distract his digitally augmented face from Instagram just long enough to commission our Top Fifty Moments in Kiting. This was originally to coincide with fifty issues of TheKiteMag, but in true TheKiteMag style there was a last minute change of plan. The KOTA report last issue was deemed more important and eclipsed the moment somewhat, so here we are at issue 51.

WORDS: Colin Colin Carroll
TheKiteMag 51 Colin Colin Carroll Aaron Hadlow by Craig Kolesky - 51st State

  Aaron Hadlow is born

On the 4th of October 1998, Louise Hadlow gave birth to an infant that would grow up to contribute more to the sport of kiteboarding than anyone else. He drove freestyle away from lame board offs and silly looking flailing-around-tricks and towards wakeboarding, giving kiting its identity for the following 15 years of existence. And this, in essence, gave the sport its life and longevity. Aaron made kiting cool, which grew the sport’s appeal hugely.

• Birth of KOTA 2012 ‘Len10 Megaloop challenge’

Ruben Len10 encouraged Red Bull to shine a light on Big Air kiteboarding, which at the time, was a subsection of the sport – something that all kiteboarders dabbled in and were naturally drawn to, but there was no stage for athletes to perform on. What began as the Len10 Megaloop challenge morphed into the King of the Air as we know it today, a competition that changed the sport fundamentally.

TheKiteMag 51 Colin Colin Carroll Iron Heart - 51st State

• Silke Gorldt dies in competition 2003

The tragedy of Silke Gorldt, involving a kite tangle, in a competition in 2003 spurred the innovation of the Quick Release. Still to this day, she is the only kiting athlete to die in a competition. Naish were the first to market a push-away safety system (with patent). In 2006 the Iron Heart was released which was the first to be not cut and sewn and stolen from other sports. It was injection molded and it worked perfectly due to a brilliantly engineered pin. You can still see it everywhere today.

• Cabrinha Crossbow released

It was 2005 when the first bridled kite hit the market. Suddenly there was a lot more depower available to the user and unparalleled stability.

• Autofocus 

Often touted as the most significant bit of kite media ever released, Autofocus inspired an incoming generation of kiteboarders. It changed the way many of the biggest names in freestyle rode (Sam Light and Bruna Kajiya both cite it as a key influence) and it established a young Andre Philip as a kiteboarding god of style.

• Lou Wainman puts boots on the internet

Before Dre, there was Lou Wainman. In boots, doing stuff on Kitebeach in Maui that is still considered top-tier freestyle trickery today. And he was on a two-line kite. And no one had ever done it before. People talked.

TheKiteMag 51 Colin Colin Carroll Nick Jacobsen by Daniel Folke - 51st State

• Nick Jacobsen eats a sandwich

Before this, everyone knew the internet was going to be a thing, but no one had truly shown its potential. So when Nick Jacobsen put up a video of him climbing up a huge rusty crane in 30knots, with board dangling off precariously from his leash, and casually eating a sandwich when at the summit – it exploded.

• Underground’s ‘Fridge Door’ first twintip-looking board (and there’s a release edge too)

Until this point, it was all DIY projects and adaptations.

• Hidden Lines is released 2011

The most loved kiteboarding series ever. Two riders at the height of their powers, Youri Zoon and Kevin Langeree, and a new-to-the-scene Nick Jacobsen, who claims that he was ‘lucky to be there’. The reason that this sits inside the top 10, is that it shows where the sport was at in 2011. At this point, the riders held all the power. They were the stars of the sport who called the shots. So if three riders from three different brands wanted to collaborate on an indulgent three-part series that spanned multiple trips and continents, they could. Since then, social media has eroded this power. Internet profiles and publicly visible follower counts have made pro riders think more individualistically. All of a sudden, the videos and the clips were created in order to propel themselves forward, rather than for the audience’s enjoyment. The audience was forgotten overnight and it meant less collaboration. Everything became self-made and self-obsessed, and subsequently, the power shifted away from the riders and into the hands of the now all-powerful brands. That’s what I reckon anyway.

• Kevin beats Aaron 2009 freestyle world champs

The end of the king’s reign. A persistent and patient Kevin Langeree dethrones the man who had just done five-in-a-row. This was huge news and it saw Aaron step away from the tour for the following few years. He returned in 2013.

• One-pump system released

This is the one we are probably all most thankful for. Before this, you had to do the leading edge and the struts individually.

• Mystic release first kiting-specific harness 2002

The Dark Rider hits the market. All of a sudden kiters had a brand they felt represented them.

TheKiteMag 51 Colin Colin Carroll Len10 Megaloop by Craig Kolesky - 51st State

• Stormjees comes out

This is what Marc Jacobs cites as his main inspiration. Ruben Len10 doing Len10 things – like megaloops before anyone has even considered them. Huge crashes. Loads of risk. The beginnings of a significant and long-lasting career as Big Air’s posterboy.

• Aaron releases Calibrate

Ridiculously innovative riding paired with VFX that matched the imagination and commitment of the king. This lifted riding and video production in kiting forever. Still holds up strong today, which says it all.

• Instagram adds video 2013

Before this, the internet was all pictures and words and the occasional 10min+ video. Instagram saw the data. Video was more engaging than scrolling through stills. And 15-second clips meant that people felt they weren’t wasting time. This subtle change causes a fundamental shift in focus for pro kiters, ushering the death of kite videos. All hail the singular clip.

TheKiteMag 51 Colin Colin Carroll Youri Zoon by Andre Magarao 2 - 51st State

Slingshot release RPM 2009

Could a weird looking bow kite really win a world championship? Well, it’s an ‘Open-C’ and yes it had a bridle, but it still managed to keep some of its predecessors’ ability to slack, whilst allowing for a much larger range of depower. Youri Zoon could have the amount of power that he wanted, no matter how gusty and horrid it was.

• Youri Zoon wins 2x freestyle championships back to back, in the height of competition

Perhaps the most competitive, and certainly the most lucrative era of freestyle kiteboarding, where the pros wandered around the beaches like rockstars and the level across the fleet was ridiculously high.

TheKiteMag 51 Colin Colin Carroll Carlos Mario by Lukas Stiller - 51st State

• Carlos Mario wins 3x freestyle championships, back to back 2016, 2017, 2018

No one had dominated like this since Aaron Hadlow. And it was a kid from a Brazilian fishing village against rich European kids who had more money than you can shake a stick at. Only Liam Whaley came close to keeping up.

• Racing turns its focus to hydrofoils 2015

Until this point it had been those enormous boards with big fins underneath. From this point onwards it was faster, sketchier and harder. It also meant that kiting became the fastest watercraft until the America’s Cup boats came and smashed everything to pieces.

• The Bubble

A 17 year old Noè Font spent a year making an authentic kite film that did two things without knowing it: 1) It was a perfect porthole into what kite life was like pre-Big Air. At this point, freestyle was still king. 2) It was the last of this breed of video: 30mins+ kite content. In hindsight, Noè choosing to release it offline-only for the first few years signaled an incoming shift in how we consume kite media. Longer videos have subsequently died a death. It was smart.

• PKRA dies 2014

You can’t underestimate the significance of a healthy World Championship tour, which you could argue kiting hasn’t had since 2014. In its prime, the PKRA was paying athletes better than ever and providing a platform for them, and the discipline of freestyle, to shine. To this day, I’m not sure if the quality of livestreams has really improved. RIP.

• GKA is born 2018

The Global Kite Association was born in order to sort the mess out that was the subsequent tours after the death of the PKRA. The GKA is different than what went before it in that it is largely controlled by the brands. Before this, it was led by third parties and most importantly, the riders. This is a really significant change in the industry and it has massively affected how the tour operates and how the sport is perceived today. Now, commercial interests are followed. Before, the riders had a much bigger stake in how the sport would evolve – giving it its hardcore aesthetic and feel that has been much of the success of kiting.

TheKiteMag 51 Colin Colin Carroll Lewis Crathern Brighton Pier - 51st State

• Lewis Crathern jumps Brighton Pier

He captures the attention of the world with this jump, but in kiting specifically, he captured the hearts of the non-risk averse. Looking back, it was the beginning of stunt kiteboarding.

• Kitesurfing in the Olympics announced 2017

Its time had come. Initially announced as a male/female relay, it has now been granted dual medal status for both genders and promises to be the most watched kiting event of all time. Marseille 2024.

• Liquid Force commercialize kite foiling 

Foiling was happening before boats in the late 80s, and on a kite in the early days, too. But it was considered too unusable and too hard, mostly down to the metal construction and high-aspect nature of the foils. Liquid Force changed this, using a fish board and a low-aspect composite foil. It was easy, cheaper and it looked familiar.

• Bruno and Dominique Legaignoux made the first inflatable kite 1984

They also patented it, and it ran for 20 years and then it exploded three years after it expired.

• In 1999, Robby Naish (winner of 24 windsurfing world titles) bought the patent and released the AR3.5

Then came the AR5, which was the first dedicated four-line, high-aspect ratio kite. It unlocked jumping. It had depower. It went into production and the kiting morphed from an experiment into a sport. Bruno then designs and patents the first bow kite. Bruno becomes a millionaire. The patent has been killed in European court.

• Takoon (owned by Bruno) made the Nova kite – aka the Cabrinha Crossbow

The first mass production bow kite. It could be its shape (flatter) because it had bridles. It essentially meant that the same amount of sail in the sky could produce more power. It was more efficient and therefore easier to use. A simply legendary kite.

TheKiteMag 51 Colin Colin Carroll Angely Bouillot by Craig Kolesky scaled - 51st State

• Angely Bouillot’s KOTA debut

A woman takes to the competition box in 2020’s KOTA. She cuts her foot badly but scores the highest-in-heat late backroll. The crowd goes wild. A generation of women see it and begin to believe.

• North Orbit released 2020

The first kite to be specifically designed to win KOTA, where it debuts in 2020 – Jesse Richman wins. It jumped high, but more importantly, it was/is the friendliest looping kite, ever.

• North (now Duotone) Jaime Pro released 2005

This was a turning point in mass-production board construction. It set the standard, with snowboard (sidewalls) style construction, but refined for kiteboarding. It had/has massively increased bond strength, making it more watertight, but more importantly, it means the designer can properly tune and control flex.

TheKiteMag 51 Colin Colin Carroll Bruna Kajiya by Samuel Cardenas - 51st State

• Bruna lands first female double handlepass 2019

Just when it was beginning to look unachievable for women, Bruna sticks it. In a Brazilian lagoon. BJ5

• Mika lands first female double handlepass in competition 2021

Same country, same number of passes – different lagoon and different rotation. Mika lands the first female 317 in competition. Everyone already knew she was the GOAT, but now there was a massive gap between her and those who had gone before her.

• Jesse Richman kites Nazaré

Just look at it. I’m not sure this particular bit of riding changed the sport outside of capturing the attention of all wave riders on earth, but there is no doubt that Jesse deserves to be in this list. He has given kiting its status as a sport for the wild. When you think kiting, you think Jesse Richman.

• WOO reaches the market 2015

They gamified kiting, with a small blue device that attaches to your board. The leaderboards continue to give joy and despair in equal measure to this day. The platform also plays host to the biggest kite competition on earth – the annual WOO Worlds – where in 2022, 7000+ riders competed.

Carlos Mario debuts at PKRA freestyle event in Argentina 2015

In comes an unknown Brazilian kid, without a sponsor. Christophe Tack is at the helm of the PKRA world championship. No one could have predicted that ‘Bebe’ would dominate this competition, let alone the next four to five years of freestyle. He shook freestyle to its core by showing that doubles can be done with previously unseen ease.

• Giel’s double and S-loop

There aren’t many 15-second clips that have changed the shape of the sport, but Giel’s Double Loop is one such bit of video. Shot by someone having lunch at Mystic House, it first went viral on WhatsApp, before making its way onto Instagram, where it exploded. Within a fortnight, five people had all done something that, before Giel, no one thought was possible.

• Rise of the Italians

The knock-on effect of BAKL’s prominence can be seen in the success of Lorenzo Casati and Andrea Principi in the 2022 season. They won everything, with a fresh riding style and a severe lack of deference. It is significant because it symbolizes the changing of the guard – the introduction of the new generation who are quickly assassinating the sport’s former posterboys.

• Triple S earns itself the largest prize-packet

Equal pay, too.

• Kiteworld shutting down

Symbolic of social media’s domination.

• Colin beats Liam Whaley in tennis 2022

I almost vomited from fatigue but by god it was worth it.

• Big Air Kite League is founded 2018

A disgruntled Mike Mac Donald felt like there wasn’t a platform for him and his Big Air comrades to shine. At the time, there was only KOTA, whose rider list was closely guarded by the previous generation. BAKL was born, and so were a whole host of emerging talents that are now key figures in the sport.

• Richard Branson kites with Naked Girl on his back

Not feeling very comfortable putting this in the list but it is probably the most seen picture of kiting. Richard also played a key part in Nick Jacobsen’s career and he taught Barack Obama to kite in his first week after his presidency in 2016. So maybe it is justified, after all.

• Keahi wins surfer’s Wave of the Year

Kiting, being a relatively new watersport, has always been desperate for the respect of other sports. And perhaps none more than surfing. So when Keahi de Aboitiz won WOTY in 2015, it was a big deal and it was a sizable chunk of the sudden interest in strapless riding with a kite.

• Mark Shinn does board offs 2002

Mark Shinn is the two-time Freestyle World Champion before Aaron Hadlow came to town. In 2002, you could win with boardoffs and mad spins. #fullcircle

• Send It! The Movie

A complete waste of 90 minutes of your life, but it is significant. The sport had grown to such a size that it warranted a teen movie. It is dreadful. Don’t do it to yourself.

. Composite materials arrive

First attempted by Best in 2014 with their ‘Cuben Fiber’ (that exploded), things went quiet on the make-kites-lighter front until ALUULA arrived. Subsequently, all the big brands are scrambling to make their own Dyneema composites or they are buying the material from ALUULA. The result is reportedly superior performance, but huge hikes in price.

• $1,000,000 given to the first person on a sail craft to break 50 knots

A kiter does it, but the prize is never given. This is significant because it shows the gap in culture between kiting and sailing. Sailors couldn’t bring themselves to award a kiter. This gap grows and shrinks all the time. Perhaps the 2024 Olympics will be the smallest the gap has ever been.

TheKiteMag 51 Colin Colin Carroll Ragnarok by Ydwer van der Heide - 51st State

• Red Bull Ragnarok

As if KOTA wasn’t enough, Red Bull continue to take kiting to new extremes with their signature annual snowkite race in Norway. Notoriously gnarly, only 15% of racers make it to the finish line (they don’t die). Steph Bridge has won it five times.

• KSP 2012 live stream

‘The Eddie of Kitesurfing’ happened in Mauritius. It was massive at One Eye. The live stream went mad. It drove attention to strapless riding (which I despise). I can’t bring myself to say anything more about this discipline of pretending-to-be-a-cool-surfer. Come on, all they are doing is edging against the kite. Actual surfers are still better. [ED: Colin does not represent the opinions of some (any?) of the rest of the team at TheKiteMag.]

• Tom Bridge’s 2021 KOTA performance

Okay, I expect to be given a fair amount of flack for putting this in – but hear me out. In the middle of his KOTA heat, Tom, for no reason whatsoever other than to give the middle finger to the rising trend of Big Air, unhooks after a megaloop and does a backmobe. The stream missed it, and I can’t think of anything more symbolic of the demise of freestyle. I was filming though, and it will live on my Instagram forever. This is not a desperate plug for you to follow me on IG. I already have loads of followers.

Lowlights: VKWC dying… Send it! The Movie… Janek’s legs… death of print magazines (lol!)

CCC sig - 51st State

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