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Mask by Craig Kolesky 1 1200x800 - What to watch for at King of The Air 2022

What to watch for at King of The Air 2022

For a gentleman as invested in Big Air as our beloved Colin, the KOTA is the equivalent of Christmas morning to a seven-year-old. It’s the Super Bowl to an American, or the World Cup final to people that enjoy kicking inflatable pig bladders of a Saturday. Whilst it’s unlikely they’ll wheel out Beyonce or Snoop Dogg at half time for a musical number, kudos to Red Bull for consistently putting on a fine event for TEN FLAMING YEARS, which is without a doubt the pinnacle of the kite calendar. It’s clear Colin has an awkward tent pole forming in his (off-beige corduroy) pants already, and it’s not even November yet. With recent advances in Big Air trickery, this year is – without a doubt – going to cause him an absolute knee trembler.

WORDS: Colin Colin Carroll
PHOTOS: Cat Yde, Craig Kolesky and Samuel Cardenas
Andrea Principi by Samuel Cardenas 2 - What to watch for at King of The Air 2022

1) Young guns grenade launchers

For the first time, the KOTA fleet will include a Big Air World Champion, crowned by the GKA in July 2022. He’s 17, his name is Andrea and he is an assassin. The young Italian appears to be missing the fear part of his brain and he is landing stuff that no one’s ever thought of. The worst thing is that he has a couple mates that are just as good.

Lasse Walker double loop needs editing - What to watch for at King of The Air 2022

2) Double loops

It seems strange that 2022’s edition will be the first time KOTA sees a double loop – a trick that has plagued the seas and the internet since its inception earlier this year. Since then, we’ve seen it win every major kiteboarding event.

Giel Vlugt at GKA by Samuel Cardenas - What to watch for at King of The Air 2022

3) S-loops

It’s the double loop’s older brother. He’s the type that looks at your girlfriend and spits in your pint. You go one way, then, just when things are getting hairy, you go the other. S. It’s not a good idea, particularly not with board offs or rotations, but that’s where it’s heading. Expect someone to get hurt.

Aaron KOTA 2015 by Craig Kolesky - What to watch for at King of The Air 2022

4) Return of the KGB

Speaking of life changing injuries, we might be saying hello to our long lost friend: the megaloop KGB. Here’s what comes up when you Google it: The KGB was feared because they could kill their opponents in hostile countries, using creative methods. Pretty accurate. This is the trick that won two KOTAs back to back, when thrown by Aaron Hadlow in 2015 and 2016. Back then, it was a move of desperation. Only to be used in the final moments of the competition. Do or die stuff. Since then, the judges have gone off it (I guess you can’t keep crowning the same guy for doing the same move every year) and have favored height, instead. Technicality has taken a back seat, but that’s all about to change.

Nick Jacobsen at Cold Hawaii by Cat Yde - What to watch for at King of The Air 2022

5) Desperate measures

The thing is with pro kiters, underneath the chiseled abs and their love of attention, they’re lazy. They would rather not risk life and limb to win a kite competition. They’d much rather do the minimum required to win, and no more. Which is an excellent strategy, until everyone’s skill level rises. At present, everyone can do a massive kiteloop with a frontroll and a board off all at the same time. Come December, most of the fleet with be doing double loops, too. So, the question is, where does it go next? It goes into the desperate corners. Into the new shit. The weird shit. Like snake loops and handle passes. It’s the next evolutionary step.

Nick Jesse Aaron at KOTA 2020 by Craig Kolesky - What to watch for at King of The Air 2022

6) A massacre of old names

I will be very surprised if the stars of yesterday turn up to be slaughtered. Like a pig running into the abattoir. If their brains are still connected, they’ll be making up some good excuses and watching it from the comfort of their own homes – or, even better, they’ll be rejected at the video entry stage. When this inevitably does happen, expect some bitter Instagram stories from those rejected, complaining that their enormous amount of talent hasn’t been recognized: “What @redbull!?!?!? I invented the double off! On, off, on and then back off! I’m a tortured genius!”

Angely Bouillot KOTA by Craig Kolesky 1 - What to watch for at King of The Air 2022

7) Potential women’s event alongside

This is something that has been long demanded, but hasn’t been realistic. Until now. In 2022, you only have to look as far as the Big Air Kite League to see that we have a fleet of 12+ female riders who are capable and competitive. I see no reason why Red Bull wouldn’t accommodate a women’s event.

Mikaili Sol by Samuel Cardenas - What to watch for at King of The Air 2022

8) Pit-stops

Last time KOTA graced our screens, pit stops were only used if the breeze suddenly shat itself or picked up. Now the cool kids (and anyone that dares get in the ring with them) sacrifice 90 seconds of heat time to change to a smaller kite, for double loops and the like. This will be a major feature of KOTA 2022 and it brings with it an element of strategy. Do you stay out and utilize the additional 90 seconds over your opponent, or do you gamble and change down? What happens if it drops off? Do you do whatever the opponent is doing? This will be interesting to watch, particularly as the likelihood of death loops and general on-beach carnage is quite high.

Angely Bouillot KOTA by Craig Kolesky 2 - What to watch for at King of The Air 2022

9) 10 year shenanigans

This is the tenth edition of KOTA, so expect lots of self-congratulatory signage. I mean, it sort of deserves it, right? It has fundamentally changed the sport forever and has provided a platform for an otherwise plateauing sport to grow. Let alone the hours and hours of free entertainment every year.

Mask by Craig Kolesky scaled - What to watch for at King of The Air 2022

10) Panic Stations!

Because it’s once a year. And because it’s the biggest event in kiteboarding by a mile – everyone panics. Suddenly, people who do next-to-nothing all year, come out of the woodwork:

• Desperate pros create dreadful vlogs

• Kite magazines create wind-ruined interviews

• Awful amateur videographers make YouTube compilations

• Someone will get injured the day before doing something stupid for Instagram

• Colin the commentator (the other Colin) won’t know what’s going on once again

• Red Bull will misuse the traditional African mask as their trophy for a white event for – largely – white people

CCC sig - What to watch for at King of The Air 2022

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