Changing Attitudes - Hannah Whiteley


This season in Cape Town, South Africa, saw a huge step forwards for women’s Big Air riding with the Red Bull King of the Air 2019 event including an Expression Session for the world’s fiercest female extreme kiteboarders. Broadcasted worldwide via the Red Bull TV Live Stream and on the same day as the iconic event, the main stage was opened up to athletes such as Hannah Whiteley, who’s performance smashed the glass ceiling and made such a positive impact. Could this year be the start of something that will see female entries be included in the main event in years to come?  Anything’s possible, but for now we catch up with Hannah to hear about her experience. 


You’re well known for pushing the limits in Big Air riding and love the extreme elements. What makes you keep coming back to Cape Town?


I have been coming to Cape Town for the last 10 years. Out of all the places I have travelled to, Cape Town very much feels like my second home. The lifestyle is just the best here. You can live so comfortably and there’s a huge diversity of things to do. I get such a rush from kiting here when the true Cape Doctor wind kicks in. It's such a strong dense wind with so much punch, you can't beat it. For Big Air kiting I think it could be the best pace in the in the world to train. There is something so dramatic about kiting with Table Mountain as your back drop. I find it hard not to return here. 

What did it mean to you for the world’s most extreme kiteboarding event, King of the Air, to include a female Expression Session for the first time in history?


I felt like this was really such a great opportunity to showcase women's big air riding as we’ve never been involved in the KOTA before. I couldn't help but feel a little bit frustrated by this. Let me tell you we are so ready and fired up to show that we can send it hard in 40knots! I really hope that this women's ‘expression session’ in KOTA is the start of something awesome and next year we can have a proper event at KOTA. WE ARE READY!


You have definitely played a big part in pioneering and pushing this style of riding. Can you tell us about the journey to getting the green light this year?


This year there was quite a few girls that made video entries for KOTA wildcard entry. So I think this definitely caught the right kind of attention. I have aways tried to push for a girls category at the KOTA. This year, there with quiet a few girls making video entries which really made a difference and I believe this is why they gave us the top the opportunity to showcase our riding.

What advice do you have for other female riders looking to get into the style of riding?

Build up your level session by session so you're not out of control. If you try to go all-in straight away, trying too advanced moves you are likely to injury yourself and get put off pushing the extreme side of kitesurfing. 




As a regular, what tips and tricks do you have for those visiting Cape Town for the first time.

The prevailing wind is SE and when it kicks in, it can go from zero to 7m weather rather quickly. If you are a twin tip rider I would recommend bringing the sizes 7m, 9m, 10m maybe an 11m - you don't need bigger than an 11m. If you have a surfboard it would be good to bring a 5m kite, along with a 4,3mm wetsuit. At the moment I love riding the Dice on the 'hard settings' for big air. Boards wise, I mostly use the Jaime Textreme 136cm with the Entity straps, it’s working really well for me.