HISTORIC WIN AT THE 2023 KOTA
Andrea Principi with a trilogy performance of a lifetime
The 11th edition of the world’s most extreme big air kiteboarding contest — The Red Bull King of the Air — has just come to a close. It was a battle for the ages between the absolute best 18 big air riders out there right now.
Five of our international team riders qualified for the event: Aaron Hadlow (UK), Airton Cozzolino (ITA), Andrea Principi (ITA), Beto Gomez (COL) and Edgar Ulrich (FRA).
Held at the iconic location of Kite Beach in Table View, Cape Town, South Africa, the Red Bull King of the Air remains the benchmark event in big air kiting.
A two-week waiting period is set aside every year to score the best conditions Cape Town has to offer. With a uniquely adapted format to this event, jaw-dropping action was guaranteed, but nobody could foresee the insane and momentous action that went down once the event was called on.
On Day 5 of the event waiting period, the contest kicked off. Although the Cape Doctor wasn’t delivering the typical SA nuking insanity, an 11-second period swell produced some great kickers for the riders who were on their 9m2 and 10m2 kites. Some early upsets and crazy highlights made it perfectly clear already in Round 1 and 2 that there are no certainties in competitive kiteboarding.
Heat 2 was a truly memorable one as three of our riders were up against each other: Edgar Ulrich, Airton Cozzolino, and Andrea Principi. Airton, as the only strapless rider in the event, certainly showed what makes him the king of the strapless trade. However, crashing a number of his moves, allowed Andrea and Edgar to take control of the heat. It was a super tight battle with both riders neck and neck. Stomping out 9 tricks, landing all smoothly without a single crash, amongst them a super impressive ContraLoop FrontRoll X4 Board Off, secured Andrea the 2nd place, with a total heat score of 24.6 and an impression score of 6.62. The absolute highlight of Day 1 was Edgar Ulrich’s performance. Having taken a break from the big air scene for more than 10 weeks earlier this year, due to his participation in the French Reality TV Show “Love Island” — and winning it! — some might have questioned Edgar’s focus. But the Frenchman made his statement to these doubtful comments by stomping out a massive KGB KiteLoop, becoming the third person ever to pull off this trick in a comp. His incredible efforts in this heat were rewarded by advancing straight to Round 3.
Having competed in the KOTA for ten years in a row as well as in previous editions of the original KOTA in Hawaii, Aaron Hadlow, 2x KOTA Winner and 5x World Champion, is this event’s ultimate veteran. Struggling slightly in his first heat, Aaron made a strong comeback in Round 2, securing himself a spot in Round 3.
Although showing some strong riding, unfortunately, neither the freshly crowned World Champion Airton Cozzolino nor crowd favourite Beto Gomez were able to advance, with their campaign for the KOTA crown 2023 ending in Round 2.
With five days off between competition days and three of our five riders advancing into Round 3, Day 2 of the contest upped the ante in terms of conditions. This time the Cape Doctor was doing what it’s famous for, with all the riders on their small kites.
In Heat 14, Edgar Ulrich and Stijn Mul (NLD) were trading blows, with a crash count of zero for both. Edgar managed to seal the deal with all three of his top tricks in the 7-point range and a massive KiteLoop FrontRoll X2 Board Off.
Up against local Luca Ceruti (ZAF) in Heat 17, Andrea Principi showed why he’s currently the World Champion. Luca gave Andrea a good run for his money, yet it was very obvious that Andrea was on a mission. Landing a massive ContraLoop Board Off, scored the Italian an 8.43, yet what sealed the deal for him was the only Double Kiteloop of the heat, which the judges rewarded with a 7.92. With an overall impression score of 7.96, Andrea advanced to the semis.
Heat 18 was a battle between kiteboarding legend Aaron Hadlow and last year’s winner Lorenzo Casati. With only 3.5 minutes left, Lorenzo decided on a kite change. A tactical move that enabled Lorenzo to pull off a Double Kiteloop as well as the first Double Megaloop Board Off of the event, catapulting him into the semi-finals.
Semi-final no.2 was a phenomenal heat between two teammates and friends: Andrea Principi vs Edgar Ulrich. Things started off a bit slow, yet when Andrea pulled off an immense Kiteloop Double Backroll Board Off, the energy on the beach turned electric. Traveling over 150 meters in distance with this move, and scoring an 8.52 for it, really heated things up between the two. Edgar answered with a crazy KiteLoop Inverted Triple BackRoll Board Off, which gave Andrea even more reason to take it to the moon. Andrea answered with a spectacular S-Loop, which put him in control of the heat. With only 1 mins 10 secs to go in this heat, Edgar stomped out a ginormous ContraLoop FrontRoll X4 Board Off, plus a KiteLoop FrontRoll X2 Board Off right on the buzzer, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Italian. Winning the heat with a huge overall impression score of 8.22, Andrea secured himself a spot in the final and cemented his legend status.
The final was one for the ages with the highest energy-pumping action from start to finish. Three best mates exploded into this epic heat: Lorenzo Casati, Andrea Principi and Jeremy Burlando (ESP). Riding his 6m2 “Porsche Sau Kite Edition”, Andrea put a few impressive scores to his name straight away with a Double ContraLoop BackRoll X2 Board Off and a Double ContraLoop FrontRoll X2.
Everyone on the beach went nuts when Andrea launched into the first ever S-Loop Board Off in the history of KOTA. Smoothly pulling off this move in the final, gained him a 9.18 and cranked things up to an entirely new level. Being the only rider pushing into the 9s was still not enough for Andrea. Scoring over 9 points for two more tricks (S-Loop inverted FrontRoll Board Off, 9.42, and a Double ContraLoop inverted FrontRoll Board Off, 9.74), and thus 9s for all three of his top moves, Andrea set a new record and history was made.
Sticking a Double KiteLoop BackRoll X2 Board Off, Lorenzo Casati likewise pulled off a trick that had never been landed in competition before, but he couldn’t match the consistency of Andrea’s massive scores.
With a total score of 37.54 and the highest impression score of the whole event of 9.2, Andrea took the most coveted crown in kiteboarding and by that sealed the trilogy he has been working so hard for Winner of Cold Hawaii, the Mega Loop Challenge and the King of the Air, everything in one season.
The emotions of the young Italian at the prize ceremony were electric and nobody could have put better words to his massive achievement than the new King of the Air himself:
»Today is a big day. In many years I’ll look back on this day. It was my mission to get the trilogy. And today I reached my infinity, because it was my dream since I started kiting and today I got it! «
We are so stoked and proud of you Andrea, you’re the greatest inspiration and ambassador for our sport. Thank you so much for manifesting your dreams, putting in the work and making it happen.
Congratulations also to Edgar for coming tied fourth and all the other riders pushing the envelope of big air kiteboarding like we’ve never seen before. What a competition!!