Kitesurfing competitions are exciting events that showcase the skill and technique of the world’s top kitesurfers. These competitions are held all around the world in places that produce the best conditions for different styles of competition.
The main disciplines of kitesurf competition are Big Air, Freestyle, Wave and Racing. Different parts of the world produce different conditions that are suitable for the different disciplines at different times of the year so there are competitions all year round across the sport. Over the years the popularity of each discipline has varied and as the riders push the boundaries of the sport the kit develops to keep up with their progression.
With wind being a fickle beast most competitions have a wind window to allow more chance and time for good conditions than choosing any single day.
Red Bull King of the Air: The King of the Air is an annual kitesurfing competition held in Cape Town, South Africa. It is known for its massive jumps and high-flying action. Its probably the competition most riders want to be a part of the most. Its prestige has helped create the careers of several riders with Previous Kings being some of the biggest names in the sport. Kevin Langeree is the stand out winner with three crowns to his name with Aaron Hadlow, Jesse Richman both having two titles each. The competition is a day of riding in winds of 25 knots or more and is a knockout format with judges deciding each round winner based on several criteria including, jump height, extremity, technique and innovation. 2022 saw the youngest ever podium with Lorenzo Casati (17), Jamie Overbeek (17) and Andrea Principi (18) taking the top spots in winds of over 35 knots for the majority of the day.
Cold Hawaii: This event is far as far removed from the usual kitesurf images we see. Its not the blue sea golden sand kind of event. Being held in the Northern Denmark town Klitmoller in September its cold and harsh environment add to the dramatics. As a big air extreme kitesurf event the wind needs to be strong so the riders can go big. Judges are looking for height and extremity first and for most with the technicality and variety helping score big and its the riders best three scored jumps in a round that will take them onto the next round.
Rebull Megaloop: The Megaloop was conceived to help develop extreme big air kitesurfing and as such will only run when the the perfect storms hit Zandvoort in the Netherlands. With a minimum average wind speed of 35 knots the wind window is from April the 1st – November 1st and because of these factors the event has not run since 2019 when Ross-Dillon Player won. This event has the ability to put a riders name on the world kitesurfing map. Considered to be the most extreme kitesurf event the riders are pushing the limits in unforgiving conditions and the judges are looking for quality over quantity – the biggest and most powerful mega loop can win your heat. A combination of height, power, kite angle and distance travelled make up 70% of the trick score with execution and flow making up the other 30%.
Big Air Kite League: The Big Air Kite League is a relatively new kitesurfing competition that focuses on big air jumps and tricks. The whole competition is designed by the riders for the riders meaning its a well respected tour by those on it. It features a series of events held around the world (Tarifa, Hood River and Cape Town) and attracts some of the top big air riders. As the competition has developed the fleet of riders has grown now featuring two men’s divisions with reserve riders and a full women’s fleet. The league is partly responsible for the development of the big air riding in the last few years and has fed riders into the bigger stand alone events.
Global Kitesports Association (GKA) World Tour: The GKA World Tour is a series of international kitesurfing events that feature freestyle and wave riding competitions and most recently big air. It attracts some of the world’s top kite surfers and is known for its high level of competition and is sponsored by Qatar Airlines. The freestyle and wave world tours are heralded as the biggest events in those disciplines each year with the tour heading to different locations to score the different conditions to crown the best rider for both male and female each year. Big Air made its debut in 2022 under the GKA title and crowned its tour winners after one event in Tarifa, Spain. All three disciplines are judged with riders competing through knock out rounds until a winner is crowned.
Olympics: Kitesurfing was recently added to the Olympics and will make its debut in the 2024 Paris Olympics. The competition will feature course racing on hydrofoils and is expected to attract some of the world’s top kiteboarders. Realistically this is the biggest competition kitesurfing will ever of had. To gain entry into the Olympics a rider must help qualify their country then be selected by their country to go to the games. Each country has their own selection process but most will look at previous event results over the year or two leading up to the games. These selection events will commonly have fleets of over 60 riders in each the men’s and women’s division. The fleets will race several races a day on multiple days over a week on different course layouts and then the top 10 go into a final day medal race to decide the winner. Windspeeds need to race are around 7-8 knots with riders taking kites up to 21m and even in these light wind condtions the top guys are travelling at over 25 knots. In winder conditions speeds can reach the high 40’s on some parts of the course. In the non Olympic years the Kitefoil World Series and Formula Kite (IKA) evets make the rest of the years competitions and give world rankings.
These are the major events of the kitesurf year but each country will have a whole host of other local and national events that feed the above competitions.
See any of the major events in the flesh will give you a whole new respect for kitesurfing and inspire to push harder in your own skills. At the average beach average riders are jumping into the high teens in meters and mostly this is without any tricks – Pro riders in places like Tarifa are going out in 40-60 knots and jumping 20 – 30m high and doing the latest tricks from boards off rotations with big single kite loops and double kite loops.
Whats really good about kitesurfing is that you can get the exact same kit as the top riders are using in competiton. Head to King Of Watersports to check out all the latest gear.