The annual Red Bull King of the Air kitesurfing competition is set to kick off this week, with a wind window scheduled between Saturday January 21 and Sunday February 5. The world’s best big air kitesurfers will take to the water at the organiser’s call as they clamour for victory.
Among them will be team Naish SA’s Ryan Siegelberg, 24, of Parklands, who is one of four wildcard competitors drawn for the event from a pool of video entrants.
A self-proclaimed wind-addicted adrenaline junkie, he will be looking to impress the judges with some daredevil big air antics.
“I was 15 years old when I got my first set-up, which I must admit was pretty shoddy, but it got the job done. I remember the first time I wanted to get involved in the sport was after seeing this lone rider, who I later got to know was Andries Fourie, out in Blouberg, doing these massive jumps. He was the only guy out in almost stormy winds and I just knew that took guts. That really inspired me to look into this as a sport.
“There are a few different variants of kitesurfing as a sport, such as waveriding, which is done on a directional board similar to a surfboard and there’s freestyle, which focuses on the more technical and acrobatic aspects of the sport.
“I have always just prefered the extreme side of it all. I don’t go out in anything less than 40 knot winds – that’s when you really fly,” he said.
Aqualifiedkitesurfing instructor, Siegelberg is part of the team at Table View kitesurfing school, High-five, where he says he has a perfect view of weather conditions and at any given moment, when the call of strong winds gets too much, he can grab his gear and hit the water.
“At the beginning of last year I was working at a surf shop in Big Bay when I was offered an opportunity to teach kitesurfing in Zanzibar.
“I did my instructor’s course and headed over in March. For four months I spent my time teaching and working on my own riding, although it was mainly just light-wind kiting.
“Being in Zanzibar was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. It’s a lot less glamorous than it is made out to be as there is a lot of poverty in the country but being among the people there you really start to realise how much we take for granted in a place like South Africa. One of the highlights for me was getting to teach some of the little kids from the village I stayed in how to kite,” he said.
Towards the end of last year, video submission entries opened for the wildcard spots in the King of the Air competition.
Although he had been riding waves on the back end of his kite for years and had time as an instructor under the belt, Siegelberg never thought he would be lining up to tackle one of the premiere big air events on the world calendar but after receiving the right push, he sent in his video, still not expecting that call up.
“I never planned for all of this to happen at first. I was doing big air kiting for the rush and never thought about the competing aspect. After a while some people started saying that I was really good and I never really saw it myself until I watched some footage and started to think maybe those people were right.
“I took a chance and sent in a video last-minute – literally 30 minutes before the deadline. A week later I got a message from one of the organisers asking for my details but even then I never really thought I’d be getting in.
“In the middle of December the final line-up was announced. It was quite crazy. I was grabbing a quick cup of coffee at Carlucci’s and was just checking my emails when I got the final confirmation. I was so excited I was shouting in the store like a madman.
“The support I have received from friends and family has been amazing. I am also happy to have the support of Naish SA and Mystic SA who have helped out with most of the gear I use on a daily basis.
“Lastly, I just want to point out something that a lot of people might not see when they see riders out on the water but that is to know that this is a high-risk sport and requires serious commitment.
“As with any sport, it requires you to be in peak physical condition – staying fit and strong is essential. Even then, injuries are always just around the corner and I have had two knee surgeries and wear braces now to prevent serious injuries.
“Niggles like shoulder and joint injuries occur all the time. This is not to put anyone off, I know it doesn’t put me off, but just to remember to take those sorts of things into consideration,” he said.
Visit www.redbullkingoftheair.com for details and to follow the event live.