In pt. 2 of North’s blog ‘Pre-Game Talk’ the guy’s at North catch up with team rider Lewis Crathern as he prepares both mentally and physically for the Red Bull King Of The Air. Last year Lewis was involved in what can only be described as a ‘when it all goes wrong’ accident leaving him in a coma for weeks. The past year has seen him recover from the crash, overcomes his fears, win big air titles, and get back on top just in time for the 2017 event.
How many years have you been doing the King Of The Air?
I’ve featured in every KOTA since it started again here in Cape Town, so this year will be my 5th.
How do you think your riding and style impresses the judges?
My ability to survive a big crash? Only joking! I like to think that I can impress the judges with the height that I’m going into my moves with. The major difference between the other riders and myself is my preparation. I choose each year to immerse myself into the event as much as possible via my MC roll at the event. It helps me to relax about my kitesurfing.What do you do to prepare for this years event?
Kitesurfing in these conditions always takes some time to really dial in. That comes with experience of arriving here and getting too excited and injuring yourself early. I like to get at least 2 weeks of riding in so I don’t just come for the holding period of the event.
How do you ease yourself into this extreme style of riding and what tips can you give to people wanting to progress into Big Air riding?
Learning when not to commit is an important part of staying safe when conditions get extreme. I would encourage people wanting to learn mega loops and things like to take a small kite. Learn the timing before you move up to a size that contains more power. Probably the best tip of all is to come to Cape Town. Ride here and watch all the other riders (there are so many now) going big off the front.Have you been riding with other competitors in the event and how does it motivate and inspire you?
I get on with all the riders in the KOTA but there are only a few I regularly ride with. Mostly it’s guys on the North Team as it’s beneficial to share information. To me the competition starts way earlier then the event window. Before the event, when possible, I prefer to stay upwind from a KOTA competitor to see what he’s up to. This way it also makes it harder for him to know what I’m working on.
Do you also take time in the lead up to the competition to mentally prepare yourself?
I’m trying to this year. I’m doing some yoga each day, trying to focus on a successful KOTA outcome!
How do you contain the adrenaline and do you have any tips on how to use it to your advantage.
I think experience really helps. The first few years I used to go a bit full on straight away, but now I try not to react to what the other guys are doing – which is not easy. Sometimes if you see something awesome go off in front of you, you feel you need to do something as well. I’ve also learned to channel my adrenaline by not thinking too hard about the Competition Ladder and who I may come up against and in what heat. Take it as it comes.
What gear will you be riding this year?
I’m not going to give too much away, but I will be riding a combination of Rebels in the bigger sizes and Vegas’ in smaller sizes.
What tips do you have for people when setting it up for big air riding?
Consider different shapes. There was a time that all riders were sticking to C Kites, but now we are seeing a lot of Hybrids that can obtain incredible boosts and even insane kite looping potential. Also consider line length. This year at the event we will see anything ranging from 19meters to 24 meters. I am finding that the biggest jumps do require a minimum line length of 22 meters.
Boots or Bindings?
I am a boots kind of guy – which may surprise to some people after what happened to me last year – but I don’t feel my accident was down to my footwear. The reason I choose to ride boots is that I feel I am in the best control of my board. Like a good tyre can effect a car, I value good grip highly. The idea of losing my board for a sustained period of time is not a great one either. Yes it does limit me in the board off area but I fall in the camp of riders that feels the Mega loops are the future of extreme big air kiteboarding.
Thanks and good luck Lewis!