In the late afternoon sun at Kanaha beach Stuart Downey stepped on to the top step of the podium with Naish teamates Vetea Boersma to the left and Tomas Aguirre to the right as the Maui Kite Fest Mens Big Air Champion and winner of the coveted wildcard spot for the 2020 Red Bull King of the Air.
Bringing together 69 riders from across the globe who shared their stoke for the sport in what has now become the premier kitesurfing event on Maui in only its second year running, this year the Maui Kite Fest reached a whole new level by bringing the Red Bull King of the Air back to it’s original birthplace, granting a Wildcard to the winner of the Extreme Big Air to compete in the 2020 Red Bull King of the Air in Cape Town, South Africa.
With the official announcement of the coveted wild card spot to be awarded to the winner, the kiteboarding world started buzzing and drew an international field of kiters to Maui.
The first day of the event kicked off in full swing with insane conditions averaging between 28 to 40 knots, which were the perfect arena to run the Extreme Big Air Discipline.
Competition was intense as big air specialists tried everything they could to make it to the final. After he was eliminated from the competiton, Seattle’s Phillipp Schonger couldn’t resist the perfect conditions and logged an 80ft (24.5 m) high jump down the beach. After narrowing down the field to the top four, the final battle was set. After the final horn blasted, it was South Africa’s Stuart Downey who flew all the way in from Durban to claim his title and take home the coveted Wildcard to compete in the 2020 KOTA. On the podium ranking Downey was closely followed by Vetea Boersma, then last years champion Tomas Aguirre coming in a close 3rd and Corey Folz on 4th.
“Conditions were really good. The wind got better throughout the day, it was definitely King of the Air strength with the final having the best wind. It’s hard to compare though as Maui and Cape Town are very different but it was definitely King of the Air worthy,” said Stuard Downey after the event.
While Kevin Langeree has won the King of the Air twice with the Pivot, Stuart rode a 10 m Dash. “The Pivot is great for jumping since its so easy but the Dash is a great kite for kitelooping. The Dash has a better top end and I prefer feel in the bar of the Dash over the Pivot. In super strong winds the Dash is much more manageable to control and I’m able to ride more powered comfortably,” said Stuart.
On Sunday the Maui Kite Fest finished competition with the final races, Women and Grom Freestyle and finally ended with a traditional luau and awards ceremony where Naish’s Karlie Thoma and Tim Walsh received their trophies for winning the Women and Grom Freestyle divisions respectively. Karli also took the win in the Women’s open race and Tom Seager who came all the way fro the UK, took third in the Mens Open Race.
“I really enjoyed how everybody gets involved. It was well organized and really promotes involving everyone. Like for the race everyone, not just people who thought they would win, were out and it was super fun. And everyone on the beach was super friendly plus there was a Luau at the end, which brought everyone together with food and beers!” said Stuart about the event overall.
It was a great weekend for the Maui kite community and Naish is stoked to have taken part in helping to put on a grassroots event. We already can’t wait for the 3rd Maui Kite Fest next year!