Italy’s Andrea Principi made it back-to-back Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Twin-Tip Kite World Champion titles in 2023, the year he also took the Red Bull King of the Air trophy. Between some fully-committed skiing in Spain that he regards as down-time from kiting, he talked to Ian MacKinnon about his goals for 2024, and where he sees the exploding Big Air discipline going this coming season.
Question: You won the GKA Big Air world title again this year and Kota. How was that for you to win consecutive titles and Kota in the same year?
Andrea Principi: Yeah, I was happy. It was as a dream. Also getting the [Red Bull] Megaloop Challenge in the middle too. To make the three in a row, it’s crazy. It was just a lot of work. Every time you reach this comp, you know everything has to go well, because every comp is different. Everything has to go well. Every day is different. I had a bit of luck, I trained a lot and everything went well. I think I did the biggest mission of my life for now. Because it was crazy—three in a row.
Q: Was it important for you to get back-to-back world titles? A lot of people say winning the first time is hard, but a second time is even harder. Did you feel that was important for you?
AP: You know three comps in a row, it’s a lot. I said it looks impossible because after you won the first one, you say, why not the second one? Then I said the same for the third one. So for sure, I know that now it’s possible and I will try to do again and I know that it’s difficult. But at least it’s possible because I did it one time, right? So I can do two, three, four.
Q: Do you think is it getting harder? Is it going to get harder? Because the competition seems to be getting closer and closer between you and your rivals?
AP: Yeah, of course the level is growing, but I think that I am improving as well. I just need the proper wind in the competition, a proper 45 knots. Because the problem is that not every competition happens in 45 knots. So when it is 25 or 30 knots, it is almost not Big Air. You know, I’m improving myself. So, I’m doing my training in 45 knots. Of course, if I have to do the comp in 20 knots I do the trick, whatever. But if you want to see me do the proper trick, I need 45 knots.
‘Find my space’
Q: And when you’re training, do you train alone or with the other guys?
AP: I like to train alone, honestly. When I want a fun session, I enjoy training with everyone. But then before a comp and I need to train, I prefer stay alone, you know, stay away just to find my space. Like this I can focus more on what I’m doing.
Q: Do you do that also so that you can keep some moves secret for the competition? And where would you go? Where would you go to train?
AP: Yeah, yeah yeah, of course, this for sure [keeping tricks under wraps]. You need to have [something special] just in case, if you need it, you have to use it in the comp. I don’t know where we go to train. I was just check the forecast two days before and where there is proper wind, I will go there.
Q: Big Air developed really, really quickly in in the past year. Is it going to keep developing in the same way?
AP: I cannot say for other riders. But from my side I will keep pushing. I am constantly pushing my level. So every day, I find new moves or something new. So I cannot tell you now where the Big Air will go, but for sure, we keep pushing every day.
To me Big Air is the highest jump that you can do. You don’t care where the kite is or what you do with the kite. It’s just the highest jump that you can do. So maybe using even longer lines. You know, going even higher.
‘Do my own thing’
Q: Does the equipment change to make it better?
AP: This is another thing, of course, the technology is going forward. So everything is timing. With a better kite you can push even more your limits. Because, the better the kite, the more it brings you up and the more you can do your thing.
Q: Have you changed your strategy for the competitions as time has gone? Do you know the moves that you’ve got to go for?
AP: You know, more or less I have a plan of what to do. But sometimes I have to do something special because it’s a competition. Every round, every section of the competition is something different. So if a guy does big tricks, I need to do bigger tricks than him. But I mostly do my own thing.
Q: The GKA is going to have three Big Air events this year. Are you planning to do the tour again? And what is your goal for this year?
AP: Yeah, I think I will do them all, of course. I will try to get a third [world title]. The first event is in Barcarès, then Tarifa, and then Gran Canaria. It’s going to be really fun. The places are really good for Big Air.
images: Samuel Cárdenas