Big Air ‘young guns’ just got younger

Published 9th April 2024 by Ian MacKinnon


Fiercely competitive line-up for Lords of Tram GKA Big Air season opener features clutch of young teenaged debutants

Lords of Tram GKA Big Air Kite World Cup France 2024
30 March—28 April, Barcarès

The Lords of Tram GKA Big Air Kite World Cup is set to kick-off any day with the youngest line-up ever, a reflection of the exploding discipline’s mass appeal at the cutting edge of kiteboarding’s ever-evolving competitive scene.

In the past two years Big Air kiteboarding has been populated at the top by breakout 16 and 17-year-old stars, like Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite World Champion, Andrea Principi, former Red Bull King of the Air (Kota), Lorenzo Casati, and Dutchman Jamie Overbeek.

But this year’s upcoming Lords of Tram event in Barcarès, southern France, opens the title race for the Qatar Airways GKA Big Air Kite Men’s World Championship with clutch fresh faces aged 14 to 16 from around the world.

The opposite end of the spectrum is held down by the ever-green duo of Aaron Hadlow, 35, and Marc Jacobs, 34, both former Red Bull Kota winners who are keen to show that Big Air is not strictly the preserve of the young guns.

Twenty-four men and 12 women landed the coveted spots in the sixth edition of the Barcarès competition, chosen from GKA world rankings, wild cards and video entries. The contest organisers will signal a “green light” warning riders that battles will begin in not less than 72 hours when the forecast looks good.

Forging own path

For the youngest athletes it will be their first chance to show what they can do on the world stage in the pressure cooker of their biggest international competition, where rivals boast years of experience.

Fourteen-year-old Leonardo Casati, the younger brother of Lorenzo, told Kitesurf365 podcast of his hopes and dreams for Lords of Tram and how he is intent on forging his own path.

“I think have zero pressure,” said Leonardo Casati. “It’s all super cool and exciting for me and I can’t wait to get in the water, have fun and go big. I’ll just go there, have fun, do my tricks. [Lorenzo] is a huge inspiration for me. I try to copy him as much as possible. But I also like to do new things, on my own, like Osmosis.”

Leonardo Casati has another 14-year-old rival, the young Briton Max Tullett, who was on the reserve list but go his shot when one of the selected riders dropped out through injury. 

“It’s the best 24 riders in the world the world and hopefully I can make my way through my first heat and compete against these guys,” said Tullett. “I would like to land some of my good tricks and get some decent height, because I know in these events they love height and it scores extra. So hopefully, I can get some of my tricks in with a decent amount of height. On flat water at Lords of Tram, it should be a lot easier to get higher.”

‘Just push it’

Estonia’s Martin Rahnel is just 15, but is another up-and-coming name who has been training in Tarifa, Spain. He knows he has his work cut out for him, but has a plan for his first international contest.

“I’m going to take it easy,” said Rahnel. “Just going to give it my all. Just push it. I don’t think I’m going to be under pressure, because it’s my first competition and let’s see how it goes. I’ve got some double-loop tricks that I haven’t posted on videos, which are super cool. And if it’s going to be strong, I’m going to go for doubles for sure. But I’m just gonna do my tricks that I want to do and compete completely.”

He will be joined in the competition ladder by Israel’s Shahar Tsabary, also 15, who started kiteboarding just 30 months ago and is set to compete in his first ever international competition. Talking to Kitesurf365 he was ambitious, but realistic about his chances.

“I want to be high; to be top,” said Tsabary. “But because I never ever completed and the guys are a really, really high level, I don’t put on myself too much pressure to be top. I say, OK, I will not be last. I will try to not be last. But If I’m, like top 10, that would be super-sick.”

Australian Ruben Swart, 16, said one his concerns for the competition is the cold air of the Tramontana winds which blow off the Pyrenees. Those temperatures are in sharp contrast to his home waters of Western Australia and he fears his hands may be too numb to hold the bar. But he has still has big goals for Barcarès as a giant killer.

“I’d really like to beat a big name,” Swart told Kitesurf365. “That’s my goal. Like, I’ll be very happy if I beat a big name. That’ll be the goal for the comp, at least finish above one person in one of the heats. Yeah, I want to finish above one person.”

words: Ian MacKinnon
images: Samuel Cárdenas / Lords of Tram Media


Andrea Principi
Lorenzo Casati
Cohan van Dijk
Giel Vlugt
Jamie Overbeek
Josué San
Marc Jacobs
Jeremy Burlando
Jason van der Spuy
Aaron Hadlow
Stino Mul
Edgar Ulrich
Julian Huynh
Arthur Guillebert
Clement Huot
Valentin Garat
Nathan Texier
Evan Klijn
Leonardo Casati
Martin Rahnel
Shahar Tsabary
Ruben Swart
Josh Gillit
Max Tullett


Nathalie Lambrecht
Angely Bouillot
Zara Hoogenraad
Justine Avril
Francesca Maini
Pippa van Iersel
Jasmine Cho
Sarah Sadek
Lana Herman
Svenja Peters
Alessa Mensch

Spot Info: Barcarès

Wind: The Tramontane blowing northerly, or north-westerly offshore, is best. The spot is non-tidal, with flat waters and temperatures of 10-20C.

The best wind for Big Air is 25-40 knots. (On Windguru the perfect forecast is 25 knots, with gusts of 30-35 knots—with the gusts as a reference point for the true wind.)

The wind is usually 5-10 knots in excess of the forecast, especially if the air temperatures are cold.

Specifics of the spot: The wind funnels in the corner of the jump zone, with result that riders can often jump three metres to five metres higher than usual.

The jump area has deep water, which makes it safer in the event of a crash.

The best seasons for the Tramontana run from March to June, and September to December. During summer, southern France’s hot weather can disrupt the pattern.

Within 500 metres the spot boasts two cable parks: a full-size Téléski Nautique and the “out and return” Sailor Wakepark. Just a kilometre away there is a full-size indoor and outdoor skatepark—Shakapark.

At the competition spot there is a bar-restaurant, The Spott, and a Duotone branded kiteschool, Surf&Kite.

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