When you hear “water sports,” you probably think of wakeboarding, water skiing, and wakesurfing first. There are a few other popular ones that can be added to that category though — for example, kneeboarding and paddle boarding. Another water sport that is growing in popularity is foil surfing. If you have never heard of this sport, we are here to help.
What is Hydrofoiling?
Hydrofoiling is a type of technology that has been around for decades. Hydrofoil is a lifting surface or foil that works in the water. Planes and boats use this technology and have since its invention.
In water sports, it helps reduce drag in the water and increase speed while propelling the rider and board out of the water. This technology allows you to ride through choppy water without feeling the impact of it. Foiling is exciting because no boat nor giant swells are required for it. Just you, the water, and a hydrofoiling board.
Foiling is not for the faint of heart. It is a very intense sport that requires immense amounts of balance and control. Anyone willing to put in the time — and take a few falls — is able to try it out. Most foilers are intermediate to advanced riders, but that does not mean to not give it a go. Practice makes perfect.
It is recommended that foilers stay away from crowded waters — not only for the safety of themselves but others. The blade is massive and sharp and can severely hurt someone if not handled properly. Also, if there is too much going on, the rider is more likely to struggle with their balancing, which can result in falls and frustration.
Foil Boards vs. Other Boards
A hydrofoil is a fin-like object that is a couple feet long and is on the bottom of the board. The end of the blade has something that looks like an airplane - the nose, body and its wings. These can come in different shapes and sizes.
The foiling blade is designed specifically for foiling. Riders stand on top of the board, which is lifted above the water by the blade. As the board moves forward, the blade wings are lifting the board out of that water. This has to do with Newton's third law - for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
The board used for foil surfing is slightly different from the typical surfboard. While you can modify a surfboard with a Tuttle box for the hydrofoil blade, it is easiest to just purchase a foiling surfboard. Most of the time, these boards are slightly shorter and more rectangular than a surfboard - can be closer to the size of a wakeboard, but slightly wider.
Also, most notably different from both surf and wakeboards, the hydrofoil fin is made with metal instead of fiberglass. Not only is it massive, but it also can be quite sharp.
Dating back to the 60s, foil surfing is a mix of surfing and hydrofoiling technology. Surfing has picked up the technology and has created the new sport known as hydrofoiling, or foil surfing.
Much like surfing, you will enter the water and paddle until you are ready to stand up. The difference is you will want to hold the board and blade wings while entering the water.
Find your wave, keep paddling until you have caught it. Similar to surfing, you will need to pop up onto the board to begin surfing. Once you stand up, apply pressure to your front foot and the steeper the wave gets, the more forward you need to lean. The traction pad placement on your board will help you know where to have your feet placed.
Once up, you will want to be in a semi-squat stance for foil surfing. Keep your shoulders wide and your chest straight. This will help you maintain the balance that is needed. To continue moving on the board, you will shift your weight from your back foot to your front foot. When pressure is on your back foot, the blade's wing will tilt upward and then downward when pressure is moved to the front. Balancing is key when it comes to foil surfing.
Foil surfing can be used in calm water or on the waves. Waves give the board more energy and the rider can use that to propel forward. If the water is calm, the rocking from foot to foot motion will need to be done to move the board.
Foil surfing is just one type of foiling. There is also kitesurfing, wakefoiling, SUP hydrofoils, and windsurfing. These all use the hydrofoiling technique and are growing in popularity in the world of water sports.
If surfing is not really your cup of tea, you might prefer wake foiling instead - especially if you're looking for a more thrilling ride. You can learn to foil while being towed behind a jet ski or boat so you can learn your stance and balance. Once comfortable, there is no more need for being towed but you'll still want a boat nearby to create a wake for you to ride.
If you are a wakeboarder or wake surfer, the stance is similar. Even though you are being towed behind a boat in wakeboarding, you still balance by shifting your weight between your legs and feet. The semi-squat stance is used here too. It is also important to keep your chest vertical and your shoulders wide. This stance gives you more control over the board and makes it easier to balance properly.
To start, have whoever is driving the boat start under 10 mph and then gradually increase speed. You will want to have your feet flat on the board and have the blade as close to the surface as possible. As you start to move, keep your feet towards the front of the board so the blade is underneath you. Stay in a low, squatted position until you are more comfortable balancing on the board. Once you feel you can manage the board, move further back on the board to let the foil take over and propel you and your board out of the water. You can let go of the rope once you feel you have mastered staying up and balanced.
Ready to Get Started Foiling?
Videos and articles can help beginners and even advanced riders, but getting out on the water is the only true way to fully understand and learn foil surfing. Start off by wake foiling and eventually, you will be able to take on any type of foiling. Be prepared to fall down quite a few times, but keep getting back up and you will be a pro foiler in no time. Once mastered, the possibilities are endless.