Quickly rising to the rankings of most favoured water sport, hydro foiling is seriously turning heads in the surf community. But why, what is it and how does it compare to the other water sports that we already know and love?
So what is Foiling Surf?
Foiling, hydro foiling, or foiling surf, all refer to riding a surfboard which has a hydro foil attached to the underneath, in place of the actual fin. The hydro foil is similar in appearance to an aerofoil used by aeroplanes, which some incredibly smart people saw, and decided to apply to water sports.
This offers a whole new edge and excitement to surfing, because its design allows you to actually ride above the surface of the waves. Simply put, it looks cool, and is immensely fun at the same time, in a way that is slightly different to surfing.
Where do you put the foil on the Surfboard?
This would depend on your height, weight, and the size of the waves you plan on catching. Beginner surfers who require some extra lift, and are best to start on smaller waves, are best to position the wing forward in the box. However, for larger waves, the plate system needs to be moved back on the tracks.
I would recommend moving the foil at only about an inch at a time, as this makes a big difference.
Why would you Foil Surf?
When surfing already gives you the thrill of riding a wave, do you really need to add a foil into the mix as well? The problem with surfing is that you are limited to whatever waves you can catch on the day, and also the waves at your local beach.
Some are lucky enough to have always lived near incredible surf spots, while others have to travel around just to find a decent beach for waves. Foiling removes this barrier, since you can ride pretty much any wave.
This is what makes foiling a very attractive option for surfers, as well as the fact that it is fun to add a different challenge!
How do you ride a Foil?
Your first time witnessing a foil surf on the beach will likely leave you feeling inspired, yet confused at the same time. How is it actually possible to ride above the waves like that and how on earth do you do it?
Just like in surfing, wait until you spot a wave coming, and then paddle hard until you can feel that you’ve caught it. Pop up just like you would in surfing, and instantly start applying pressure on your front foot, as if you are snowboarding. Keep your chest vertical and your shoulders wide, with your legs in a squat-like position.
This is the best way to maintain your balance. Some prior surf knowledge before riding a foil is ideal, so that you understand the basic mechanics of popping up and keeping your balance. Hydro foiling is very similar in that respect, but remember to be flexible, as things such as your stance will need to change, which can be hard to get your head around.
The best thing about starting foiling is that you can give yourself more of a wave selection to choose from than you ordinarily would with surfing. If you’re able to, the best way to begin foiling is to attach yourself to a boat, and skim through smaller waves further out to sea. This is a great way to learn, because you will be away from other surfers, which reduces arguably one of the biggest hazards in the sport.
How do you fall off Foil?
When you first begin learning it is a good idea to wear a helmet and impact vest. While this may seem strange, as you would never wear a helmet to go surfing, the foil itself is metal and can be dangerous if you were to hit it. Furthermore, as you are higher above the water, you risk a harder landing than you would in surfing.
You certainly will fall off, and accepting that allows you to take more risks and therefore improve. However, when falling off the key thing is to make sure that you dodge your own foil, as you don’t want to land on top of it, which there are several ways to do. One way of doing this is to kick your board out as you fall, to push it away from yourself, and then fall backwards, similar to surfing.
If you are foiling holding a rope, you can use this rope to pull yourself away from the board as you fall. This is another reason why learning to foil by being pulled along is a great way to get started, as it also makes it easier to avoid injury. Another way of falling off is called ‘the submerge.’
This is when you stay on top of the board and sink with it, which may only be possible depending on your weight and the size of your board. Your priority is to keep your head and body away from the board, so don’t feel embarrassed if you begin to lose balance.
Is Foiling faster than Windsurfing?
In terms of using your foil to windsurf, technically speaking it could be faster than regular windsurfing. However, due to the added complexity of foiling, it makes it much more challenging to remain balanced at high speeds.
The windsurfing speed records are currently highest without a foil, however, at some point, some windsurfing gurus may be able to beat this, since the surface friction of the foil reduces drag and does allow you to move faster through the water. The problem is just staying on.
So how difficult is foiling? Straight up, this is no easy sport. This should not put you off, as no good things come easy, and foiling is incredibly rewarding and entirely worth the effort. Like surfing, foiling is an undoubtedly strenuous sport, and getting started in particular is the hardest part.
As a beginner, there is a steep learning curve regarding everything that you need to know: wave size, rips, equipment, movement, balance, and more. But the key is to not let this put you off and to push through the early stages of beginner foiling until it starts to click.
Furthermore, foiling is an inclusive sport, meaning that nobody should be put off by their age, size, height, or gender. Anyone can have a go, and anyone can have the perseverance to succeed. Once you have access to a board, the foil, and a wetsuit, you are pretty much good to go.
The best thing about foiling is that there are no membership fees, no elite clubs, and no teams based on ability. Once you have the equipment you need, it is entirely up to you how often you go. All you need is a few waves.
Is Foiling easier than Surfing then?
Not being limited to wave size on the day does give foiling a significant edge over surfing. Any beginning surfing lesson will always cover tides, breaking points, rips, wind speed, wave sizes, and much more.
While this is important information for foiling as well, if you are starting out by being pulled by a boat or kite, this is not entirely necessary straight away. This therefore eliminates a lot of technical work that can put beginners off, and alienate them from the sport. Surfers will explore countless beaches to find perfect waves, because of the importance of the wave itself.
Foiling has created such a stir in the surfing community because it can remove all of this, and allow you to just focus on balancing on the waves, however small they are.
However, it is important to know that without the help of a boat or kite to pull you along, the foil needs to reach a minimum speed before it will lift, therefore getting to that speed takes time to master, which makes foiling much harder than surfing.