> Foilguide for Weekendwarriors

We are approaching the topic from the perspective of someone who grew up with board sports but doesn’t have the money to buy professional equipment ight away. This is me. I’ve been focusing on foiling for a long time, but the biggest obstacle was raising $3200 for equipment. So I had to get a little creative first. I had a kids SUP equipped with a Foilbox. This board is big enough for me to paddle lying down into any small wave. This cost me $200 instead of $1400 for a new board. Then I organized an instructor who let me try out his wing without having to buy it. Josh Riccio is a gifted SUP racepaddler and is very good in wave foiling. His sponsor regularly sends him new material to Maui. So he has two set ups and introduces me to the subject.


Today I am set up with a wing of 1200 cm2 and a mast length of 75 cm. But it does not really matter, because I have no experience with different foils anyway. I’m a complete beginner and just want to try it fir the first time.

On my first day Josh and I paddle out at a beginner’s spot. I am full of enthusiasm. Now finally flying. As soon as I have some thrust and jump on my feet, the thing wants to take off right away. The principle is the same as with an airplane. When I put weight on the rear foot, the foil tilts into take-off position. I have to learn to immediately build up pressure on the front foot to counteract the pressure from below. I get thrown a few times, but fortunately always backwards, away from the foil. I don’t want to land on the thing. To be honest, the razor-sharp foil under my board scares me a bit. Too many stories I hear from people who hurt themselves with it. Many beginners also wear helmets and impact vests. But today I have neither one nor the other. I absolutely have to change that.

My first attempts are rather bad than good, the foil always wants to get out of the water and if I fly for a short time I don’t know what to do next and end up in the water again. But Josh is with me and gives me tips how to do it. The first thing to do when foiling is to put your feet exactly in the middle of the board. Even more important is that as soon as you have a little push from the wave, shift your weight forward. The waves are really small and I also take care to catch only the smallest of the small waves. I don’t want too much pushin the beginning. On my next wave I do exactly what Josh said. The board stays in the water for now and comes out slowly. I fly for about two seconds, then the board tips over. The foil comes towards me and I only just miss it. The whole thing makes me really nervous, but I paddle off again right away. After about one and a half hours and about 15 tries I just about manage to get my start halfway. I now fly for about five seconds until the wing comes completely out of the water and I sink like a stone. The first, small micro-success experience is there.

It is very difficult to explain rationally how to learn to surf or foil. It is like explaining to someone in a logical way how to ride a bicycle. But what I can explain here is how the fighting spirit has awakened in me and now I want to learn how to master the foils. Me against the Foil. I also want to be able to explain why everyone is so fond of foils. My colleague Brian says it is a feeling like riding in deep powder. He is totally addicted to the foil, he raves about it. Brian even goes so far as to tell me that when he could finally do it, he always dreamed of flying at night. Well then, I hope that I will be a foil pilot soon.

Second day

It’s been a few days now since my last try and I’m meeting Josh again at a new spot. This time with helmet and neoprene top, just to be sure. The water is as smooth as glass and the waves are shoulder high. As a foil beginner much too big, so I go into the white water. I catch some waves and get thrown off again. Now this is getting really frustrating. I am a shortboarder, surfer and downwind SUPer, it can’t be that difficult. Yes, but it is. I feel like at “Kook” in the water. Particularly since I am getting passed by 60 – 70 year old men. So if you want to feel like a beginner again, try foiling. I’m not giving up, it’s not possible that this thing will beat me. This is the frustration talking, but that’s OK, you have to go through it. That’s exactly why the sport is so sexy, it is very hard to learn. Finally I catch a few “flights”, even if I crash right away.

Josh gives me very good advice on the water and flies from wave to wave. We sit in the water for a good hour and find out how to learn foiling easier. I think I just have to go through at least 50 failed attempts before I get it right. Josh agrees, just don’t give up and keep failing until you get it over with. That is exactly my plan. I cannot duck dive the slightly bigger waves with the board, so I jump off the board when a bigger wave comes. But after a wave I pull the board back to me and the foil is gone. Yes gone, no longer attached to the board. But now there is a big hole and all the fiberglass is torn away. Fortunately enough styrofoam got stuck on the foil and so it floats in the water. So my foil mission is over and I have to go to the surfboard repair guy and give him an enema. The second time in the water and the thing is already broken?

Kai Lenny age 9 – What did you do at this age? Photo©JDfotofairy

New knowledge – new wing

The guy who made fixed the board was really nice and lent me an old surfboard which he converted. With this my practice continues and so that I don’t always have to rely on Josh, I now buy an old foil from my colleague Brian, the chief foil pilot, for $500. A very good deal for a 2018 Naish. This wing is completely different now, but I don’t care, I can’t stay on foil for more than three seconds anyway. My colleague Brian the foil pilot, who sells me the wing, knows a lot about it and says I absolutely have to adjust the angle of the rear wing so that it pushes up. Then the pivot point at the mast pushes the front wing downwards and thus reduces the “lift”. So we do this before I go into the water with him. The difference is striking, the foil does not jump out of the water immediately and is much more stable than it was with the other one.

I now have to work actively with my legs to get the board out of the water, but I have much more stability when I manage to pump the board out of the water. I catch a few small waves and a sense of achievement sets in, which I enjoy very much. I now understand why all the foilers are nerding out so hard on their equipment.

Every wing, i.e. foil, is a little bit different and it is like in aeronautics, smallest angle changes have a big effect on the flight behavior. (Yes, you also say fly when you are foiling; you fly with the foil – so the technical jargon says). So here we have it: The key is to tame this wing so that it doesn’t want to take off right away and if it does, then at a flat angle. Great, I already have a few flights now and experience the feeling of short flying after the third time. But I am mainly busy not to fall.

Frist break through

Each time my flight time increases slightly. This was now the third time and I can already see some progress. It’s just a pity that the day after, I get a call from the shaper guy who wants his board back. It’s a real pity. But … I have another board that I had a shaper rebuild months ago for $100. The board is extremely small and actually meant for waves like City Waves. It was a prototype that I took home from the boot. I want to keep my budget under $1000, so no I have no choice but to practice with this board, even though it’s still too small for my skills. At least that’s what I thought. The board has barely 30 liters of volume and is only 4’8″. But if I can get my feet on the board, then it should work. I spend a good hour on it and and behold – I catch a wave, jump up and get a flight. I manage a good 50 meters right away and even give the board a few “pumps”. I can hardly believe it. I flew … I was happy like a little child. I haven’t had such a sense of achievement, of having done something new, for a long time. I was so excited and had to try right agin and got a success. A little “cheehuuu” escapes my mouth. What happened? Why did it all of a sudden go so well so quickly, I didn’t expect that. My conclusion is that with the smaller board I had less possibilities to place my feet wrong. I had no other choice with the rear foot but to place it right above the mast. The board has so little buoyancy that I stayed very low in my knees. I leave the water and immediately call Josh to tell him enthusiastically about it. But of course I’m still miles away from surfing a wave (or should I say flying off), let alone pumping back to the next one.

Meanwhile a few weeks have passed and I am now only on the road with the small board. Just like I said at the beginning: If you already know how to handle a board well, only then you can screw a foil under it. Since I can also stand up on a boogie board while surfing, this small board is not as problematic as I first thought. If I find the time, I’m now practicing twice a week with the foil. But I have not yet surfed a wave properly. What I find a bit tedious is that when the waves are small, the water is logically quite shallow. So even with my shorter mast of 55 cm I often hit the bottom. So practicing in small waves is not that easy. This is where a regular SUP has great advantage. My last session was more about swimming than paddling; the waves were small but the water was very shallow. I have to find another spot.

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