As published in our print magazine #18
Actually, I could start the intro to this story the same way I started the intro to the Foil story a year ago: “Everybody wants wings and every windsurfing and kiteboarding (and SUP) brand has a wing in their lineup.” That’s about what it sounded like with the Foil last year … As quickly as the Foil came, so did the Wing. As we noted in our interview a year ago with Robby Naish, the Wing is a super accessory to the SUP. Unlike the Foil, the Wing is relatively easy to learn. I myself am not a windsurfer, I can reduce my windsurfing skills to a few years on Lake Zurich. I never learned a waterstart and rarely glided on my semisinker for more than two minutes back then, if at all. I find the ease of use of the wing a lot more attractive than windsurfing or kiting. So I am approaching the Wing and my story with a lot of enthusiasm and courage. Eventually, I would like to be able to foil on waves with the Wing. But that’s a bit premature – so let’s just start from the beginning.
What does winging and SUP have in common?
Actually not very much, almost less than foiling. But the Wing is a super extension to SUP and SUP is a good gateway drug for Wingfoiling. The Wing also doesn’t weigh much, is easy to store, is relatively inexpensive compared to other toys, and is the most beautiful thing: If I want to learn the Wing, I don’t have to buy a new board. So the SUP is very good to learn a “new” sport on it.
No matter what kind of board I have in the shed: As long as it carries me on the water, I can do something with it. There are very many selling points for the Wing as opposed to a windsurfer or kiteboard. What convinces me the most is the simplicity of the Wing, just little material. Foiling is more complicated.
As I said before, I am not a windsportsman. But the Wing aroused in me the desire to become one. After the boat show in Düsseldorf, I wanted to tackle the subject and make a “beginners guide for wing enthusiasts”. I haven’t bought one yet, but there are enough people around me who own more than one Wing and know how to do it. That’s why one afternoon I joined my colleague Andrew Gallhager and his son Bobo. Bobo is a tremendously talented 12-year-old boy who practices every day with Foil and Wing. He gets his equipment for free from Fanatic and was able to lend me his 4m Wing. For the first steps my 8’2″ and 109 liter wave SUP is perfectly sufficient.
The windsurfing and kitesurfing Mecca of Maui is called Kanaha, where everyone goes. There the winds blow “sideshore”. So I don’t have to worry about being blown out to sea. Bobo’s wing is inflated in 20 puffs and we are ready to go. With my stature 4 m are just right. The wind that day is blowing about 15 – 20 knots at a 30 degree angle towards the beach. My biggest concern is not that I will be blown out to sea, but how far up the beach I will have to go after I try. So I go already prophylactically 100 meters up the beach.
I sit down on my board and get the Wing ready. With the wing in my hands, it’s not easy to get from my knees to a standing position. Especially at 20 knots the water is not very calm. It is therefore important to start with a board that has enough volume and is wide enough so that you can stand on it even without wind or waves. If you feel comfortable on the SUP, you should be fine with a board 27″ – 28″ wide. From kneeling, I put the wing more or less behind my head. Here my muscles then had some problems to remember.
After a good 20 years of surfing, skateboarding and snowboarding, my feet wanted to stay on the board as they were. I was now certainly already 100 meters down the beach and a good 300 meters away from the beach. Now it had to be turned on “devil-may-care”. I laid me thereby really well in the water. Turned was now, but in reverse position again on the board come, that was not so easy. Once the wing is in the water and it blows like a pig, the wing can behave quite stubbornly. The part fidgeted on the leash like stupid. Now the whole procedure starts all over again: first on my knees, then with one foot up and then standing up. The whole thing was quite frustrating and I then sailed on my knees towards land.
Finally back on the beach, I learned a new expression from the windsurfing world: “The walk of shame”. Literally: The walk of shame. If you have to walk up the beach with your equipment, you immediately oute yourself as a beginner. I repeated the said “walk of shame” all afternoon long and will probably have to practice for quite a while until it’s over. What I had the most trouble with was really the jibing. I managed a few times without falling down and also tried to change my feet, but without success. So I sailed back to shore in a twisted position.
My colleague Bobo Gallagher (remember this name already) “wing-foiled” his feet in the meantime. The boy can do a waterstart with his wing and jumps 3 meters or more with it into the air. A real talent. I’m going to get a Wing now and get some better advice. That was my fervent wish in February (2020) – not long after that came the Lockdown and Covid-19.