Its very refreshing to follow the Global Wingsports Association and their international Tour. Despite the pandemic they seem to capable to pull off events even in countries like Portugal that is currently on the list of high risk countries for the Omicron Variant. We also enjoy watching how athletes with all sorts of back grounds starting to join the ranks of the international tour. For example Olivia Piana, a decorated SUP athlete and also Bowien van der Linden who also had several appearances in the SUP Sport in the past. Both of these ladies have been making quite an impression on the Wing Foil World Tour.
It is hard to watch the Wing Foil Tour and not to resonate on the state of the sport and comparing it with how things are being run in SUP. I think we have a great case study here. In many ways we may compare the Wing Foil Sport with SUP and in this case the APP. Just like SUP, Wing Foiling has many disciplines and some appeal more to the audience than others.
In my case I like to compare the Surfing with the Freestyle (and wave off course), the Boarder cross with a Tech. Race and the buoy regattas with Longdistance Races.
Just like in SUP we are watching several disciplines to be more strong than others and off course the biggest comparison we might want to make is the comparison to Windsurfing: The mother of all wind related board sports. We all know the history or Windsurfing and many in the industry are worried Wingfoiling will go down the same path.
Interview with Olivia Piana in September 2021 at the ICF SUP World Championships talking about the new world of wing foiling:
But unlike Windsurfing, Wingfoiling has one big advantage over windsurfing: The sail is not attached to the board it self. This allows the sport to be far more versatile than windsurfing.
Lets talk about this for a moment:
First I have to say that I am a big fan of wing foiling and I try to do it as much as I can. I like watching others doing it and talk about it, but interestingly there is one thing that already starting to turn me off: Freestyle. Not to take away from the talent from the athletes and their abilities to push the limit this far in such a short time. For me as a weekend warrior the freestyle is already becoming to abstract. The guys are twirling around in the air and somehow manage to land upright. Epic… but it all somehow looks the same and very hectic. I definitely miss the style factor. Particularly in rotations. You have to watch everything in slow motion to understand what is going on. I am afraid the normal winger will soon loose its interest for this part of the sport because they can’t relay to it and winging will go down the same path as windsurfing.
Foiling in it self is already so technical and complicated that I find it hard for a beginner to get into the sport with out being completely intimidated at the first time. It’s like you almost need someone who can kind of ease you into it.
Which brings me to another big danger in the sport: The arms race. We see how the gear gets more and more technical and front foils are getting smaller and smaller. They get so small that only a very few are able to ride it and Wing Foil Races are coming down to who spent more money on equipment. This is where new comers get shut out or not even get in to begin with. I would like to envision a competitive Wing Foil Sport like SUP or Windsurfing in the old days where everybody was able to participate.
Wing Foiling or just foiling is such a versatile sport and the chances in my opinion lie exactly in the fact that the sail is not attached to the board as already mentioned above. This circumstance gives the riders far more opportunities getting creative. Race courses can be laid out taking certain legs out of the equation where the rider has to strategically use the waves or his abilities to pump the foil. There cold be a race where the final stretch back to beach has to be completed without the help of the wind.
I remember the great days of SUP Beach Racing where all the races took place in the surf. With a “W” shaped racecourse right in the wave zone. I could imagine such a course for wingers.
In this video from the GWA we see the discipline of racing with the wind and then solely downwind pumping:
How to bring in the general public
If we want to make this sport more accessible to new people we also must demonstrate that wings can be used on boards without a foil. We should demonstrate how much fun you can have even if you don’t know how to foil yet. There should be show events where the pros are winging on regular surfboards or SUPs. I think it will be the industries responsibility to cater towards these people if they like to stay afloat. We are already looking at a very saturated market.
We are now looking forward to how things develop in the near and far future and off course keep tabs on the sport.