Kite Foiling – The why, the what and the how!
Kite Foiling – The why, the what and the how!
With the un-seasonably season we have been having, and frustration levels running at a high level because of fluffy hot wing, it’s pretty hard to overlook what a foil can do for your quiver. And just to clarify what we mean here is a foil and board, not a foil kite, that is a different conversation altogether.
So why do I or you need a Foil and Board? The question to that answer is simple wind range! A modern foil has so little drag compared to twin tip or surfboard, that if you can generate enough power to water start then you can kite. So, for the average 85-95 kilo rider that means a ‘modernish’ 3 strut all-rounder 10m kite, like a Duotone Evo or Neo, 12 knots and you are foiling. With a bit of practice that becomes 10 knots, and suddenly you have the wind range that would have previously been unlocked by a 17m kite, 27m lines and a large carbon light wind twintip.
The average light wind set up if bought new is about $5500. That’s a 17m Duotone Juice Classic, 27m 4-line bar and freeride loop, Ultra Spike Carbon Twintip and footstraps.
What this buys you is probably about 15-20% more ‘kiteable’ days a few in the middle of the season but the majority in the shoulders so pre-season in September and post-season April. A Foil in comparison can open about 50% more ‘Kiteable’ days and can almost double your season if you add the river as a venue and add a foil kite. In fact some foilers, who are part of Perth Kite Racing, kite 4-5 a week year-round, sure they do have a few swimming sessions amongst that, but that is the price you pay for ultra-light wind sessions.
Foils have changed massively in the last 4 or 5 years. Initially you could get beginner foils or race foils and they were at opposite ends of the spectrum. Easy to use but lacking performance or highly technical and punishing to use. There was no middle ground, and the early foilers and racers paid the price in blood, bark and broken bones.
This all changed when Slingshot introduced a modular foil system, so you could start off with something relatively easy use and swap components if you wanted to add different disciplines or performance. The other groundbreaking thing they did was introduce The Foil Academy, a set of instructional videos and short masts so you could progress at an easy pace. We still recommend that anyone who buys foil gear from us, whatever the brand signs up for this service.
Fast forward 5 years and foils have overall got a little larger and way easier to learn and progress on.
They are two broad types based on the material that the mast is made from, Aluminum-heavy but cheaper, or Carbon lighter but more expensive. Depending on the manufacturer, foils are measured in either wingspan or surface area, but planform (shape) can be is equally important. Shapes can be described by their aspect ratio, or the relationship between height and width.
A high aspect ratio foil is long in its width or wingspan and narrow in its chord like the Sabfoil/Moses 1000, these type of wings usually generate higher speeds so are ideal for race or down winding where high speed and lower drag are required, a low aspect ratio foil like the Slingshot Space Skate tends to generate more lift at lower speeds and are ideal for learning on. When you compare the surface area the slingshot is 1504 cm2 versus the Sabfoil at 987 cm2.
So, to learn on a low or mid aspect ratio foil will generate more lift at lower speeds so you can start off needing less speed and less power to get going, ideal for lighter winds.
Finally, the How of Kite foiling. Foil boards ride very differently from twintips and are especially sensitive to edging. When learning we usually suggest a board that allows a central front strap position, like the Duotone Pace or Duotone Free.
The aim is to initially get your weight over the centre of the board and to ride the board flat on the surface and allow the power of the kite to generate speed and this will allow the foil to generate lift in a controlled manner, pull the bar in for more power and speed and make the foil rise, let the bar go, and sheet out to decrease power and let the foil drop the board back onto the water.
With all of the beginner foil set ups that we sell we offer as short mast loan program so that the initial few runs can be less intimidating and more controlled, you use the short mast for a week or until you can ride 100m in each direction and then its time to move to the standard size mast that came with your package.
The standard 80 or 90cm mast allow you more time to adjust to height changes as your speed increases, allow you to ride better in choppier water, but do require you to get a little better at balance. The thing to remember is that almost all the time you are riding at ½ mast height so that intimidating 90 cm mast is keeping you only about 50 cm above the water including your board.
We have supported and coached hundreds of riders from their first flights to their first carves, with the right gear and the right advice you can easily learn to foil in a couple of weeks.
Kite Foiling beginner set ups