Wing foiling– The why, the what and the how!
In the second of our why, what, and how series we look at wing foiling, why you should do it, what you need and how to start.
Wing foiling is a new sport now in its third season. It takes the best elements of windsurfing, kiteboarding and foiling and smooches them together to create a new sport.
Paramount to understanding what, where and how, a basic understanding of where you want to go with the sport, will help in making initial gear choices. Everyone starts as a beginner freeride wing foiler, it’s the next step which is going to help when choosing gear.
Understanding the 5 major disciplines of Wing Foiling:
Freeride Wing Foiling. (Beginner to advanced)
Riding with no fixed agenda. This is where most beginners start, hoping to be able to ride away from the beach and return to the same spot. Just riding along on the foil staying roughly in the same position on the beach but may entail some cross-upwind and some cross-downwind riding including gybing and maybe even tacking with foot swaps. When learning, expect to be dragging your gear back upwind to your starting place. This is a normal part of the learning process and a big reason to buy Carbon gear at the beginning, it’s lighter to carry!
Wing Foiling in Waves (Intermediate to expert)
This discipline utilizes the wing to access waves which may be offshore on outer reefs, or even just riding waves that break on a reef, at the beach or point breaks. The wing allows us to reach, then turn onto a wave, ride the wave with the foil and turn off (flag out the wing) and focus purely on riding the wave with the foil. Once the wave is over, re-engage the wing to take you back to the next wave. This is amazing fun and not very difficult, but waves like this are limited in the Perth area.
Freestyle (aerial) wing foiling (Advanced to expert)
Wing Foil Freestyle is difficult and can be dangerous. It involves jumping, aerial spins, loops, and trick transitions. It is the most niche discipline and requires high performance lightweight equipment and personal safety gear.
Wing foil racing (Intermediate to expert)
Wing foil racing is high speed course or slalom racing in a small fleet of riders around buoys. This discipline required advanced and specialty equipment to be competitive but can be practiced on basic gear also. Also required PPE (Helmet, impact/buoyancy vest).
Downwind wing foiling (advanced to expert)
Downwinding on a wing foil is usually performed in strong coastal sea breeze winds (20knots +). Setting off from an upwind beach and using the wing to foil out off the coast to where the large open ocean chop is at its biggest, the wing is then “flagged out” and the foiler can surf foil the fast-moving chop waves on a downwind direction, often almost directly with the wind, linking one wave to the next. Due to the water surface being rough and constantly changing, this is for advanced to expert riders only. It is the pinnacle of wing foiling where you can ride unbroken wind waves for miles!! Safety gear is usually a good idea, especially if you are more than 400m offshore.
So firstly, should you get into it, and who else is doing it? What wing foiling allows you to do is use a safe and easy-to-use power system in the form of a wind wing with a foil and board set up.
The initial benefits are:
1. It is easy to learn, unlike kite foiling or wind foiling (windsurf foiling) the learning curve is way shorter, because you don’t need to be able to kite or windsurf first.
2. It is easy to store and transport, unlike windsurfing, the gear is relatively compact (not quite as compact as kite gear) and easy to transport.
3. You do not need strong wind to learn, you can learn in mid-wind strength conditions 15-18 knots on a 5m wing, and a relatively large wing set 1750/2000 cm2), so winds similar to leaning to kite but way less than windsurfing.
4. Easy to progress, as you get more efficient with the gear you can extend the low-end wind range of your gear significantly.
Because of these benefits we have seen massive amounts of windsurfers embrace this new sport.
As you progress you can add Wave Riding and open water Downwinding. With both disciplines you use the wind wing as a tow device to get onto a wave, or in the case of Downwinding, the large wind generated chop or swell. Once the foil has engaged you are able to let the Wind Wing flag to neutral (not provide any more pull) and surf the chop or swell.
Downwinding is the Holy Grail as it allows you to ride bump to bump. This means you can ride the endless wind swell generated by the afternoon Seabreeze in summer that run along the coast here in Perth
So, what do you need to start wing foiling? There are 3 main components, a Wind Wing, a Foil, and a Foil board.
Wind wings are usually inflatable, handheld mini kites without bars and lines. Because they are handheld, they are safe, there are no lines to get caught up or wrapped in. When you let go of them, they stop providing power and flag safely on the end of their wrist leash. Like a sail on a boat or windsurfer, you can sheet in or sheet out to control the amount of power with your back hand.
There are different types of wind wings, ones with inflatable struts or booms, ones with rigid booms and hybrids, a combination of the two.
Deciding between an inflated strut, a boom, or a hybrid wing
The wind wings with the hard boom like the Duotone Echo, tend to have a larger wind range than most other wings. They use a profile locking cord preventing the shape from changing when in higher wind speeds. These wings are easy to use, and the boom provides better control of the wing. These wings are excellent for riding across the wind and riding upwind.
Inflated strut wings are lighter and have an inflated centre strut which saves weight and adds buoyancy to help the wing stay afloat on the surface of the water when ‘downed’. These wings work pretty well in all scenarios but excel when Downwinding due to the lighter weight and the wings’ ability to drift when running straight downwind.
Hybrid Wings are a combination of inflatable strut and aluminium or carbon boom. The Duotone Slick wing combine the best of both worlds into a powerful easy to control wind wing with very few drawbacks.
Wing Foil set ups fall into a couple of different types. Typically based on the material the mast is made of, either Aluminium or Carbon.
Aluminium foils are usually cheaper and heavier and are more aimed at the beginner market, and Carbon foil set ups which are lighter, more expensive and are usually, but not exclusively, most riders second foil set up. In Aluminium set ups most of the cost is in the wings, with masts being relatively inexpensive. Conversely carbon setups have most of the cost in the mast, with less cost being embedded in foil wings.
Weight can be an important consideration, because when learning you will be doing “the walk of shame” before you learn to ride the foil upwind, just to get back to your start point.
But whether you are looking at an Aluminium or a Carbon foil the biggest consideration that we find which most beginners don’t think about is longevity. What do we mean by this? Here are the 3 most important things you should consider
A. How long would it be before I need to upgrade, and how long will this set up suit me? Am I going to outgrow the performance in this set up, how long will spare parts be available, can I get replacement components if one-part breaks?
B. How many other front wings or masts available to this set up? What we mean by this is how large is the Ecosystem in this foil set up? Are there a range of front wings available to provide more lift or less lift if conditions change? Are there different mast lengths available if I need to go deeper or shallower?
C. How much crossover is there between sports? Can you use the same Foil set up but with a different wing if I wanted to add Kite Foiling, Prone Surf Foiling or Windsurf foiling to the mix? So, can I use one setup for all sports?
For example, a Fanatic Aluminium Foil set up, works well for Wing Foiling, Sup Foiling, Windsurf Foiling or Prone Surf Foiling. With a choice of about 8 different wing sets, it would cover most disciplines except kiting. The 2022 Fanatic Alu 1750/300 set up, which would suit most 85-100 kg riders at $2058 provides a very durable, if a little heavy, entry into most foil sports. However, the wings or wing sets can be a little on the expensive side and your choice can be limited.
Compare this with a Moses/SABFoil set up, S82-1100 kit is more expensive at $3079 but it is much lighter in weight when compared to Fanatic setup, offers at least 12 compatible wings (10 of which we have in stock, with more being added each month) and the ability to add all foil sports including kite and tow within that mast fuselage ecosystem.
Finally, the last thing to consider is board and board size. Typically, it is easier to learn on a board that is wide, stable and has higher volume. Three years ago, these were foil sup boards like the Fanatic Sky Sups in 6’3 or 6’7 and they are still a great choice if you want to SUP foil paddle onto a wave as well as wind wing onto it, or if you are a larger or taller beginner. Fast forward 3 years and there is more choice, in board choice.
Specific Wing foil boards offer high volume, stable boards, but are typically narrower and a little more difficult to learn on.
Fanatic offer wing boards in as small as 4’7 and as large as 6’3 in their 2022 range, the SIC Maui premium range of boards vary from 5’ to 7’, and we also stock the top shelf SABFoil albatross in T118 and T98. All boards have pro and cons and it’s about finding the right combination for you, that will support and enhance you progression, not stifle or prevent it.
A Typical Set up 95 kilos
SECOND HAND SET UP
We tried to search on Seabreeze.com.au but it was hard to find a second-hand package which would be easy to progress on, we could find wings at $800-$1000, a board for $1100-$2000 and a Suitable foil $1200-$2000 there was not a lot of difference between new and used and even for us it was confusing
ALUMINIUM FOIL STANDARD BOARD
Fanatic 6’3 Sky SUP (on special) $1800, Fanatic 1750 HA ALU 3.0 Foil $2058, 6m Duotone Echo (on special with boom) $1250, leashes $100 Total package $5208
CARBON FOIL STANDARD BOARD
Moses/SABFoil S82-1100 $3079, 2022 Fanatic 5’6 sky wing $1849, 5m Duotone Slick 1249, Carbon boom $299, leashes $100, additional hardware $39 Total Package $6615
CARBON FOIL PREMIUM BOARD
Moses/SABFoil S82-1100 $3079, 2022 SIC Maui 2299, 5m Duotone Slick 1249, Carbon boom $299, leash $100, additional hardware $39, Total Package $7065
And finally, THE HOW. Most people ask do I need lessons for wing foiling. Experience of other wind sports is certainly helpful. Most potential foilers will benefit from a towed session, so having a friend with a boat can really help with getting a feel for the foil part. Another option is booking a session on an electronic foil like Aqua Flights here in WA. But plenty of foilers have bought the gear and just got out in the water and figured it out, we would recommend joining one of the foiling peer groups on Facebook to help link up with other people at your level.
Darren’s top Wing foiling tips to learn and progress faster
1. Wind is your friend, you will need at least 15 knots to start to learn, light windwing foiling requires more skill and finesse
2. Board volume width and stability really help, it’s easier to stand on a larger volume board than swim beside a board that’s too small while you are learning.
3. Its super hard to learn when it’s really windy and choppy, 15-18 knots is ideal, its windy enough to get going but not so choppy it’s hard to ride.
4. It is worth investing in a helmet and impact vest, your board is heavy, and your foil can be sharp, you are worth protecting!
5. Time on the water makes all the difference, nobody can just jump on gear with no water sports experience and expect to ride off upwind into the sunset but having the right gear for your skill level makes it way easier.
6. Don’t use foot straps initially, or even once you get proficient unless you need them. They get in the way and hamper your ability to trim the board in different riding situations.
And finally Toddy’s number 1 beginner tip is: – Don’t go too high performance with your first set up. Seabreeze Buy and sell is full of high-performance second-hand gear where people have bought based on aspirations not abilities.
Whatever your choice of Foil Sport, at ActionsportsWA we always provide the right service and advice try to get you on the right gear whatever your budget or skill level.