STARTING THE SPORT WITHOUT ANY KNOWLEDGE?
What is Foiling?
Foiling, or more accurately the new generation foils are one of those things that many consider a great shift in the sport. Like the perfection of the first de-power hybrid kites back in the mid naughties the foil has added a whole new world to our sport.
While it can look pedestrian to the seasoned kitesurfing observer, foil boarding is anything but.
From early days to expert levels, the mastery of the foil is far more engaging and rewarding than you may realise.
The foil allows you to kite along above the surface of the water. Kite foiling also means you can go quicker than ever before in very little wind, as the foil cuts through the water with minimal drag. You can have a smooth ride, even when it’s choppy out.
Is foiling similar to twintip kiteboarding?
Once mastered, it’s a bit like snowboarding down a mountain covered in powder - smooth carving, effortless glide.
That extra vertical dimension with its pitch control and sensation of flight is utterly addictive.
Whats more, the efficiency levels mean you can easily triple the speed of the wind, so in 10kmh, you can wind your kit up to 30kmh with ease.
Swapping back to a normal twintip board seems very one dimensional by comparison.
What sizes kites do I need for foiling?
Kites sizes are typically very small, thus fast and fun, and that means you start looking at the weather forecast with different eyes.
Light wind sessions become the norm which brings kitesurfing more into the world of time dependent sports as opposed to condition dependent sports.
Learning is best done with a 10-12m depending on body weight and with some power, approximately 10-15kts, kite high and de-powered.
Once confident most LEI kites can be used from 6kts upwards, and riding in these winds is fast and addictive.
The top end of foil use is down to preference, but most can keep going into the low 30’s.
It’s true that some kites are better for foiling than others, though all are compatible.
Light weight makes for beneficial light wind stability and agility.
High de-power levels allows you to dump power after you start, which you will be doing a lot of, for once up the power requirement is but a tiny fraction of a normal board.
The ability to turn the kite when de-powered is also highly desirable, (pulley bridles help with this) as is the ability of the kite to water restart.
Wave kites are ideal, beginners kites even are perfect.
Once you are proficient though and want to go out in even lighter winds, go upwind at maximum pace and be the fastest on the water, there really is no comparison to a dedicated foil kite.
Many new bigger wings fly as slow as 6kmh and have dramatically cut the amount of power needed to get you up and running, letting you cruise at walking pace.
These new wings bring much more stability that if you choose to, you can pour power into them to bring your speeds up to race level, but if you take your hand off the throttle, you will slow back to walking pace.
So now it’s not a case of falling off at speed from a great height, but one of simply stepping off, from a much shorter one.
What is the typical learning curve time?
If you are already a proficient kiteboarder, you should be holding a run within a few minutes, maybe 2-3 falls before you can rise, and put the board back down again. It’s really this easy.
At first you will just ride around off the foil, then hop up, then put down. After this it’s time to concentrate on extending your runs, learning pitch control (the control of the height at which you hover over the water). Expect this to be your first hour. After that you can explore coming back downwind - yes, it’s the opposite to learning to kiteboard - ironically upwind is much easier than downwind.
It will not be long until you will explore gybing, which on the new low speed foils is extremely easy, then switching feet (trickier) and then your next goalpost is the foiling tack. That is your first big ‘expert’ badge.
How soon you get through this list differs depending on ability and time, but expect to be confident in getting around after 3-4 sessions.
Which Mast Length should I choose?
Shorter masts represent a shorter stepladder should you fall off. Moreover, it’s much easier to wobble out of a crash should you breach your wings out of the water (happens when you fly too high and your wings cavitate, loosing all lift) as your board tends to bounce instead of digging in. The trouble is that short masts allow, by their shorter nature, you to breach your lift wing far more easily.
If it’s choppy, or you cant the foil hard on its side to carve or power upwind, there is simply not enough length to keep the wings buried.
Learning on a short mast (60cm) if you want the most civilised learning curve, and upgrade to 75 or 90 when you have a handle on the situation which may be as soon as 3-4 sessions in. 40cm masts are great for shallower waters and the initial school environment.
Long masts of a metre or more are best in carbon to reduce flex.
Once you are through the learning curve, 60 is only used in shallow water environments. 75cm for surfing and manoeuvre oriented riders, 90-95 for general freeriding can be used as a general rule.
Are all foil boards compatible?
There are no rules as to what board you need to use on what foil.
The only restriction are the physical mounting points. Most European companies use a 4 bolt system - 16.5 cm long, by 9cm wide. This is the industry standard.
Most US companies, and the occasional euro company use something else varying between some random plate measurement or a bespoke box system.
All foils use bolts, and the sea is one of the most corrosive environments around, so when you are storing your foil, we always recommend breaking it down and storing it dry.
Separate any alloy components from stainless screws, always try and use a lubricating gel like tef gel or lithium grease.
You will be rewarded for doing so, regardless of brand or environment.