I (Leo) am one of those personalities that expects quite a bit of adrenaline in return for any physical activity. That unfortunately comes at a high price and always has. I envy Pernille and other people, who really enjoy doing workouts and yoga (took me 3 tries to spell joga correctly). She doesn’t need a ton of equipment and perfect conditions neither a ton of money, she is probably also fitter then me by the end of the day as she can exercise whenever and wherever, but lately also a bit jealous of me cruising around in the mesmerising fjords and lagoons around Europe.
But what if you however happen to be a lazy adrenaline junkie? You might have already tried all sorts of sports during your sailing vacations or cruising. How many sailors carry their kite equipment, surfboards and/or windsurfing equipment around and never really get to use it? We have overloaded our boat with gear and had limited success in actually using it. So unless you target a specific spot and make it all about the kite or windsurfing you will most likely fail. You might have actually pushed so much for success, that you have failed, tangling your kite lines all over, drifting away in embarrassment etc. If you have tried and aren’t a pro you know what I am talking about. But why is wing foiling any better?
I have to admit, I was probably just drawn into it because it’s so trendy right now, but the slight hope that it could actually work pushed me to buy a set. Another factor that played a major role was the simplicity and size. When sailing, most of the times you are kind of tired and you definitely have no energy to pack a ton of equipment, dinghy to the nearest beach, set it all up and in case of kiting having someone to help you. Unfortunately wing foiling is still a bit complicated, the board and foil needs to be assembled and the wing pumped up, but everything is rather small, enough so, that any boat will do, maybe not an optimist. So if you can spare 10-15mins of patience you have it all set up from scratch.
The size of the entire set is still considerable for a small boat, with a hard board being roughly 6feet it might be hard to store inside, so you have to find a good place to strap it outside, or consider one of the new inflatable ones, they look very promising and are even cheaper, while packing to a size of a large backpack. The foil itself when taken apart is also not super handy, but with some Tetris skills it should always fit in some corner. Lastly the wing is so small enough to fit in a small bag and therefore should really be no issue.
Next common problem is always the conditions, most anchorages are protected and gusty, often full of other boats and with limited beach space available. That by default would kill any motivation for kiting and perhaps windsurfing. But what about wing foiling? Here I had my doubts too! Nobody really had the answer so I had to take the risk and spent a lot of money to find out. My initial try in the marina turned into a sad and cold disaster that will stay and hunt me on our insta account for ever. Some more stable conditions and space at anchor however, combined with some hours of training later, the expectations where exceeded. I can confirm that gusts are really no problem, even shifting winds like in a narrow fjord are still fun, not ideal but fun, and will definitely make you improve faster.
It all works so well because of the super large foil you have under your board, 2000 square centimetres in my case, this in combination with their breakthrough designs makes them so efficient & hydrodynamic, allowing you to fly (hover ) nearly effortlessly through the water. The sail or wing, is another little design wonder, entirely inflatable or with a tiny boom, weighing next to nothing and flying little an elegant seagull in your hands, provides the little lift and push you need to get on the foil, then keeps offers the little push to keep you going.
All you need, are around 10kts of winds or at least some gust of 10+kts, then and once flying you can keep going with 6-7kts or even nothing as you can pump the foil for a while and through any wind holes, big rolling or wind waves will also provide enough push to keep you going. Once good enough, one can read the gusts and fly in circles on literally a big pool or small bay or even fjord. Best thing, you can do flying tacks and staying up wind is no problem, no more walking upwind ever. Lately I have managed to foil around the boat in a 100m radius.
The biggest problem is the price, a good set is still insanely expensive, I don’t even wanna give an estimate as it still hurts (unfortunately I’m neither sponsored neither do I deal them). But it’s also understandable to a certain degree as many of the parts are high end, like the foils made mostly out of carbon, while the wings are also very high end constructions and boards are made of complicated composites. Anyway, prices might drop and investing in a good set will last and give you so much joy. Another drawback is that it’s very sensitive equipment, the foils are super sensitive to any contact apart from water, while also quite sharp when in contact with you or your wing, on the upside they are repairable and interchangeable.
In case you are convinced, here is a little guide on what you will need. Unrelated to your level, you will need:
- A good and large foil, as this is the most important part, invest in something good that also offers interchangeable front wings. Most wings are measured by their front wing area and aspect ratio, choose around 2000 Square centimetres to begin with, but most brands offer dedicated guides depending on you weight, level, type of wing and sailing conditions.
- Next you will need a wing, which really only depends on your weight and the conditions you will use it. Sizes are anywhere between abt. 2 to abt. 7 Square meters. However, 5 square meters seems to be the most common size and offers the best compromise for only having one wing like myself (works from ~10+kts to 20kts of wind). Now regarding the board and some more specific types read further for your category :
Complete begginer: no previous experience with neither kitesurfing or windsurfing.
- I would advise taking a lesson, might be an additional cost but having taught windsurfing & kitesurfing it is worth it, they know and will have the perfect equipment for the first tries. Progress is so much faster.
- If you are like me, too cheap and proud to pay anyone, you will suffer a bit more, but with help from YouTube and patience you will get there, if you brake stuff, which is likely you will quickly end up paying more.
- Start by using your wing on the beach and on a SUP board to get a good feeling. If able train on the board with the foil separately (get towed behind a boat) it will be great. Once comfortable with at least the wing, combine it all on a larger wing board or foil SUP board in a safe and good environment. The board you should get should probably have a volume of at least 40litres more then your body weight, so if you weigh 80kg a board with 120litres should just be good enough to balance and take the first steps. *there are plenty of options in this size range on the used market, especially SUP boards for foiling, which you might keep for just foil Supping on small waves later on and with the same foil.
- Be prepared and full of patience on your first tries, it seems impossible at first, but after a couple of hours you will get there.
Intermediate, good wind or kitesurfer or just a superb natural sportive kind of person that learns annoyingly fast.
- Practice a bit with the wing,
- Get a board that is at least 20-30 litters more then your body weight and go for it,
- Any practice of foiling and winging is still advised and will make it even easier.
Pro, good wind or kitesurfer who has been foil kiting or foil windsurfing or foiling behind a boat.
- Play around with the wing on the beach, ideally somebody lends you a board that about 20-30 litter above your body weight, you nail it in 1-2 hours, you are ready for a even smaller board around your weight in litters of volume.
- If you have no cool friends to lent you a bigger board for a couple of hours, you can probably also start on a board that’s around your body weight or slightly smaller it will just be a bit painful.
I had the luck being able to learn on a 130 litter SUP foil board for a couple of hours, then changed to my now 75 L board, it was quite hard to handle, but I managed. I was actually aiming for a 95 L board, but they where all sold out and I needed it before sailing off. Now I am super happy with the small size.
Some more benefits from purchasing a wing foil set:
- You can use the wing on your SUP to cruise around, even on a skate, snowboard or skis.
- Your foil, although expensive can also be used for surfing or supping on smaller waves, as you progress interchangeable wings will provide you further options relatively cheap.
- You can buy an all-round wing/foil SUP board that will give you fun on the flat and on waves.
If you have any questions please just ask !
Some unpaid advertisement, if you are in Europe and looking to buy consider browsing the Hangloose shop in Vienna, also online. The owner is a good friend, super helpful and one of the pioneers in selling surfing equipment and also a really passionate surfer himself. If you are around Crete and Greece go visit Gonesurfing Crete, they are awesome!