My foil windsurfing journey started in 2017.
At that time, I had small boards and sails getting dusty in my garage. Windsurfing had become a hassle. As I have small kids, taking a day off from family was never a popular decision at home, and I had become more and more demanding when it comes to sailing conditions.
It had to be perfect, with strong and steady winds before I was even considering packing my car for the one hour drive to the nearest decent windsurfing spot. I’m sure many of you will understand what I mean, as it’s a relatively common situation.
Foil Windsurfing, A Game Changer
Since windsurfing can be so fickle, what was once my big passion, constantly checking weather forecasts to plan for the next session, had eventually just become a hobby that I only practiced a few times a year.
I actually didn’t realize how much I had been missing this passion for windsurfing before I put my feet on a windfoil. It didn’t take long before I started to check weather forecasts every day to plan my next windfoiling session.
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The big difference was that I was no longer looking at the “red days” marked in red on “Windguru” (20+ kts days), but for the green 10+ kts days, indicating optimal windfoiling conditions – and there are so many more!
Windfoiling has been a game changer for me, as it has enabled me to enjoy my passion to a maximum, and reduced some of the huge drawbacks of the sport.
Here are my top 9 reasons why I love windsurf foiling and how it has changed my life. I’m sure this should resonate with most of you who have tried windfoiling, and hope that it will inspire others to give it a try!
1. Smaller gear and lighter winds
Of course you can windsurf on a large formula board and 10.0 m sail in less than 10 knots, but really, how much fun is that? Most freeriders will agree that “life begins at 20 knots”, when there is enough wind for your 5.0 m. But this sentence needs to be updated: When windfoiling, “life actually begins at 10 knots”!
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I now have only 3 sails in my quiver: 5.0, 6.0 and 7.0 m, and the most used are definitely the smaller ones. The rule of thumb is that you need sails that are 2 sqm less than what you would normally use in regular windsurfing.
2. More time on the water
How disappointing is it to travel to a windsurfing spot and find out that the wind is too weak to ride and have fun? These days belongs in the past, with a foil there is almost always enough wind to get going!
This also means that foiling enables you to multiply the number of sessions, and increase the amount of fun time on the water. In that sense, this is actually a come back to what windsurfing was all about, having fun out on the water, no matter the conditions.
3. More time windsurfing with friends
Following the previous point, what is better than a windsurfing weekend trip with your friends?
However, planning the weekend ahead is not an easy task as who knows if there will be optimal conditions the exact weekend you have booked?
Windguru can only forecast a few days in advance. Windsurf foiling is a great way to maximize your chances of having a successful windsurfing trip, even without mast-high waves.
Since you have more days with weather for being on the water you have more chances to meet up with your friends.
4. A new windsurfing challenge
Has anyone ever asked you, “Isn’t it a bit boring to sail back and forth all the time?”.
While I always answered “not at all” and gave a long explanation on how fun windsurfing was, I sometimes felt they had a point! After a while, windsurfing back and forth can actually be boring if you don’t push yourself and set exciting new challenges.
Many of foilers are people like me who used to windsurf a lot, but stopped because they got sick of waiting around for the wind to pick up or they got bored of simply sailing back and forth.
Foil windsurfing is a fresh and exciting challenge after years of windsurfing. This is a rediscovery of this wonderful sport as you need to learn everything from scratch again: jibing, jumping, balancing, crashing… This is so fun!
5. Explore more
Another feature of the foil is that it’s much easier to get serious upwind and downwind angles when you get more comfortable and managed sustained flights.
This opens up many new possibilities for exploring your local spot like never before.
As your windfoil board has enough volume to bring you back to land even if the wind drops, you can make long trips along the coast, or cross the channel to the neighbouring island without the stress factor of not being able to come back to your starting spot.
6. Surfing the swell
Windfoiling started with flat water, but more and more people realise how fun it is to play with the swell. Small waves that are useless in windsurf before have now become a great playground for foiling, offering a completely new dimension to the sport.
When you have caught the swell, you can simply open your sail and head downwind. You will then almost completely release the sail power and literally start surfing the swell. As it’s simple to go upwind again, this is a small upwind-downwind game you will enjoy for many hours without getting bored.
7. The best way to get high
Learning how to windfoil doesn’t mean that you have to quit windsurfing. Many choose to windfoil in light wind and get a smaller fin-board when the wind picks up. Some brands also offer hybrid “foil-ready” windsurf boards, which enable you to use both a foil in light wind, and a normal fin when the wind gets stronger.
However, I must warn you that it’s really easy to get foil-addicted even after the first try, and you may stick to the foil even in stronger weather conditions. Fortunately, getting high on a foil doesn’t have any negative effects, except on your wallet maybe!
8. Your childhood dream come true
That feeling! Cruising silently 85 cm above the water is just magic. I’m sure you have been dreaming of flying like a bird when you were a child. Now you can! This feeling is in many ways similar to snowboarding in deep powder snow, but it’s even easier as you are in the air.
9. Shorter windsurfing trips
When only light winds are needed, your local lake can now become an ideal playground. When I was windsurfing, I used to drive at least one hour to get decent conditions on the seaside.
Now I rediscovered my local spot, only 10 minutes drive from my home!
It used to be only a spot when autumn storms were strong enough, but it has become my “everyday spot”. What a game changer!
I can now come back from work, have dinner with my family, and have a couple of hours on the water before kissing my kids good night. Happy wife, happy dad, happy life.
To finish off, here is a quote from Robby Naish which totally summarizes my feelings for the sport:
“If anyone tells you it is too difficult or hard to learn, don’t listen. If they tell you that you need a race foil, super-wide board or high-performance race sail, don’t listen.
Here I am riding the Hover 122 with Thrust foil and 90cm mast. My sail is a 5.7 meter Lift… three and a half batten soft sail that anyone can rig in about a minute. Wind is 10-15 knots… not really enough to get planing on normal windsurf gear, but enough to kite foil on a 9 or ride a twin tip with a 14-16 meter. And I am out windsurfing, flying around and having a blast!! “
“This is for all those people that “used to windsurf” but got tired of waiting for wind. This will bring the fun of just riding the wind back to you. If you are good enough to get into the footstraps and occasionally make your jibes, you are good enough to ride this foil gear.
I meet people all over the world that tell me that they used to windsurf but stopped because the sport passed them by, the gear got too small and too complicated and they needed too much wind to have fun…. spending too much time waiting and chasing wind and not enough time actually windsurfing… so they moved on.
No, this is not as exciting as doing back loops or hitting the lip at Hookipa.
But I have been windsurfing at the highest level through the entire evolution of our sport for over forty years, and I love this.
So will you.
Just windsurfing back and forth, reading the water, gliding with almost no resistance, going really fast with a small and simple sail… it really is incredibly fun.
And yes, you do “feel” the water. If I look away from the front of the board for more than a few seconds, I drop off the foil. You are constantly making little adjustments, shifting your weight, sheeting in and out etc. you are not “disconnected” as some people have questioned…. this is real windsurfing. But you can do it and have fun in “normal conditions”… flat water and average winds that you can find pretty much anywhere.
If you know someone that “used to windsurf” and loved it…. send them this post.
I really feel this can bring windsurfing back to a lot of people. I hope that I’m right. See you on the water….
Aloha and good sailing,
Do you agree with my views or Robby’s thoughts, or do you have other positive points to add to this list?
I’d be glad to hear from you in the comments below!