Windfoil Zone has become the meeting place for windfoilers on the Internet, and we are very proud of that. Many of you are asking questions about windfoiling and we have lots of windsurfers who are eager to give foil windsurfing a try.
There are a couple of questions that come up regularly, and we have decided to get some expert advice from some of the best foilers in the world.
Today we have asked this simple but highly relevant question: “What’s the best advice you can give to a beginner windfoiler“?
The TL;DR Version
If you’re short on time or don’t care to read exactly what these experts said, here are the top 5 pieces of advice that seemed to be a common thread that I think you should grab on to –
- Start out in a windfoil school or with a coach. This is the most surefire way of success.
- Don’t be afraid of speed, it is necessary to get flying easily: moderate wind (15 knots is ideal) and a big enough sail will give you enough power to feel the lift of the foil and keep flying. Too little power can make your learning slower.
- Choose a low-cost entry foil to start with, and upgrade later on if needed. Aluminum foils with a larger front wing are the best option, avoid race foils.
- Wear adequate protective gear: helmet, impact vest, and wetsuit/drysuit. Be careful!
- Take your time, don’t try to run before you can walk. Spend loads of hours on the water, this is the best way to learn!
Here is what the pros say:
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Beginner Advice from Antoine Albeau (25x Windsurf Champ)
Go to my windsurfing school or any other school and take a lesson! It’s a much better way of learning than trying alone.
First of all because in a windfoil school you get foil equipment for beginners and you get the chance to try it before you buy a windfoil or a windfoil board.
I was actually the first one to teach how to windfoil in the beginning of the 2000’s, equipped with my Neilpryde Rush Randle hydrofoil!
Last summer, we had 4 windfoils and 2 kitefoils for lessons and to rent.”
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Gonzalo Costa Hoevel(2018 Foil World Champion)
I would suggest going with a small sail and to first aim for speed and let the wings of the foil do their job.
It’s like a plane – it does not start flying before it has reached a certain speed. If you start flying with too little speed, you will collapse straight away but if you have enough speed, you will stay up on the foil in a very stable and controlled way.
So aim for speed!!!
My very best advice to beginners on foil is not to be afraid of going fast because that is actually what often stabilizes everything. Just let go your fear and lean a bit forward when you feel that the foil starts lifting above the water.
Julien Bontemps, World champion and Olympic medalist
I would highly recommend taking a windfoil lesson. We can see that some dedicated windfoil schools are popping-up nowadays. That’s a great way to start.
I also think that the new foils entering the market will be more and more accessible, and it will be even easier to learn how to windfoil.
It’s of course also really important to have the right protective gear to avoid hurting yourselves during your first session: helmet, impact vest, and wetsuit/drysuit to cover your legs.
William Huppert, Pro Windsurfer
Take your time, don’t force it. Stay upright on your board without hooking your harness and try to feel how the foil behaves with the pressure of your feet. This is a much better way than trying to quickly put your feet in the straps, hook your harness, and try to go full speed at once!
The ideal conditions to learn in are 15 knots, no wave, and small sail.
Nicolas Goyard F465
The main advice that I would give to a windfoil beginner would be to not be underpowered at the beginning. To me that’s the most common mistake: you are afraid to get hurt and you rig too small of a sail and can’t even get flying at all. The results end up being a lot of desperate efforts to try to lift the foil.
On the contrary, it’s much easier to get planing and feel these fantastic foil sensations when you have enough power in your sail.
First of all, if you are still doubting whether or not you should give it a try, don’t hesitate a minute – windfoiling is simply addictive!
I would also recommend starting with a medium wind rather than light wind. Many beginners want to start with light wind, but that’s a mistake. When the wind is strong enough, you get immediate sensations.
Another tip is to complete your first 2-3 hours in a windfoil school or with a windfoil coach. It will speed up your learning phase.
Windfoil Zone note: Fred Morin’s point is another way to say what Nicolas Goyard already mentioned earlier on: Don’t be underpowered; you will get much better sensations if you have power in your sail.
Sam Ross, Windfoil coach and Instructor
To start with, learn in some wind. Ideally over 10 knots.
Although windfoiling is great in light winds, if you learn when there is more of a breeze to start, you’ll get a quick feel for it and progress really quickly.
After a couple of sessions in a bit more breeze, you’ll be able to start pushing the wind minimums.
First and important advice: keep your hands on the wishbone when you are falling!
The ideal conditions are around 15 knots and a sail smaller than 7.0 m2. Choose a spot with flat water and a foil with good lift (more surface area).
A helmet and an impact vest are necessary for your first sessions. Uphaul the sail instead of water starting, to avoid sparking the foil with your feet.
Before learning how to windfoil, you should first be confident riding with foot straps and harness on your conventional windsurf board.
If you know how to plane in the foot straps and hooked into your harness in a straight line, you can start learning windfoiling.
Choose the right conditions and the right equipment: Light wind and flat water for your first foil sessions. 8-12 knots would be perfect.
Take a wide board and a small sail. 85-90cm board with 7.0-8.0m sail will match each other perfectly for light wind conditions. If you have a freeride foil with big wings, you can even consider a smaller sail for that wind.
Be careful with the foil the first time. A foil is much longer and heavier than your fin. It is hard to take the sail and the board all together to the water. So bring them separately and assemble them in the water, with the foil pointing up. Remember also to stop your board long before the beach when you come back, not to touch the foil on the seafloor.
In regular windsurfing; it’s common to lean backwards to balance out the drag of the sail. When in windfoiling that’s not necessary.
Get some speed and put your front foot in the strap. Keep the speed and plane as you normally do. When you are ready to fly, push down on your back foot and pull the front foot up a little bit. You can also use the swell as a ramp to feel the front wing lift power.
If the board does not fly, push harder. Have your back foot near the center line of the board to try to control your flight. Do not lean backwards too much. Try to find the balance. No need for a harness at this stage. After a few days you’re no longer a beginner!
Tez Plavenieks of Winsurfing UK Mag
Go somewhere away from the crowds, so as to not interfere with others when learning, and persevere.
Also don’t try to run before walking. With a little time, competent foiling will be nailed!
Philippe Caneri of Horue:
“Clearly, I would recommend choosing a hydrofoil that enables you to start flying quickly rather than a race windsurf foil which is meant to go fast.”
Put another way, you want a foil that will provide a lot of early lift. This usually means a foil with a front wing that has a lot of surface area.
Philippe’s recommendation is exactly in line with Horue’s vision of windfoiling, where the goal is really to have fun on the water. Both the Evo H10 and the Vini are developed with this idea in mind.
Renaud Barbier of Mantafoils
I would recommend buying a strong foil, but also a foil which can be upgraded to a more performant version later on. For a beginner who wants to have fun, an alloy foil is more than enough. Carbon foils with race masts only offer lighter weight and a slightly higher top speed.
Renaud’s piece of advice is also a good one. It’s true that when you first get started, you will have enough fun and challenge to go back and forth flying on your board. No need for a top premium hydrofoil for that.
However, after acquiring some experience, you may be glad to be able to upgrade your foil with a better wing or mast. This is exactly what the Mantafoil Mono foil offers, an all-round foil with different set-ups and with the possibility to replace your front wing with a carbon race wing, or change the height of the mast.
Alan MadLoop Takapuna, Owner of Madlood Windsurfing School
Don’t hesitate to try 3 or 4 different foil brands. There is a big difference between freeride foiling and race foiling.
When you are learning, let the board come up to speed. Don’t try to force it to fly.
15 knots is an ideal learning breeze.”
My advice would be to spend loads of hours on the water. It will be fun right from the first minute, but unless you are a very skilled windsurfer, you need time to master it.
Also, you need power and don’t worry about going out in a little strong wind. 12-20 knots is fine. My first time was with 5.4 and 20 knots. Put on a helmet and go for it. Crashing is still more fun than desperately trying to get going with pumping.
Harness and foot straps provide better stability and I would recommend short lines as well. Optionally, you can remove the rear foot straps.
Don’t put too much thought into trimming at the beginning. If you cannot get flying on the foil, a slight adjustment on the trim will not solve it. It will be more important when you get more experience and want more comfort, stability at speed, and upwind angles.
For equipment, I would recommend starting with a low cost and beginner-friendly, aluminum foil. When you truly master that and if you want more performance, you can sell it and go for a high performance foil like the Neilpryde F4 foil.
Choose a wide board, helmet, and a beginner foil such as Naish or NP Aluminum.
If they have shore break they have to think carefully about entry and exit. I have shore break, I do not beach start anymore, I swim past the break and uphaul.
I use a mechanical mast base so it is easy to disconnect the sail in the water, and I walk my board in and then retrieve the sail. When separated it is really easy to carry both through the break. When not separated it is very difficult to do.
The best advice I got as a beginner was to “taxi”. Another rider said: “just come up inches above the water at a time. Don’t worry about coming all the way off. Don’t worry if the board skims the water a lot, just get the feel of the board out of the water with it very low. Then as you get comfortable you can go higher as needed.”
I would suggest setting the foil rear wing for maximum lift at first and keep the speed slow if possible.
Also research pumping the sail. As you know it’s a great skill to have as you might be able to use a smaller sail which will be more comfortable when up.
My final advice is don’t rule out a dedicated wind foil sail. It is making a huge difference for me for stability, wind range, and my overall enjoyment is way up with those sails.