Buying a windfoil kit isn’t a straightforward or simple task, especially if you’re newer to the sport. There are so many decisions to make for each main component.
You need to choose sizes for the wing, mast, foil mast, and wing. You need to decide on shape/design. You need to decide between carbon and aluminum.
It’s overwhelming, and no one wants to make a mistake when they’re investing this kind of money.
Let’s put those fears to bed – today I’m combining my knowledge with another expert wind/kite foiler, Daniel Riegler. We’re going to answer the most common questions people have when picking out windfoiling equipment so you can buy with confidence.
Question 1: Should I choose a short or a long foil mast?
Windfoil masts come in different lengths from 40 cm to 115 cm in length. So which is the right mast size for you?
Sunglasses designed for watersports!
Use code WINDFOIL-NATION at checkout for 5% off.
If you’re a beginner, we recommend having a mast of at most 60-85 cm.
A short mast is safer as the distance between the water and the board gets closer. You will soon understand how it feels to stand almost one meter above the water, it’s a bit scary at first!
A short mast makes it less scary and also reduces the risks when you crash (which will happen).
However, you don’t choose a mast that is too short either, as it will limit your progression. When you get experienced and manage to get sustained flights, a short mast will give you less opportunity to adjust the height of your flight, and overfoiling (having the wing of foil breaching the water) will happen regularly which can bring some gnarly crashes.
The ultimate board protector that doesn't get in the way.View Today's Price
Who Should Buy a Longer Mast?
Longer masts have more drag in the water if you keep the foil deep in the water, and this will impact your top speed accordingly. However, riding with a long mast has many advantages:
- It’s easier to ride as it allows to better adjust the distance between board and water level, which is particularly useful when you sail in the open sea with some swells.
- You can sail more upwind.
- It’s easier to learn moves like the foiling jibe or even downwind 360 as you can use the height of the foil to keep the momentum at the end of the move.
If you’re going to be riding in an area with pretty shallow waters then a long mast should be out of the question, though.
Question 2: How long of a fuselage should I choose?
The fuselage is the rod that connects the wings of the foil and the mast.
If you’re a beginner, I wouldn’t worry about switching up your fuselage. Whatever comes with your first foil will be perfectly fine to learn on and you may never really need to change it out, but lets get into why you may want to use a shorter or longer fuselage.
The quick answer is that long fuselages are made to create a more stable ride, and primarily made for slalom and course racing foilers.
Short fuselages are less stable and more difficult to control at high speeds, but it gives you a more carvey ride and a feeling of freedom as it can help you easily change the height, direction, turn or jump. This is ideal for a more freeride or freestyle type of foiling.
When you purchase your foil, it will probably be sold as a “racing foil” or “freeride foil” or some other type. Racing foils are likely to come with a longer fuselage whereas freeride will be shorter because it matches up with the riding style appropriately.
As a reference point, short fuselages are in the ~60cm and less range, whereas long fuselages I would categorize as 90cm and above. Racers may use fuselages 115cm+.
Question 3: Should I Buy an Aluminum or Carbon Foil?
I’d recommend everyone start with an aluminum foil. Aluminum foils are much cheaper than carbon foils (not that either are “cheap”), and since this is a new hobby why invest more than you need to?
Carbon foils are stiffer than aluminum foils while at the same time being much lighter weight. This means they’re much better suited from tall masts as well as heavier riders that might find an aluminum foil would not be responsive enough for their preferences.
One further wrinkle in all of this, while a carbon foil is more stiff and responsive, it’s actually more fragile to impacts and getting tumbled
You’re going to enjoy the ride either way, but you likely wouldn’t appreciate the advantages or nuances of a carbon foil without starting on an aluminum foil so I would just start with the cheaper option.
Question 4: What size should my front wing and back wing be?
Wing sizes are (in my opinion) the most important decision you’ll make when buying a foil, and what you should buy depends on how you intend to use it.
One of the biggest mistakes that people make is they want to start with race foils because they have the ambition to go fast and race in the future. You can learn windfoiling with a race foil, but it will take you longer to learn and you may experience heavier crashes.
I usually recommend learning on a freeride foil: it gives an early lift, stable flight, and relatively low speed, which is good for the safety aspect.
Front Wing Terminology
There are a few key attributes of a front wing that will affect the ride.
The first and maybe most important is the surface area. This is measured in “cm2”, and it’s basically the total area of the wing when you’re looking down on it from above.
A bigger wing (1000 cm2 or higher) is going to create more lift which means it will want to get in the air without requiring too much speed.
Thickness or Profile
Basically how thick the wing is when you’re looking at it from the front. A thicker wing is less hydrodynamic so it has more drag and a much lower top speed, but it has a lot more lift at low speeds. Racing foils are typically very thin whereas freeride foils are thick.
The aspect ratio of the wing is the span of the wing (width) divided by the chord of the wing (length from tip to back edge).
In the two diagrams below of the Slingshot Infinity 76 and Infinity 65, you can see the aspect ratio tells you about the shape of a wing.
The larger the aspect ratio the more narrow the wing is. A high aspect ratio is typically more hydrodynamic and efficient, but it will stall easier at low speeds.
A lower aspect ratio is easier for beginners to control at low speeds and changes to the angle of the foil won’t feel as dramatic.
Here are some tips we have in terms of what kind of wings you should be looking for based on your needs.
Beginner Wing Set-up:
Buy a front wing with a minimum of 1000 cm2 area! It’s important that the foil feels safe, is easy and friendly to learn on, and has a large front wing that will give you all that even if it will limit your top speed.
With a large front wing, you can also use smaller boards and sails, which is always nice. Speed will come later (if you want) by upgrading your foil equipment and/or improving your technique. Enjoy the fun side of foiling at low speed with a freeride kit!
A large front wing also gives you a low stall speed (i.e. the minimum speed needed to keep the board flying) which will help you to complete your first flying jibes.
Two product recommendations: Daniel recommends a front wing like the Moses 790 (1550 cm2), which is really one of the easiest foils to learn on. I personally love the Slingshot Infinity 76 wing which is a real all-rounder from 10 to 25 knots. Heavier riders may prefer the Slingshot Infinity 84 wings which gives more lift than the 76.
Even though these wings are “beginner friendly”, you may never outgrow them. If you’re not interested in testing your max speed or racing, you probably won’t feel the need to upgrade.
The best foil for freestyling is arguably the Moses Freestyle foil, developed together with Balz Müller, the foilstyle guru. Freestyling with a foil has always been a challenge until now as we have heard of many broken wings and masts due to hard landings.
Daniel met Balz Müller recently and he told him that he still hasn’t broken any single mast yet, despite the impressive intensity of his foiling style. So this kit is really made for it!
A smaller front wing surface (like the W720 with 746 cm2) will help you to get more speed to accomplish your tricks.
Slalom Racing Set-up (PWA style):
For slalom racing you definitely need a smaller wing than for course racing. A too big of a wing will produce too much lift in high speed.
On the other hand, the front wing should not be too small because you want to fly early on the starting line. The Moses W800 wing is perfect for a downwind racing course. You can race with high speed but still have a lot of control during the jibes.
Course Racing (Olympic style):
The aim is mostly to get as much upwind and downwind as you can. Wing sizes between 900 cm2 and 1100 cm2 are the most commonly used sizes.
Combined with a long fuselage, you will be able to do crazy angles upwind. One common problem with many wings though is the ability to put enough pressure when riding downwind, which makes you lose precious time. The best wings will combine excellent upwind and downwind performance and will help you win races.
Daniel’s recommendation is the Moses W1000, the fastest wing he rode so far.
Rear wings are sometimes called “stabilizer wings” and generally speaking they don’t have as big of an impact on your ride. Larger stabilizer wings will make the ride more stable whereas smaller wings will make make your foil quicker to turn and pump.
Question 5: Should I Buy a Large or Small Foilboard?
If you are a foil beginner, I would say to choose a relatively big board (at least 130 L). It will feel more comfortable than a small board with less volume. It’s important that you choose a board with a reinforced foilbox (Foil-ready box).
This is a big discussion as several brands offer powerbox head with a spreader (or load plate). You need to know that this system can work, but it can break as well, so you take a risk. You can also ask your local shaper to change the box of your board to a reinforced one, which is a smaller investment than buying a brand new foil board.
You should not start with a dedicated race board: Race boards have a very light and have a fragile construction. Every beginner will crash a few times on the nose.
Even with protection like the Surfbent or the Unifiber nose protection, your board may suffer from the repeated crashes. Start out with a more beginner-friendly epoxy board first. It’s cheaper and more solid than a full carbon board, even if it’s slightly heavier.
Daniel’s recommendation: JP Australia EPS versions are good all-rounders and bulletproof compared to the carbon versions.
We always recommend beginners (and even more advanced foilers) to protect the board from catapult crashes. Surfbent has proven to be a good way to protect the nose of your board, even if it can not prevent 100% of the crashes. Our experience is that is that the big hits aren’t as big and the small hits usually go unnoticed.
If you are most interested in course racing, then there is just one way to do that: Buy a 100 cm wide board, as wider boards will enable you to go much more upwind than a narrow board as you can push more on the foil by putting more pressure on the rail of the board.
Foil slalom boards are not as wide as the course racing boards, as there is a maximum width of 91 cm decided by the PWA, and slightly less performant upwind. These boards have enough volume for very light wind days (down to 5-6 knots) and they are made to be super-efficient on downwind racing courses.
If the freeride style is more your kind of foiling, or if you even want to start freestyling and try tricks, buy a smaller board. The best size for freeride boards is between 110 L and 150 L.
The smaller the board, the more skill and technique it will require to ride. Again, if you are a beginner, don’t take too small of a board as it will make learning difficult. You’d rather start with a big board and switch to a smaller board when you improve your foiling.
Thanks to Daniel Riegler for sharing his expertise with us. You can follow him on Instagram @daniel.riegler.
Quick Tips from Markus Hetzmannseder
Markus is an instructor and windfoiler at the Foil Windsurf Center in Austria, and he has some more tips to share with us.
- Start with a large front wing (1500 cm2).
- Start with a short mast.
- Choose a foil that you can change the parts on later (changing the front wing, etc).
- Use a large front wing to learn more advanced moves like gybes on since it has a lower stall speed.
Finally, here are two examples to guide you towards the right set-up. All examples are based on the Slingshot range, which is the brand I know the best.
Marc, 80 kg, beginner:
Marc wants to foil on a thermic spot, with light wind of 10-22 km/h (6-12knt). He has never foiled before.
My recommendation for him would be to start with the Hover Glide FWind system composed of the 76cm Infinity Carbon (1500cm²) front wing. Mast length for the first days should be ~60 cm and later on 90 cm.
This system works great in combination with the following sails: 5.9 cm² or 5.4 cm².
John, 110 kg, beginner:
John wants to foil on the same thermic spot as Marc, with light wind of 10-22 km/h (6-12knt). It’s his first time foiling as well.
My recommendation for John would also be to start with the Hover Glide FWind system, but use the 84cm Infinity Carbon (2000cm²) front wing. John is heavier than Marc and needs more lift. Mast length for the first days should also be 60 cm and later on 90 cm.
This system will work great with bigger sails: 6.5 cm² or 7.8 cm².