Windfoiling has taken the windsurfing world by storm and is now is on everybody’s mind. You may have been skeptical about the whole “foiling thing”, but the fact is that everyone that has tried foiling has only positive things to say about it!
Windsurf foil is a true revolution for windsurfing, offering a whole new dimension to the sport. Are you also tempted to try foil windsurfing and be able to ride full speed above the water with only 7-10 knots of wind? You are not the only one!
Learning how to windfoil makes this a reality. Days without enough wind to windsurf can be perfect days to windfoil. More days on the water is never a bad thing.
If you are a complete beginner, this article will hopefully give you a better understanding of what windfoiling is, how it works, and give you some guidelines and tips on how to choose the right foiling equipment.
Light wind windsurfing has become fun again, like in the good old days. It’s time to learn how to foil windsurf, so follow the guide!
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Learning How to Windfoil
I’m going to assume you have experience with windsurfing if you’re looking to windfoil. If you’re completely new to water sports, then you should take a bit of time to learn the basics of windsurfing first. If you have a surf school near you to help, that will get you proficient much faster.
Once you’re proficient in windsurfing, it’s time to slap a foil on the board and get in the water!
Unfortunately, there’s really no way to teach you through text how to windfoil. It’s a process you’ll quickly pick up, but you need to be in the water.
Once you get going fast enough your board will simply start to lift out of the water, and from that point you’re riding the foil, not the board. The board is simply the tool you use to control the foil.
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Your first few flights on the foil are going to be short, and that’s normal. It takes time to learn how to keep your board off the water, manage your flight height, and the new muscle memory of balancing at the same time.
You also won’t be as skilled at turning immediately, so be sure to practice somewhere without a crowd!
10 Common Begginer Questions about Windfoiling
1. Is it hard to learn windfoiling?
Short answer: No.
Windfoiling is relatively easy to learn, especially if you already know how to windsurf. The first few runs will be challenging as you need to get used to controlling the foil with small body movements. Pretty quickly you will finally understand the influence of your body weight and find the right position on your board. The time needed to get flying is usually 2 to 4 hours, and you should manage to have a relaxed flight after only 4 to 5 sessions.
Windfoiling is also far less physically demanding than windsurfing. Since you’ll be flying above the sea, there is no friction between the water and your board. The hydrodynamic drag is minimal and you don’t get battered around by the waves.
This all means that the propulsive force needed when sailing above the water is thus much lower than in regular windsurfing. You can use smaller sails for the same wind conditions, and you will not be physically tired after a session. This makes windfoiling suitable for everybody, regardless of age or gender.
2. What are the best weather conditions to learn foil windsurfing?
We would recommend learning to windfoil with the wind between 12-15 knots and a relatively small sail (5-6m2). That way you will easily experience the lift given by the foil, and the rig will be light and easy to maneuver.
Here’s a video of perfect conditions for learning to windfoil, light wind and no chop:
Once you’re up on the foil without the friction of the water, you can get your cruising speed up to about 20 knots. The best windfoilers are now even flying at an average speed above 30 knots!
While it’s possible to windsurf below 10 knots of wind, it because a lot more technical and difficult so it’s best to hold off until you’ve had a few good rides in before trying a lighter wind day.
3. Is Windfoiling dangerous?
All watersports have a certain element of danger to them, but windfoiling isn’t what I would consider to be a dangerous sport.
At first, you will definitely experience some “catapults”, reminding you of your very first experiences on a funboard. Don’t be scared, those crashes shouldn’t be too aggressive as you will generally have a very low speed starting out.
It would also help if as a beginner, you use a shorter mast (60cm-72cm) so when you do fall it won’t be from as high up out of the water.
A foil does present some unique challenges though because it is a very hard, strong, and sharp peice of equipment now strapped to your board that you’re not used to.
To be on the safe side, do not waterstart at the beginning, because you might hurt yourself by kicking the sharp edges of the foil in the water. It’s better to uphaul the sail.
When falling, make sure not to fall on the sharp foil by keeping your hands on the boom, no matter what. This is the #1 rule of windfoiling safety!
Thanks to the low speed, you should fall smoothly in your sail far from the foil, without significant damage or concerns. Check out this sequence of windfoil world champion, Thomas Goyard, holding the boom when falling (yes, even world champions can fall!).
As a beginner you should take some precautions and wear a helmet and an impact vest (read about the best impact vests for windfoiling).
We also recommend wearing a wetsuit and boots even in warm climates, in case you kick the foil with your legs.
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We also strongly recommend applying a nose protector or mast protection on your board. These accessories are not very expensive and will prevent your mast from smashing the nose of your brand new windfoil board. Which would be such a shame…
Read out test and review of 5 different nose board protectors here.
4. Do I need a Windfoil board, or can I use my current windsurf board?
While it is always a great experience to windsurf with a brand new board, you can also windfoil with a regular windsurf board. However, there’s a reason why windfoil boards exist – they are built different from many windsurf boards to give you a better experience.
Here are some tips for what windsurf boards would work best for foiling –
- Find a wide freeride board, minimum 75 cm wide. Big boards offer more control and stability than smaller boards, and you need to be able to uphaul the rig instead of waterstarting when you’re a begginner.
- The board should be as short and light as possible and be wide on the tail. A light wind slalom board usually has these characteristics. An old formula board would also do a great job.
- The fin box should be a deep tuttle type, which is the standard for foils. Most of the new slalom freeride boards now are “foil ready”, i.e. with a reinforced fin box. If your board is an old one, it isn’t guaranteed that your fin box will be able to handle the pressure generated by the foil or not. Here’s a guide about installing a reinforced box in a windsurf board.
5. How should I position the footstraps?
The position of the footstraps is very important in windfoiling. As your body position is more upright than in regular windsurfing, you will need to center your feet on the board to have a more comfortable body position.
Some freeride windsurfing boards already have extra footstrap inserts centered on the board. If not, you can ask your local surf shop to apply some new inserts on your board.
The front strap is very important, as it locks you on the board. However, some riders have experienced windfoiling strapless as well. We have several previous blog posts about strapless windfoiling: Learning windfoiling safely without straps with Adrian Hessels.
The back strap is less important. If you are just starting out, we even recommend removing the back straps completely from the board. This will give you more flexibility and the option to figure out where to put your weight and where to place your foot on the back of the board. It will also give you much more space at the back of the board to move around and get started, without being locked in the standard strap position.
Philippe Caneri from Horue showing us the right body position
6. What kind of sail do I need to windfoil?
Sails are less important than in regular windsurfing for a beginner. As long as you can generate enough power to get the foil out of the water, you’re set.
As a rule of thumb for beginners, if there is enough wind to waterstart with your sail, you will feel overpowered on the foil. You’d be better off in choosing a smaller size.
A light and small sail as it will be easier to handle and is best for beginners. When learning, you will concentrate on control, rather than going fast.
In general, you should choose a sail that is 2 square meters less than you would use in regular windsurfing. The sensations are completely different: when windsurfing, the thrill is to test the limits with an overpowered rig, and the ultimate feeling in windfoiling is to have a rig which feels so light in your hands, that you could even ride without a harness.
Several brands like Loftsails or Ezzy have developed specific sails to windfoiling. You can find an overview of the different brands in our Foil Sail Guide and find our own assortment in our online store.
The idea of these foil-specific sails is to get flying as quickly as possible. They let you generate a lot of power by effective pumping and make the flight comfortable by improving the stability of the equipment throughout gusts and lulls.
7. How do I carry my foil board to the water?
A board with a foil is not as easy to handle as a regular slalom board with a fin. An easy way to carry your equipment to the water is of course, start with carrying the sail and then the board, and assemble them in the water.
However, it may be difficult sometimes because of stones, shorebreak, tides or currents. In these conditions, you may prefer to carry both board and sail together. Another way to do it is to carry your gear on your head, facing the wind.
In a recent post on Instagram, we asked people what is there preferred way. You can clck on the picture below to access this post are read the many comments and tips:
Here is however the easiest way to carry your gear in our opinion:
- Roll the board completely upside down, with the foil pointing up towards the sky.
- Grab the board on the opposite rail and support the board on your hip/harness.
- Carry the gear to the water. Try to orientate the equipment in order to get help from the wind to carry it.
Watch this video by Sam Ross to see how to do it in practice.
8. How do I pump and get flying on the foil?
Here is how most people would start planning on a regular windsurf board:
- Place your feet in the middle of the board
- Wait for the wind gust to start pumping
- Pump hard and push sideways with your back foot to generate power on the fin
- Hook on your harness
- Put your feet in the footstraps
The technique is somewhat similar with a foil, but here are 7 tips to get you flying earlier:
- Do not wait for the wind gust, it’s a light wind day! You need to take an active decision on when you want to get flying on your foil, independently of the wind gusts. Being passive on our board will not make you fly. (But of course a wind gust will help you fly quicker, so take advantage of it as well…)
- Place your feet a bit more towards the upwind rail of the board instead of in the center.
- When you are ready, start pumping 2-3 times to power up your sail and start to get moving.
- I recommend putting the front foot in the strap as soon as possible. Getting the foot in the strap will help you move your body backwards, and put more pressure on the foil.
- When in the strap, make 2 big pumps, the first one to “load” the sail, and the second to lift you up on the foil, by moving the whole rig backwards, and get your body weight on the back foot. Push vertically with your back foot instead of sideways. The idea is to sink the tail of the board in the water to generate lift together with the pumping movement. At the same time, you will create a rolling movement as your feet are on the side of the board.
- As the speed increases, place your back foot in the strap and only then hook on your harness. The reason is that you should find the balance and get full control of the foil before hooking on the harness. You may experience brutal falls in the sail if you hook up too early and without full control of the gear.
- Your foil is now getting in action and the speed increases, but the board is still touching the water. What you will need is to push firmly and vertically on the back foot to lift the nose of the board. This will generate enough lift to pull you out of the water.
Sebastian Kornum shows us his pumping technique here:
Enjoy the Grind
It’s not very often that a completely new water sport discipline comes on the scene. Enjoy the thrill of learning a new skill and appreciate all the hardwork it takes to master it!