Humans have been trying to mimic the feeling of flying for decades. Wing surfing and wing foiling are relatively new sports that have been praised for their abilities to combine the sport of surfing with the feeling of flying. Wing boarding is the world’s newest wind-driven sport, and it’s quickly becoming a favorite amongst everyone interested in board or wind sports.
Wing surfing doesn’t require immense amounts of skill or equipment to begin. All you need is wind, a wing (sail), and a surfboard or foil board. You can begin with basic board skills and advance from there.
This guide to learning how to wing surf and wing foil will introduce you to the sports and everything you need to enjoy your time on the water with your board and your wing.
The First Priority: Staying Safe
Dealing with Feeling Overpowered
The first and most important part of learning to wing surf is safety. The wing can feel powerful in heavy winds, and it can become difficult to control. One quick tip is to make sure you’re using the right-sized wing – too large can be too powerful.
It’s not uncommon to feel out of control when learning to wing surf. The power of the wind is often unpredictable. It’s essential to let go of your rear hand whenever you feel overpowered by the wing. This allows the wing to find a neutral position, so it will stop pulling and give you time to regain your bearings and try again.
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Holding the wing by the leading edge handle allows the wing to float in a manner that feels weightless. Understanding this can save you a lot of energy and may even save your wing from flying away and becoming damaged or even lost.
Avoid Flare Outs
You’ll probably find yourself wanting to change hand positions while wing surfing, as your hand tires from holding the wing at a certain angle or you want to get more or less leverage while surfing. It’s important to always keep one hand holding on to the front/tip of the wing. If you let go of your front-end, the wing will either flare away from you and yank you off your board or it will flare towards you and smack you off your board.
When changing lead hands, you must first move your backhand to the front of the wing, get a good grip, then transition the other hand to the rear.
Don’t Get Swept Away
Another safety tip for beginners is to not go out if the wind is pushing you towards someplace you can’t return from. It takes practice to be able to efficiently wing surf upwind and you don’t want to get stranded away from the beach!
Steps to Wing Surfing/Wing Foiling
Wing surfing is a sport that appears intimidating at first. This is mostly because it involves the use of an inflatable sail, which looks more complicated to use than it is. However, despite its simplicity, learning to inflate and use the wing correctly is an essential part of wing surfing.
Inflating the Wing
Inflating the wing is an intimidating task for many beginner wing surfers. Watching videos on the wing inflation process can greatly improve your experience. Instructional videos, available on YouTube and other online video sources, will explain that you want to have the wind at your back while inflating the wing. It is also essential to have the leash attached to your wrist during the inflation process. Forgetting this step can result in the wing flying away in the wind.
An inflated wing can be ideal for stationary practice. Stationary on-land practice allows you to develop a fell for the wing and feeling how it will handle in different angles against the wind. On-land practice is the best time to practice using different grips and hand positions to see which are most comfortable and effective for you.
Preparing Your Equipment
Preparing your wing surfing or wing foiling equipment before entering the water can make your experience much more seamless. Be sure to drop your board or foil close to where you plan to enter the water. This makes for less distance carrying both the wing and your surf or foil board.
Carry the wing by one handle with the leading edge facing the wind. This will make the wing easier to carry with a neutral lift. Be sure the wing leash is attached to your hand and the board leash is attached to your ankle.
Practicing on the Water
Taking off on the water with your wing foil is not complicated, but it may require a few practice attempts before you get it right.
Start on your knees on the board with the wing positioned above your head. The wing shouldn’t be touching the water at all, as this will cause drag and lead to a crash. Place the wing toward the nose of the board. This will allow you to feel how your wing reacts to gusts of wind as you find a stable position on your surfboard.
Fully stand on your board once you feel stable and let the wing generate your speed. You may be able to skip the step of going to your knees if your board has a lot of volume and is easier to balance. Starting this sport on a traditional SUP or high-volume surfboard is a good idea before advancing to the use of a foil, which can be more difficult to balance and control.
A foil bard has an “escape velocity,” which is the speed at which you need to get up and surfing. You may need to pump the wing and the board to get moving at this velocity, especially when winds are light.
You’ll quickly advance to this level of foiling, but learning with a traditional surfboard eliminates this step and allows you to get a feel for the wing before adding a foil into the equation.
Advanced Wing Foiling Techniques
Beginner wing foilers and wing surfers should begin by surfing downwind. You should have an ending point that is downwind, so you do not need to head upwind to return to your starting point. Once you advance your wing foiling skills, you’ll be able to tack upwind back to your initial starting point. Tacking with a wing is similar to tacking with a traditional sailboat.
Advanced wing foilers and surfers are able to pump the wing and the foil to gain speed. Wing foilers who can gain speed and control their direction can learn to catch even the smallest waves. You will need to hold the wing by the leading handle to disengage it while wave riding. This allows you to harness the power of the wave as opposed to the power of the wind. Pumping the foil while wave riding can generate even more speed and excitement.
Additional Tips for Wing Surfing/Wing Foiling
Wing surfing and wing foiling are action-packed sports that can be challenging and rewarding. The following are a few extra tips on how to wing surf from those who have already mastered the sport.
- Always be aware of the tips of your wing. When wing tips collide with the water they can create drag or cause the wing to jerk in one direction or another. This can cause you to fall abruptly.
- Always attach the leash of your wing to something when letting it down on land. You may attach it to a tree, fence, or any stable object. This will prevent the wing from flying away in the wind.
- Laying the wing down flat with the struts up will also help prevent it from flying away while on land. However, the leash should still be attached to another object.
- Holding your hands farther back on the strut results in more power generated by the wing. Keeping your arms straight and bent at the elbows will allow you to control this power more smoothly. Fighting the wind will always cause your arms to tire more quickly.
- Begin wing surfing with a larger surfboard or SUP with a lot of volume. These boards are easier to balance and make learning easier.
- Only hold onto the leading edge handle of the wing if you’re losing control or falling. This prevents the wing from becoming uncontrollable and making contact with the foil, which can cause damage to the wing. It is also important to avoid any contact between the foil and the wing when carrying them to the water. Damage to the wing can be extremely costly to repair.
Wing surfing and wing foiling are sports that can be enjoyed in a variety of wind and water conditions. The waves may not be large enough for traditional surfing, or the wind may be too strong, but these conditions can be ideal for taking your surfboard or foil board on the water with your wing. Reviewing these tips and watching a few beginner wing surfing videos before heading to the water can prevent injury and improve your overall wing surfing experience.