Surfing is an addictive sport. Feel the weightless sensation of gliding across the water’s surface once, and you’ll likely be hooked for life. Most surfers would surf every day if they could.
Unfortunately, surfers need to rely heavily on weather conditions to have a fun day on the water.
First, you need ridable waves which require some significant wind. You also often need the correct wave direction and a favorable tide.
All of that changes when you swap out the fin for a foil. The two most important parts of a foil are the front fin design and the mast length. In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about surf foil mast size and how you can choose the right surf foil mast length for your needs.
Why Mast Size Is Important
The mast is a long structure (typically carbon fiber or aluminum) that is the link between the surfboard to the foil itself. Technically the mast connects the connector plate/tuttle box on the board to the fuselage which carries the fins.
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A mast size is going to impact where you can surf and how you can surf. If you have a lot of sandbars in your area or the water isn’t deep, you don’t want a long mast.
If you’d like to foil surf in choppier waters or bigger waves, then a longer mast is important because if your wings on the foil breach the water, you’re going to slam back to the water.
Your skill level is also going to dictate what mast size is best for you. Shorter masts are generally better for learning. When you’re not as high up out of the water, the falls are more gentle and you feel a bit more stable. Trying to learn on a tall mast might be too daunting.
Choosing A Mast Size
Choosing the best surf foil mast size can be difficult because there are numerous advantages and disadvantages for each size. These pros and cons will help you determine whether you will prefer a shorter mast (45cm to 60cm in length), a longer mast (85cm to 100cm centimeters in length), or something in between (usually around 72cm).
I’ll give you all the reasons why you might prefer one over the other, but at the end of the day mast length is a personal decision that you’ll need to make.
Pros and Cons of a Short Surf Foil Mast
Shorter masts are often preferred for learning because you can only get so far above the water. This means falls and crashes are less dramatic. Shorter masts are safer in shallow waters, as there’s a smaller chance the mast will collide with rocks, the reef, sandbars, or other surfaces.
Some people feel that shorter masts allow for more responsive turns and handling due to a more direct connection between body and foil. Many freestylers like a shorter mast for this reason.
Short masts require a much faster rhythm when pumping since you have less up/down real estate to work worth.
A 45cm mast can be ideal for learning, but you may outgrow it quickly, as it’s not typically suitable for riding sizable waves or over chop since you’re more likely to either hit the water with the board or let the foil breach the surface of the water, leading to a crash.
One last minor set of considerations – a shorter mast is easier to transport and store. If you have limited space and a small vehicle, this could be something to think about.
Pros and Cons of a Long Surf Foil Mast
The biggest benefit of a longer mast is the versatility it provides you while you’re flying on the water. In choppy water, you need to keep your foil from breaching while also keeping your board from dragging.
Longer masts have more leverage and clearance. This allows for slower, less intense pumping motions and you can get some deeper carves when you turn without ventilating the wings.
A longer foil mast does have some downfalls. It is more likely to hit the bottom or collide with a sandbar, reef, or other obstacles.
It can also feel more off-balance and difficult to adjust to for begginers. You’ll need to learn the right positioning for balancing when you’re up on the foil and the further up in the air you are, the bigger the impact will be by any minor mistakes.
Some people feel the added weight and drag when the mast is in the water is a big drawback, while others think it doesn’t matter much once you’re up in the air.
The surf foil mast that’s best for you is based on your skill level and the type of surfing you want to do. The most common size for everyday surf foilers is between 60cm and 72cm. A 60cm mast is often recommended for beginners, as they’ll advance beyond a 45cm mast quickly.
Anyone interested in foiling larger waves will want to choose a mast between 85cm and 100cm, or even longer. Masts of this length are ideal for tow-in surfing.
My final suggestion would be 60cm for beginners or people with shallow waters, and 72-85cm for more experienced riders with deep enough waters. I wouldn’t advance to the 100cm+ range until you’re experienced enough to know you need the extra height/weight/expense.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does my weight affect the size mast I should use?
Your weight doesn’t impact the size of the foil mast you should use. The size and shape of the front fin of the foil is much more important than the mast length when it comes to your weight.
Does mast length affect speed?
Once you’re up on the foil, the length of the mast isn’t really relevant to your speed on the water.
In theory, a longer mast does weigh more which could slow you down and if you have more of the mast in the water then you’ll have more drag, but you can control how much of your mast is in the water.
Speed is more determined by the front wing of the fin than the mast length. A front wing with less thickness, a smaller surface area, and less angle of attack will result in more speed for the rider.
If I’m new to foiling do I NEED to start with a smaller mast?
Beginners will benefit from starting with a shorter mast length but it’s not a hard requirement. If you only have a large mast available for some reason you’re welcome to learn on it, but if you find yourself being frustrated with the learning curve, you might want to invest in a shorter mast.
Is foil surfing easy?
If you’re an experienced surfer, then you could learn to get up on your foil in a day. Just like surfing without a foil, it’s somewhat easy to get started but very hard to master.
If you have access to a friend with a jetski or a boat, have them tow you through open waters so you can get a feel for the foil before heading out to the ocean. This practice at a constant, controlled speed will let you learn a lot about foilsurfing quickly.
Is foil surfing dangerous?
Foil surfing can be dangerous more dangerous than regular surfing due to the weight and sharpness of the foil. If the foil strikes you or someone else it can do some real damage.
Always try to fall away from the board. Don’t make any sudden, jerky movements if you’re going down that might keep you closer to the board and foil.
Why Surf Foil is Catching On
Foil surfing is a combination of hydrofoil technology and surfing. It involves the use of a hydro-dynamically designed fin on the bottom of a surfboard.
As you can imagine, a surfboard pushing through the water has a lot of drag and friction on it so it takes a lot of energy and speed to be able to keep moving and be stable enough for the rider to stand on.
A hydrofoil changes this. The wings of the foil provide lift even at low speeds. Get going fast enough and the entire surfboard lifts out of the water, letting the rider effortless “fly”.
Waves that you could never traditionally surf become perfect for surf foiling. This means more days on the water! Small, crumbly waves are perfect for surf foil.