Windfoiling is a new sport that is taking over here in the Gorge and around the world. These are the lessons that I have learned so far. There are several reasons for Windfoiling’s popularity but the most important is that it is easier than all the others.
Kiting got rid of the windsurfer mast, universal, mast base, and the long boom. Of course you still have a kiteboard and 24m lines but the board is a lot smaller and lighter. Just don’t try and paddle one home.
The Wingfoil gets rid of the lines and the kite bar and so you are truly down to only two pieces of equipment. The board and the wing that you completely control with your hands. Of course you don’t get away scot free; there is a that foil under the water.
The number one thing to realize is that the foil is dangerous. The foil is very sharp and you can fall at some awkward angles right onto it. I have learned the hard way that the following bits of additional gear are not only suggested but practically mandatory.
- A full wetsuit to protect your knees and body
- A helmet to protect your head
- Shoes to protect your feet
- An impact vest to protect your ribs
Yes you will look like a kook but its a small price to pay to NOT be out of the water for several long weeks. This recently happened to me when I fell hard onto the left side of my chest. The impact was ferocious. It hurt so bad that I had to self rescue in. Today (as I write this) I am looking at several weeks before I dare expose my bruised ribs to another hard landing. Water, from 6 feet up, can really hurt.
The best way is to take lessons. There are a lot of different skills you need to master and a good instructor can get you foiling faster than learning on your own.
If you windsurf already you have a head start. If you foil already you have a head start. Just don’t think that you can do it all at once. A lesson will also let you know what you are in for. Foiling is not for everyone so trying it out before buying a bunch of gear may save you money in the long run.
It is crucial that everything be right when you go onto the water.
- The right wind is anything between 10 and 17 knots. Under ten is fin to practice but you will not get foiling. Over 17 knots is just going to beat you up so unless you are a masochist, I would avoid anything with steady white caps – aka Force 4 and above.
- The right size board with plenty of volume. Rule of thumb is your weight in kilos plus 20 = liters of volume. If you are a bit clumsy (like me) additional 10 liters will be fine.
- Right size wing to get you to your feet and get you onto the foil. Too small and it will not happen. Too big and you will simply get pulled up too fast and have to struggle. Rule of thumb is to divide your weight by 10 and then by 4 and use that in 15 knots. So 215 lbs = 21.5 / 4 = 5.5. At 150 you can be on a 4.5 and at 10o you can be on a 3.5
- Right size foil means a big foil of around 1500 sq cm in that 15 knot range for a 200 pound guy. 150 pounders can be on 1250 and 100 on a 1000 sq cm.
These deserve their own section. Wingers call this leash management. I am currently using a waist leash belt. The Wing is webbing with shock cord from the front handle to the belt at my right hip. I attach to the wing at the handle. I do not trust that small loop. The advantage of this system is that when I am paddling or struggling to get onto the board I have nothing on my hands.
My board leash is a reel. I try to keep this behind me. At the end of the webbing I use a two foot kite leash. This keeps the board at least two feet away from me when I am in the water and gives me something to swing my leg under when I am getting onto the board. As long as I mount thoughtfully I am hardly ever tangled or stepping on the leash once up. Eventually I will attach the reel to the back of a harness so it stays where it should. My other choice for a board leash would be a coil attached to the top of my calf. I use spectra to a SS ring to attach the leash to the board. I plan to add kite quick releases to the waist belt ends of the leashes at some point.
“Don’t try and save your ride.” This comes from preeminent waterman David Kalama. When things start to go wonky BAIL and BAIL OUT THE BACK. You do not want to do a Taco. That is where you fold up and your feet stay on the board and your race starts heading to the foils. Keep that board solidly between you and the foil and watch out for the taco.
In the future, I will try and add some of what I think are the best lessons in Windfoiling here. There are a lot online and you will not have to wait for me to post them to start learning.