Thursday, December 15, 2016

Three Windsurfing Developments to Watch


Here are three developments within our sport which we all need to be watching:

3Di Moulded Sails

North have been moulding sails in 3D for a while now.  Their focus has been the ocean yacht racing guys but they are going to be using the technology for windsurf sails.   What is achieved is a sail which has been moulded in 3D rather than one which has been stitched together from different patches, each shaped to create the overall design.

They create the desired sail shape on a design computer and the resulting pattern is fed to a huge table on which the shape is created.  The surface of the table is actually flexible and sits on a huge arrangement of pneumatically controlled rams.  Every part of the table surface can be raised or lowered (individually or as part of an array) to create the belly and flat areas of the sail “in flight” as the yachties say.  All the rams are inter-connected and obviously connected to the design computer.

Once the shape of the sail has been finalised and represented on the table, the sail material in tape form (carbon fibre, aramid, dyneema and binding agent), is applied to the 3D form, vacuumed down with plastic film, heated and cured. The tapes are mechanically applied with large, pre-programmed robot heads.  

Batten pockets are incorporated into the design and load path re-enforcement is achieved by simply adding extra tape layers across specific areas (all pre-programmed of course) Very cool! 
Sorry for the long winded description.
The yachting industry is the only marine sports fraternity with deep enough pockets to have made this technology possible but it is now bedded down, working and paid for.

North feel that their windsurfing arm could now benefit from the process which yields ultra light, ultra strong, ultra accurate and perfectly repeatable products. Yay!

Please have a look at this video of Ben Proffitt interviewing two of the North guys who have brought along one of the new sail prototypes.

This is interesting stuff which I will be watching over the next two years.

Inflatable Speed Board

RRD took the best aspects of their inflatable freeride board and incorporated them into the design of an inflatable speed board.  John Skye sailed the machine with a 7m sail and thought he would need to stay close in for a smooth ride to get some decent speed.  The wind was no good however so he went into the choppy water where he easily reached 34 knots in the stronger wind.  He says that the air ride buffers you and you just go faster.  (WTF?)

Here is the link to his interview:

Here is a video of John hitting indecent speeds on this unlovely piece of kit.

A proper board you can carry in a back-pack.  Very interesting!


Hydrofoil windsurfing has been around for a long time with AHD probably the longest running promoter of the concept.  More and more designers are jumping onto this train however and this year the PWA held its first hydrofoil race which Antoine won.

I have to say that the concept is attractive to me but I have a few reservations regarding the current equipment.  Whenever I watch someone hydrofoiling it seems to me to be quite a balancing act.  The stance is really upright and I don’t see anyone really hooking in, leaning back and just blasting.  The board seems really keen to nose dive if the sailor should sheet in too far and I’m not sure why the fin has to be so long.

I know nothing of this technology but it seems to me that the boards need an additional foil somewhere in the centre of the board or maybe a broad foil at the back of the board with two smaller side foils towards the front.  The rig should be super stable in my view – not super unstable.  I also think that the foiled board should be sailed leaning towards the rider like the foil kites I see.  

We need to be able to hook in and fly without feeling that we are standing on top of a tightrope.  As I said I have absolutely no expertise about this so these are merely vague opinions and wishful thinking. Anyway I am sure that one day, foiling will be windsurfing’s solution for having a blast in light winds.       
Good winds



  1. Hey Phil - great article!
    I totally agree with you in respect to the foils - I think they will become the way we windsurf in light winds. And I agree that the current design isn't quite there yet.
    I'd like to see a canard design (both lifting foils) with the front lifting foil raised in respect to the rear. I think this could make the ride more stable - something like a 'CrazyFoil' that is used for wakeboarding.
    Joe - Canada

  2. Hi from Spain!
    I also had my reservations to windfoiling for quite some time and I did not like it aesthetically with the upright position, until I bought one... I am absolutely loving it and if planning with a windsurf board was addictive, this is something else! I am so hooked with it now that I am now reluctant to go back to "classical" sailing.
    If you want to see someone really hooking in, leaning back and blast, just watch Benjamin Tiller´s videos:

    1. Hi Joe and Rafael
      Interesting comments from both of you. I will certainly be giving Ben Tiller's vids a look. I still believe that the final foiling breakthrough is close but still to come. I also acknowledge that foiling can be special as it is today. The guys who are really into it are all stoked.
      We shall see what develops

  3. Awesome Rafael - what foil do you have?
    (it looks like the taaroa foils for sale are still only kitefoils?)

    1. Hi!
      I have a Lokefoil, made in France, and I use it with a RRD X-Fire 122. It is a great combo, and the foil is super-stable and one of the easiest to learn with. Honestly, I have windsurfed for +35 years since the early days, and windfoiling gives a completely different dimension to the sport. The combination of planning, flying and complete SILENCE is just pure magic.

  4. Looks like you have quickly peaked the interest of a few people :-)
    The 3-D sails are well nice concept, but $$$
    The inflatables are of interest, but still $$$.
    The $$$ thingie applies to foils too, but also ...
    was surprised AHD did not get the interest going ...
    saw this and felt it made the most sense as an idea:

    1. it is called an iFoil (no, not Apple :-)
      and here is a video

    2. Thanks for the feedback JW. I wrote an article about the iFoil some time ago. A good idea I agree but if I recall the foils ride on top of the water.

      Regarding the cost of the new technologies I will give my thoughts on this in my next post. I see a bigger picture here which I think could actually force costs down over time (with some luck).