Monday, April 3, 2017

Some Thoughts about Foiling


Windsurf foiling is gaining momentum and is finally becoming quite interesting.  The industry is shaking itself out and things are drawing to a head in the areas of foil, board and dedicated sail design.

What I see is two camps approaching the market from different places.  On the one hand you have companies such as Horue, adapting kiting kit for windsurf foiling and on the other side you have Neil Pryde and JP developing equipment from a windsurfing perspective.

Here is one of Horue’s three boards - the Tiny.  

It is only slightly longer than 2m and comes with a Select windsurfing fin for use when not foiling.  I doubt that it would be particularly good for freeride blasting with windsurf kit. (?)

Horue sells two more dedicated models for advanced foilers who are not interested in a windsurfing application for their boards.  These are the Tiny Pro and the Slant.  I like the sloped deck of the Slant (looks comfortable to me).  Horue also sell two dedicated foiling sails which they claim are light and perfect for the job.

Representing the other side of the movement are Pryde and JP who have developed two purpose built foiling boards, two highly evolved foils (together with F4 - the fin guys) and a fast, purpose built foiling sail called the Flight.

Here is a video of a question and answer session hosted by Sebastian Kornum who has been the rider on the JP/NP development team.

His responses reveal how much development has gone into the program.  The guys are serious!  

Note also, when he explains that the boards are not really designed for windsurfing.  When learning, you spend so much time smashing the front of the board onto the water that they have had to shape the under-side to ensure that when it smashes down, the rails do not bite and it does not suck onto the water at speed causing catastrophic face plants.  This shape of course is not optimised for windsurfing so the foiling board is basically a buoyancy tank to get planing quickly and provide a solid base for sail and foil.

Here is Pryde’s foiling sail in action.  A beautiful thing and something I’m sure we could use on a fast freerace windsurfing board with a slightly upright stance and waist harness (Futura, Patrik F-Race, Goya Bolt, Severne Fox etc).

If you have not yet done so, please have a look at Pryde’s two F4 foils – one in aluminium and the other in carbon.  Very nice!

The problem I have with both of the above camps, is that their foiling boards cannot really perform the dual functions of windsurfing and foiling.  I favour the approach of AHD and Goya who give us stunning windsurfing models which happen to have reinforced fin boxes, suitable for foils.  

This provides the opportunity to try a foil with your proper windsurfing board.  The learning damage could be avoided with a strap-on polystyrene system (maybe a protector of wedge shaped bumpers under the nose to both push the board up onto the plane and protect the underside when it smashes down).  

As soon as you are proficient, unstrap the protector and pass it down the line to the next guy in the same way you handed your training wheels down to your little sister when you mastered the two-wheeler.  

Using this approach, you have saved on the cost of a board and the board you do have, can multi-task.  Bargain!

Good winds        


  1. Thanks Phil, actually, Seb says that the JP 135 is almost as fast as the super sport so your not quite right there. Also foot strap position is different and these are very wide boards. Take my comments with a grain of salt because i am yet to take flight but my order is in so soon.

    1. Hi Ian
      Thanks for the feedback. Please let us know how you get on when you are into your foiling journey. I am envious.

  2. While I realize there is serious effort going into this particular genre of windsurfing, and that it is slowly gaining traction, something here feels 'off'.

    It may be because I associate the use of foils in sailing as a device to attain greater speed, where as in windsurfing it is used for the opposite reason.

    And beyond this the essence (to me) in any sort of 'surfing' (be it wave,wind or kite) is that connection to the water, something which I sense is compromised when the foil lifts the board off the water.

  3. Hi Mert
    I hear you. Feeling the water surface is a huge part of the windsurfing experience. No-one is suggesting however, that we substitute foiling for windsurfing.
    I would never give up windsurfing as long as I am able to do it.
    What foiling presents, is the option of doing something slightly different in certain conditions, using skills we have developed over the years.

    In light wind when I am unable to plane with big equipment, I would love to foil just to be out, flying over the water in silence. Very cool but when the wind starts howling and the spray begins to fly - out comes the windsurf kit - no question.

    Good winds

    1. Phil, hi!

      Last night I viewed videos on the RS:One and RS:X convertible rigs. It looks like these boards are both good for windsurfing and foiling.

      In particular the RS:X Convertible board looks like a good low/mid wind option. At 135 liters (80cm wide) it only weighs a little over 7kg.

    2. Hi Mert
      I agree. Pryde are really applying their minds to this new genre. Their foils too, just seem to be at the top of the heap as far as quality, design and ease of use go.

      Add the beautiful Flight sail to the mix and you have to take your hat off to the guys. Well done Pryde and JP. Very impressive!


    3. Hi Phil,

      Interesting thing I noticed on RRD's website. Without fan fare (it seems) they have done a mid-year update to their slalom and freerace/performance freeride boards, while revamping their classic freeride "Fire Ride".

      All of these boards are now equipped with Foil boxes so as to give them dual purpose (windsurfing and windfoiling).

      Infact with the exception of the Fireride, all of the updated boards are actually identical to the ones announced months ago.

      So it looks like someone has noticed that there is demand for hybrid boards.

      But truth be told, many of these freeride boards appear somewhat 'narrow' for windfoiling initiates which means that their H-Fire 91 (which actually seems to be a successor to their X-Fire Light wind) may be the most viable option.

  4. Hi Mert
    I read RRD's post about this when they did it. It seems that all the board makers will follow suite eventually. You may recall me complaining about Severne missing the opportunity to make their big Fox more desirable by inserting a foil friendly mast box.
    You are also right about the board width thing. Antoine always used a narrower board to foil believing that this was OK. He recons he had one ride on the wide foil board and was instantly sold on the improvement in control. Now he only foils on a wide board.
    The guys need to come up with an optimal width range in the strap area for foiling. They can then ensure that all their big (windsurf/foil) boards have the right dimensions.
    We will be watching!
    All the best