While foils have existed for decades prior to the present time, they have only just come to be a part of the mainstream paddling phenomenon. In fact, Laird Hamilton was seen carving up some big waves on foil boards in the late 90's. So what changed? The answer lies in the changing times of kite-boarding and stand up paddling. Kite-boarding was quick to adopt foil boarding as it provided speed and a smooth, comfortable ride even in ultra-light winds. And stand up paddling naturally opened up the door for non-conventional boards in a surfing lineup as the size of the original boards and the ability to surf them were already non-conventional. And this creeping accepting of the non-conventional in the surf has bestowed permission onto those once unwilling water-men to jump on a different style and give it a whirl. And thus, we start to see foil boards floating atop even the smallest waves in the surf.
But, just like every innovation, especially in the SUP world, there are do's and do not's which come with the broadening reach of your tools.
1. Respect the foil. Foil boarding is difficult. Especially if you are completely unfamiliar with the board, how it feels underneath your feet, and what it feels like to rise above the water. And due to its design, that of a a set of blades attached to an aluminum shaft sitting underneath your board, it can be quite dangerous. Especially if the blades find their way out of the water and near your body. So talk to someone who is experienced at foil-boarding, gain knowledge on how to do it, and take it slow. If they tell you to wear a helmet and a life jacket the first few times, do it! Respect for the tool will help you avoid any serious damage to your body, or your ego.
2. Make sure you are using the right board for the right circumstances and conditions. Unlike regular boards, a foil reaches much farther into the water. If the water is too shallow and you are not aware of this fact, you can often times catch the foil in the sand, rocks, reef, whatever, and hurt yourself and your board. If you are going downwinding, use an appropriate downwind size board. If you are going surfing, use a size board you can control. It will take some time to understand how the conditions dictate the type of board to use, but refer back to the number 1 “do” and talk to someone who is well versed on foils.
3. Have fun! Foil-boarding is difficult. There are no ways around it. But once you catch that first wave and get lifted into the air, gliding flawlessly across the water with no bumps, you'll leave your session with a huge smile on your face.
1. Never, ever, take your foil board into a crowded surf lineup. This is the number 1 rule. If you don't remember anything else from this blog post, remember this one. Foils are dangerous for the new rider. Foils are even more dangerous for surfers sitting in the water waiting to catch a wave. Not only are the boards big, they can be difficult to control, they have a large shaft and wings which can slice a person's skin wide open, and they are heavy in comparison to a conventional surf style board. To sum it all up, foils can be a weapon when not in the right hands, and should never be around other surfers with the potential to do harm to anyone. DO NOT surf a foil in a crowded lineup!
2. Never surf alone with a foil board. This might seem like a contradiction to the first rule, but hear us out. When it comes to the added danger and unpredictability of trying something new, it is imperative for the SUP surfer to never surf a foil alone. Always employ the buddy system with someone you can trust and understands the technique and added difficulty of a foil board. That way if something happens, the other can get help. This is different from surfing in a crowded lineup because you and your friend have come to the mutual agreement to try something out and see if it works. When you surf in a crowded lineup, you are unwillingly putting other's in harm's way, with no prior agreement. Safety is the concern. And staying separate from conventional surfers while having someone trustworthy by your side is your best bet!
3. Do not worry about looking foolish your first few times. Foil-boarding is unlike anything else in the watersports world. You are floating atop the water, gliding freely, creating space between you and the surface. It's not only magical to feel it under your feet, but it is equally magical for others to just sit and watch. So, don't worry if you fall off. As long as you're landing safely in the water and not on the board or foil, pay no attention to your struggles. It always comes with learning something new. Foil-boarding is one of the most unique experiences one can have on the water, so don't let a few hiccups in the beginning slow you down!
With seemingly new videos of SUP titans such as Kai Lenny gliding on foil boards appearing daily, it looks like the boards are going to stay in the SUP and surf world for the time being. Which, we at Walk on Water are thrilled about. In our shop, we sell foil boards from Kings, Evolve, and other brands. If you are interested in the boards, have questions to ask, feel free to stop by or give us a ring at 410-289-8787! Because, any advance in our beautiful water sport that gives us another element to play around with is a positive in our book. As long as we keep respecting the water, the boards, and the other water-men surrounding us, everything is always looking up.