How to begin at Downwind SUP Foil ?

What is Downwind SUP Foil ?

The downwind is a term used in several sailing and paddling nautical sports. This term means the realization of a nautical run going from an A point to a B point following the wind direction (down wind).

Similarly to downwind on a racing stand up paddle board, downwind with a stand up paddle foil (SUP Foil) aims to glide on the bumps created by the wind and swells. The difference is that the hydrofoil allows the board to take-off over the water and to surf the bumps while hover over them. Downwind SUP Foil is practiced on a short but wide enough stand up paddle board to have stability.

The principal interest of the foil is to bring new riding feelings, but also to increase the speed, maniability and possible trajectories during downwind runs. The situation above the water allows to have a better point of view than a classical stand up paddle board, to analyze the water movements and optimize the trajectories.

In which weather conditions can we practice Downwind SUP Foil ?

It is advised to learn Downwind SUP Foil in medium wind and swell conditions (from 20knts of wind and 1 meter of swell), or strong wind without any swell (close bumps). Its is mandatory for the downwind run goes in the same direction than the wind and swell.

Floating seaweed are an important obstacle to practice Downwind SUP Foil, same as anything else floating in quantity on the surface that can bother the use of the hydrofoil or damage it during the downwind run.

Security rules

Downwind SUP Foil is a risky sport activity in the water. It is highly recommended to equip yourself with the following elements at every session : leash (mandatory) , PFD or wetsuit depending on water temperature (mandatory), flashlight, helmet, tow-in cord, VHF or waterproof phone. It is highly advised to never going out on your own, and to always tell someone about your run, and times of departure and arrival.

Every run must have been studied and spotted before. Marine weather can be random and changing, thus it is advised to always choose runs that are close enough to the coast to shelter in case of storm, change of wind direction or any other significant weather phenomenon. Be really careful with the sea currents effects due to the tide or swell.

The take-off in three steps

The take-off is the most technical and complicated part when beginning Downwind SUP Foil. To take-off, we detailed the following 3 consecutive steps:

DW SUP FOIL RAME 4

1) Getting speed

The first step consist in giving enough speed to your board to activate the lift of the foil’s front wing.

To do so, position your back foot at the back of the board, right above the foil box, and your front foot just in front of the center of the board. You use the same stance than the one used to surf : surf stance. It is important to center your feet according to the width of the board and to orientate them in a parallel way in the width direction. This “surf stance” allows you to lighten yourself up when paddling and to spread your weight on the board as you want on the front and back foot, but also sideways using your heels and toes.

It is important to keep your stance vertical and perpendicular to your board and not bend to avoid any imbalance. Your pelvis must stay flexible to efficiently spread your weight from one leg to the other.

The use of a paddle height equivalent to your size will facilitate the take-off by permitting you to have a higher paddling frequency than with a taller paddle.

The secret of the take-off when Downwind SUP Foiling resided in the capacity of the rider to read the water movements and position himself ideally in between two bumps of swell/wind. It is generally when the crest of a bump just got under your board that you need to paddle hard to get speed from the bump just behind. The paddling frequency to have is the same you need when you want to take off while paddle surfing on a very soft wave or to make a sup racing sprint on flat water.

2) The take-off

Whenever you have a sufficient speed on the bump and your foil’s front wing starts to lift-up : we enter in the take-off step.

It is then about facilitate the take-off by lighting up your weight and playing with the foil’s front wing angle. We call this the “pumping” movement. It is a work of coordination between your upper body, your legs and the board. To do so, you need to spread the weight of your body on your back leg to lighten up the front leg and rise up the nose of the board. In parallel, this will increase the lift-up angle of the foil’s front wing and start the take-off of the board.

Whenever the board starts to take-off, you must put some weight back on the front leg to capitalize on the speed and make the foil’s front wing hover and get more speed. This sequence must be repeated until the take-off is fully effective.

3) The stabilization step

Once you took-off, you enter the stabilization step. You will try to adjust the spread of your weight in between your legs, the position of your feet on the boards and you will try to find the right direction to keep flying in a stable and as effortless as possible way. If there is too much pressure and lift on the back or front leg, you need to position it a little closer to the center of the board.

A light continuous pumping movement or paddling movement has to be done until a satisfying speed is reached according to the lift of the foil.

Optimize the ride

Staying on the power source of the bump

 

In opposition with downwind on a classical stand up paddle board that aims to position the board in between two bumps to gide, Downwind SUP Foil uses the energy situated on top of each bump.

Positionning yourself in between two bumps has for consequence to loose the lift brought by the top of the bump and to reduce the speed of your board until it drops back in the water.

It is about managing the speed and trajectories to always stay in the power/high lift zone of the bumps.

Anticipate the water (bumps) movements

Every run is different so there is no other option when Downwind SUP Foil to adapt to the specificities of each session and each area. Depending on the strength and orientation of the wind and the swell, but also the intensity and trajectories of the current, the way bumps move can be very changing and random. The adaptation to these trajectories is what we call seamanship, which means the ability of the rider to anticipate the trajectories of the bumps and to direct his board in the right direction to stay in the power zone and maintain his flying speed.

Overcome the bumps

Every time you have enough speed and you anticipate the rise of a bump situated a few meters ahead of the one you are flying on, it is possible to accelerate to reach it.

To accelerate, several options are possible : paddling with your paddle to increase your speed across a low-lift zone, pumping with your legs and upper body, or finding a diagonal trajectory that can bring you to your target with a small size bump. Obviously, a mix of everything works perfectly well.

Overcoming the bumps is the most efficient way to increase your average speed on a downwind run.

What gear to choose for Downwind SUP Foil ?

Which front wing size for downwind SUP Foil ?

The hydrofoil is composed of a mast, a fuselage, a stabilizer and a front wing, the front wing is the part that lifts up the whole foil.

The bigger the size of the wing is, the stronger is its lift (take-off and stabilization are easier) but the lower its speed and maniability are.

The four models (size) of the  SROKA S-Foil were conceived to function in Downwind SUP Foil depending on the level and conditions :

  • S-Foil XXL 2000 : level beginner to expert / medium to very strong wind
  • S-Foil XL 1750 : level beginner to expert / medium to very strong wind
  • S-Foil L 1500 : level confirmed to expert / strong to very strong wind
  • S-Foil M 1250 : expert only / very strong wind only

Which size of board to practice Downwind SUP Foil ?

It is important to have a stable enough board according to your weight and level to practice Downwind SUP Foil. A longer board allows to get more speed on the bumps and to take-off more easily but it reduces the maniability and general lift of the foil. The width and thickness permits to gain stability to help taking off but they reduce the general lift of the foil. Finally, the weight of the board has an impact of the lift of the foil.

SROKA Company developped the SUP Foil SKY RIDER to allow beginners to learn to practice Downwind SUP Foil in the best conditions but also to  use the same board for 5 disciplines : SUP Foil, Wing Foil, Paddle Surf, Windfoil and Wake Foil.

Martin Letourneur pro advices

Think about safety first and be in good physical form. It is way easier to progress in conditions that you feel comfortable in.

Don’t hesitate to protect yourself with a helmet, an impact vest and any other safety gear that is mandatory or recommended.

Get in the water with the foil only if you feel in good form, it is a very demanding discipline mentally and physically. It is important to have strong and flexible legs to have a good run.

 

Check your gear, several times if needed. Each element of the foil has to be correctly mounted and each screw has to be coated with TEF GEL or any other thread lock. Always keep a key in your pocket during your run of Downwind SUP Foil in case you need to tighten your foil again during the run.

Entourez-vous des bonnes personnes pour vos parcours en Downwind SUP Foil, les bons conseils dans l’action font réellement la différence. Assurez-vous de commencer par des parcours faciles, courts et proches de la côte. Prévenez toujours quelqu’un de vos sorties.

Get out with the right people to come with you during the Downwind SUP Foil, good advices straight in the water truly make a difference in the learning process. Make sure to start with easy, short and close to the shore downwind runs. Always tell someone about your downwind run and timing.

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