How to Wing Foil?

What is Wing Foil?

Wing Foiling is the latest-born board sport : it consists in managing a wing not attached to the board and carried with two hands while standing on a hydrofoil mounted on a short stand up paddle board. This a cross-over discipline between Windfoiling, Kite Foiling and SUP Foiling. You will find in this tutorial all the informations you may need to learn How to Wing Foil.

The major interest of Wing Foiling is to be able to move with as much freedom as possible on the water by using both the energy of the wind and swells. The wing brings a lot of maniability and help for an easy take-off with the foil by using a constant force (the wind) while Downwind SUP Foil is harder because it only uses the swells power. It is therefor possible thanks to the lightness and mobility of a Wing to switch ways to ride in the same session : going upwind using the wind and the best axis of your wing to reach the fastest speed for example and then going downwind and surf the wind swells like if you were Downwind SUP Foiling. It is a playful way to ride that brings

The hydrofoil allows to take-off over the water and to fly over the surface. Wing Foiling is practiced on a short but wide and thick stand up paddle board to allow its rider to be stable and easily stand up on the board. To begin at Wing Foil allows to experience new riding feelings but also to navigate in a free and easy way on any body of water while keeping a relatively simple to use and to mount gear. It can be practiced with any wind direction but will be more interesting in downwind with a sidewind. It is also possible to practice Wing Foiling in the waves and to use the lift of the wing to get back to the line-up and connect the waves.

In which conditions can you Wing Foil?

We recommend to learn Wing Foiling in average wind conditions on a spot that is not exposed to the swell (between 15 and 20 knots of wind). It is easier to begin with a sidewind (sideshore) to avoid to get pushed aways from the coast (offshore wind) or to be sent back all the time to the shore (onshore wind).

It is advised to carefully select the spot to avoid floating seaweeds or any other floating object that can stop and/or damage your foil while flying. We also recommend to select a spot that is shaped like a bay. This ways if you get too far away from your starting point you can still easily come back walking with your gear. Finally, it is better to learn with a specific water depth : shallow enough so your feet can touch the bottom to easily get on the board but deep enough for the hydrofoil to not touch the bottom. It is possible once you are a confirmed wing foiler of a standard bodytype – let’s say 80 kg – to practice Wing Foiling from 8-10 knots to 35+ knots.

Prepare your Wing Foiling gear

Wing Foiling requires different equipments, to get in the water with your gear in the easiest way without damaging it, we advise the following method :

  1. prepare your Wing Foiling board : assemble your hydrofoil and fix it on your board, put your leash on the board.
  2. drop it close to water: once the board and foil are assembled, bring them close to where you want to enter the water..
  3. put on your wetsuit/boardshort : and get ready exactly like if you were going straight to the water.
  4. inflate your wing: the wing can easily get carried away by the wing that is why we advise to only inflate it just before getting in the water. We recommend to inflate it hidden from the wind if possible and to attach it to a solid object with the leash to avoid any risk of it flying away. Ever since the wing is inflated, attach the leash of the wing to your wrist straight away.
  5. Get back to your Wing Foil board: carry the wing with its handle by positioning the leading edge facing the wind to make its lift neutral and easily carry it. Once you get close to the water with your wing and board, attach your board leash on your ankle.
  6. Carry your gear to the water : because you dropped your wing foiling board close to the water before, you only have a few meters to walk carrying your board and wing at the same time. Be careful, try to always carry your board on the side closer to the wind direction so you don’t risk the wing to get carried away by the wind and get damaged on the foil.

The Wing Foil take-off

It is the key step to start having fun with the Wing Foil, the Wing Foil take off is not very complicated but however requires to do it the right way at the beginning. See our illustrated comments and tips below to learn how to take-off at the first session!

The first step consist in getting on your knees on the board and getting used to having the wing in your hands (not upside-down) with the handles made for that. Then you try to position the wing above your head so the sides don’t touch the water, and a little further close the nose of the board by putting it in an upwind axis almost neutral. The aim of this step is to learn to control the lift of the wing, its reaction to the gusts, and to find a stable position on the board. Once you are stable and able to control the wing as you want, you can orientate it more on the side to get more lift and make your board go faster.

To go to the second step you need to have accumulated enough speed with the wind. Once the speed reached, you can position your front foot on the center of the board. This allows you to stand up in two steps which is a lot easier.

You can then go to the third step by positioning this time your back foot on the board to stand up. It is essential for a successful take off to have a good foot placement: the back foot must be centered on the board and ideally located just above the foil mast, the front foot must be centered on the board in front of the back foot with a foot spacing equivalent to shoulder width. These spacings are likely to differ depending on the size and volume of your Foil board.

We advise to keep the wing relatively above your head at first, in a lift position close to wind neutral so you don’t get misbalanced because of the gusts. In a second time you can move it down a little bit and orientate the wishbone or central bladder parallel to the water. You get more lift and the board accelerates.

The fourth step is the actual take-off. You now have enough speed with your board so that the lift of the foil is activated. To facilitate this, you can perform a light “pumping” motion by successively lightening your weight on the front leg and then on the back leg to play with the angle of the front wing of the foil and make it more supportive. When the foil takes off, you must switch the weight on the front leg and hold the wing firmly while remaining straight to maximize the lift of the wind too. Repeat this sequence as many times as necessary (sometimes once, sometimes ten..) until you take off.

You are now flying and the duration of this flight depends on your ability to effectively distribute your weight between the leg forward and back leg but also on the orientation / axis of lift that you give to your wing so that the wind allows you to continue to fly. Transferring the weight to the back leg causes the foil to rise and re-transferring the weight to the front leg make it go lower. It is important to stay upright and keep your center of gravity above the foil to avoid falling.

How to turn on your Wing Foil

Now that you know how to take off and fly with your Wing Foil, you still need to learn how to turn to be able to come back to where your starting point. There are different ways to turn on while Wing Foiling: landing and then starting in the other direction (the easiest for beginners), to jibe by turning down to the wind, to tack on the wind using the accumulated speed, or to use the swell to make a turn while surfing on your foil.

To begin, we advise you to always turn down to the wind (jibe). It is easier to turn first with the board (the foil) to position yourself as you turn the wing over your head in a neutral way against the wind. When your transfer is complete, put the wing in the correct axis and go back in the other direction. You can note in the sequence below that Bruno changes his foot position between the first and the second picture, he moves from a “left foot forward” position (regular stance) to a “right foot forward” position (goofy stance). This allows him to attack the jibe without having to change his feet position during or at the end of it but also to always face the sail when sailing in crosswind for more comfort and more efficiency to go upwind. It is also possible to change the foot position after your turn.

A specificity for the surfers : 

For riders who have more a surfing / foil surfing background than a windsurfing or kitesurfing one, it can be difficult to navigate using the two foot positions (goofy and regular stances). It is possible such as shown in this picture to navigate backside in one direction and frontside in the other. This has the advantage of ensuring good control of the board and the foil but it has the disadvantage to make going upwind much more difficult (this implies a torsion of the body between the axis of the legs and shoulders). We recommend to train to switch stances to at least be able to go upwind more efficiently and re-switch to your most comfortable stance before each turn.

Security rules

Wing Foiling is a board sport as risky as other extreme sports such as windsurfing, kitesurfing or any other foiling sport. We advise each rider to have the following equipments during their session : board leash and wing leash (mandatory) , PFD / impact vest (mandatory if you go further than 300m from the coast), helmet (highly recommended). It is highly not recommended to go practice alone no matter your level of practice, make sure to always tell someone about your session and your timing.

We recommend to practice Wing Foiling only on spots that were already observed and checked. Ocean and lakes weather can be changing and go random, it is essential to always stay relatively close to the coast so you can come back quickly and easily if the wind ever switches, gets stronger or completely drops. Be highly aware of water currents due to tides and swells.

What is the best gear to learn how to Wing Foil ?

Like every board sports Wing Foiling has a technical side that makes the gear choice very important. This technicality is even more important as Wing Foiling solicits both the wind power with the Wing and the swell power with the hydrofoil.

The hydrofoil is composed of a mast, a fuselage, a front wing and a stabilizer. The length of the mast has a real impact on the way to navigate: a shorter mast is more reassuring and easy to start but a longer mast can take more height and better avoid to touch the surface. The most influential parameter of the foil is the front wing: the profile, the surface, the thickness but also the length and the width of the wing have a strong influence on the lift and the behavior of the wing (speed, stability and maneuverability).

The Foil board used to practice Wing Foil may vary depending on the size and level of practice of each. However, we strongly advise to start with a stable SUP Foil board (120 liters of volume) so that you can focus more on managing the wing and the foil than on your balance at the beginning.

The Wing is specially designed for Wing Foiling. It can also be used on a SUP board without a foil for initiation, or with a skate board : mountain board type (medium wind) or carver type(light wind). There are different sizes, constructions and shapes of Wing. The size of a Wing is measured by its area 3m – 4m – 5m – 6m – 7m. A wing equipped with a wishbone will be easy to handle and stiffer than a wing armed with a central bladder but it will be much lighter and more tolerant in the squalls. Finally, the thickness and shape of the leading and trailing edge have an impact on the rigidity of the wing, its performance and maneuverability.

OUR ADVICE: the choice of the Wing is very important because the “engine” of your Wing Foil. There are two trends in the construction of wings: those that are very light but not reinforced and therefore not durable in time (the wings are very fragile) and those that are a little heavier with reinforcements but more durable and resistant to shocks. Then: it is more interesting and economical to invest in 1 size of wing (4m2 or 5m2) and 2 sizes of front wing foil to cover a wider range of use at lower cost, than in 2 sizes of wing and only one wing size before foil. For example: a wing costs on average 700 € while a front wing of foil costs around 350 €.

WHICH SIZE OF FRONT WING FOR WING FOILING ?

The 4 front wing sizes of the S-Foil SROKA were developed to be easy to switch so they allows you to practice different disciplines with high performance such as Wing Foiling. The wings can be adapted to practice other disciplines and to always correspond to one type of condition and to the different levels of practice of the riders :

  • S-Foil XXL 2000 : beginner to expert / light to medium wind (8 – 20 kts)
  • S-Foil XL 1750 : beginner to expert / light to strong wind (10 – 25 kts)
  • S-Foil L 1500 : intermediate to expert / medium to strong wind (15 – 35 kts)
  • S-Foil M 1250 : confirmed to expert / strong to very strong wind (25 – 35+ kts)

WHICH SIZE OF BOARD TO PRACTICE WING FOILING ?

It is important to have a board that is stable enough for your size and level to start Wing Foil in the best conditions. The length, width, and thickness affect the stability of the board, but the larger the board, the less power and responsiveness the foil board has. The weight of the board affects the lift of Foil too. It is therefore ideal to start Wing Foiling with a sufficiently large board to be stable in all conditions but not too heavy so as not to hinder the lift of the hydrofoil.

SROKA Company developed the SUP Foil SKY RIDER to allow anyone to learn how to Wing Foil in the best conditions without focusing on the balance but also to use the same board for up to 5 disciplines : SUP Foil, Wing Foil, Paddle Surf, Windfoil and Wake Foil.

BRUNO SROKA’S WORDS ABOUT WING FOIL:

Wing Foil is a free-ride sport where you maximize the fun by minimizing the gear. Easy to prepare, it’s pure pleasure. We do not seek the speed or the height of the jumps, but the feeling of hovering on the water and over the wind swells alone or with friends without comparing. It is a 100% fun sport that is made for those who want to have a permanent smile on the water.

My advices : 

  • Start on a flat water, sheltered from the swell.
  • Pay attention to other watercrafts and riders. As time goes by, you will go upwind and downwind, with the wing sometimes you have a loss of visibility so check well under your wind that there is nobody when you start surfing the waves.
  • Starting with a large front wing is more stable, a little slower and allows you to fly in lighter wind conditions.
  • It is better to invest in a wing of 4m2 and a foil with two options of front wing to optimize the range of wind and to make nice savings.

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