A key step to take
To progress and enjoy your foil surfing session, pumping in foil surfing will be THE technique! This key step will allow you to take advantage of the foil to its full potential, and to evolve in the practice by imitating the professionals. Remember the video of Kai Lenny in Fiji in 2016, connecting 2 waves and surfing an endless (and almost non-existent) lagoon wave to the beach. We therefore wanted to share with you some tips on how to learn pumping and develop your technique. Thanks to our tutorial, the pumping technique will no longer be a secret for you!
You are a beginner in foil and want to learn more about the practice. The foil has developed rapidly, democratised, and the pumping technique is more and more practiced. One of the reasons for this is that the range of foil equipment on the market has evolved, making pumping increasingly easy and accessible.
Principles of pumping
First of all, a few reminders: the functioning of the Foil is similar to that of a plane, and requires speed to create lift energy which allows the movement. . First of all, a few reminders: the functioning of the Foil is similar to that of a plane, and requires speed to create lift energy which allows the movement. Proper pumping technique and maintaining a good speed will allow you to expend as little energy as possible when pumping in a Surf Foil.
Pumping in surf foil : The technique step-by-step
The first step is to get out of the wave at the right time. When starting out, it is best to go out when the wave is as flat as possible. As you progress, you will manage to get out when the wave breaks or even get over the foam of the wave you are on. The further out you go in a critical area of the wave, the more turbulence and water movement you will experience. These movements can be complicated to tackle in foil and cause many imbalances.
Trajectory and initial speed.
This initial phase is one of the most important or even THE most important when learning to how to pump. The challenge here is to maintain a maximum speed and start pumping at the right time. A turn that is too tight will cause you to lose speed and you will have to an even bigger efforts to restore inertia to your foil. You will therefore lose energy and risk falling because the balance is always harder to maintain at low speed. Pumping is also more technical at low speed because it requires a larger and more precise movement to restart it.
The ideal way to do this is to get out of the wave by ‘skirting’ it, heading towards the channel. This will also allow you to enjoy the energy of the wave a little longer. You can then start pumping and gradually turn towards the peak. This lengthening of the curve will allow you to maintain a good initial speed and start your pumping in the best possible conditions. Another tip that can help you start your raise is to try to get as high as possible on your mast before starting the pumping phase. Another tip that can help you start your raise is to try to get as high as possible on your mast before starting the pumping phase. It is in this position that your foil will have the least drag.
Now let’s talk about the pumping technique itself. It is important to know that the more speed you have, the easier the movement will be and the less tired you will be. Pumping is not limited to a sequence of flexions and extensions of the leg muscles. Indeed, you need to give forward inertia in order to “create” speed with your foil. Pumping is in fact a combination of two movements: a succession of lightening and pressing of the body combined with a sequence of delayed flexion and extension of the front and back leg.
The diagram below shows the movement of the foil and its orientation underwater. When they start pumping, many people tend to lack coordination and therefore fail to generate the speed necessary for effective pumping. A simple movement of simultaneous pressure/ relief of your front and back leg will strongly slowing you down without moving you forward.
Giving a slight imbalance forward will allow you to accelerate more easily and give your foil that particular momentum. This imbalance is important, it is what will give you speed and forward inertia.
The key to pumping is the coordination between your lower limb movement and mass transfer. Your front and back legs will alternately flex and extend. When the back leg stretches (steps 1 and 2 in the picture below) your front leg will bend slightly to allow your foil to rise. This is the thrust phase. You will then press down on the front leg, while trying to weigh yourself down and use your weight to create more speed and steer your foil down (steps 3 and 4).
You can see from these two steps that the foiler uses its whole body to create this downward and forward inertia. The push on your legs should be gradual during the descent phase and should be at its maximum when your foil is at its lowest in order to give you some rebound for the ascent phase (step 5). It is thanks to this last support that you can lighten up and let your foil rise. In stage number 5, the legs are almost fully extended and the rider tries to expand to create the lighter weight of stage number 6 and bring the foil up again. In fact, steps 1 and 6 correspond to the same pumping phase.
You can also use your arms to help you during the lightening phase.
Amplitude or Frequency?
What about the pace of pumping? Frequency or amplitude? It’s not an exact science yet, but it seems that doing a wide pumping motion is less energy consuming than a very rhythmic motion. Giving amplitude to your movement will allow you to take advantage of the rest phases brought by the increased lift of your foil when it is close to the surface.
You can, however, give your foil some frequency at the exit of the wave in order to make it accelerate because, remember, speed is one of the key factors for effective pumping!
When you start pumping, try to look far out the sea or at least at the wave or goal you are aiming for. This will force you to give your foilthe forward inertia we were talking about earlier. In foil surfing, looking up is even more important as it will allow you to spot water movement and wave formation and thus choose the right area to join.
It is important to choose the area where you will stop pumping when you are trying to connect a second wave, otherwise you will fall or lose it. The energy of the wave is located on its upper third. This is the area you should aim at. In addition to being in a powerful zone, you will benefit from the acceleration provided by the steepness of the wave. Your turn will also be important. Just like when you come out of a wave, your turn must be lengthened and ‘very round’ in order not to make your foil lose speed. The thrust you give to your legs during this turn should in fact be gradual and increase throughout your turn.
As with a long carve in surfing, the pressure must be more and more pronounced as you go through the curve to maintain speed and therefore lift. In other words, a turn that is too tight may cause your foil to land prematurely because it will have lost speed.
With the acquired speed, it is sometimes possible to stop pumping because the foil has enough lift to keep you flying: your foil “saturate”. Then it’s the perfect time to get some rest. As soon as you feel that the foil loses speed and starts landing, you can start pumping again. When you feel that you are entering this phase, bring your foil close to the surface to allow it to glide longer and more easily.
Some training ideas
The effort required to pump in surf foil differs depending on the front wing you are going to use. Its area, its weight, its shape … There are plenty of factors that play a part in the pumping capability of your foil. Foils made for surfing are designed for agility and to allow you to make more radical manoeuvres. However, they require a little more effort to pump than foils developed for downwind sailing for example. Pumping with this type of foil will be similar to the effort made during a 400m race in athletics (predominantly anaerobic effort) and this is why connecting a multitude of waves is very physical. Just try to run 3 times 400 m with only a few seconds rest in between each reps! The example is a bit extreme but it gives a good idea of the type of effort that pumping can sometimes represent depending on the type of wing you are going to use.
For the most motivated among you, here are a few ideas on how to progress on dry land, both physically and technically!
To work on your technique, skateboarding can be a good way to progress. However, you will need to have access to a skatepark nearby. Ramps such as half pipes and bowls are a good way to work on your leg muscle memory and proprioception. Gaining speed on a ramp is similar to the pumping movement in surfing (extension of the leg muscles in the curves on the way up, flexion at the top of the ramp, then extension again in the curve on the way down).
The best training remains the pumptrack which are concrete or asphalt tracks that are similar to BMX dirt racing track. Coordination between your front leg and your back leg is essential to build speed without pushing on the floor with your foot. Pumptracks are quite demanding muscularly and respiratorily and will also be the perfect work out. The effort is indeed very similar to that of a connection between two waves in surf foil. If you have a cruiser or surf skate board it’s even better as they will provide more instability and make you work on your placement as well as your pumping technique.
The doc start and beach start, once mastered, will also be a good way to perfect your technique when the waves are not there! Find a dock or a pontoon close to your home and practice. Departures from pontoons and beaches are done at slower speeds than when leaving a wave. The technique becomes a little more complex, but “hard training pumping, easy connection”! If you want to learn how to start from the beach, have a look at our article on the beach start technique.
Physical training is an extremely broad and complex subject. This part would require a whole book to be really specific and complete. Even if pumping corresponds to a short and intense effort of the anaerobic-lactic type, endurance (aerobic pathway) should not be neglected to progress. Moreover, working on your endurance will help you support longer sessions. Even if pumping corresponds to a short and intense effort of the anaerobic-lactic type, endurance (aerobic pathway) should not be neglected to progress.
Are you a fan of physical preparation or crosstraining? Exercises such as box jumps and burpees are ideal for working on explosiveness and cardio at home.
If you’re feeling restless and want to work more specifically on your breathing capacity, interval training (more commonly known as split training) in running is a very good way to progress quickly. It is best to use the stairs near your home as this will also allow you to work on your range of motion.
To sum up
Choose the right timing
Remember to lengthen your curve at the exit of the wave to maintain speed.
Commit your body forward with a slight imbalance to create speed.
Coordinate the movement of the legs with the lightening and pressure phases of the body.
Remember to give amplitude
Aim for the top third of the wave you want to connect
There you are ! You just caught a second wave!