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5 tips to start Foil Downwind

Imagine gliding over the waves, almost as if you were flying over the ocean!

Coming from downwind, which has been practiced in SUP for about ten years, downwind foil consists of going down the chop by letting yourself be carried by the wind and the swell trains while flying!

Downwinding is the definition of freedom, go with your board and paddle for flights that can last several hours depending on the spot chosen.

The idea in downwind is not to go as fast or carve as hard as possible, the objective is to glide as long as possible on the swell using your energy to move forward.

Who can go downwind foiling?

Foil downwind is accessible by different routes, some more difficult than others and requiring more experience.

  • The wing option: Learning the wing foil is the easiest, during your wing sailing, find a swell train, take the wing in freefly and let yourself be carried by the wave. As you gain more experience, you will be able to start paddling and therefore do real downwinds.
  • Another option, for more experienced practitioners, is to jump straight into the deep end by paddleboarding to learn how to manage take-off and trajectories.

Everyone can practice downwinding on their own scale, and with practice, anything is possible.

1. Gear up for downwind SUP

By definition, downwind consists of going down the swell, in our case with a board equipped with a foil. It is therefore obvious that this material can have an impact on practice and is therefore important.

Choosing the Downwind Board

The choice of board is essential, it will allow a take off as quickly as possible. The longer and narrower your board is, the better its glide will be and will allow you to take off with a little swell. However, this also means reduced stability that can lead to falls.

When you’re just starting out, it’s important to choose a board with a minimum of feeder such as our DW 7’2W which is 22 inches wide.

The more you progress, the more your progress in balance will allow you to take narrow and therefore less bulky boards in the air such as our DW 7’2 which is 20 inches wide.

Downwind board 7'2 SROKA

The choice of foil

The Mast: The choice of mast is essential, it is what will determine the stiffness of your foil as well as the margin of error that you will have for your sessions. A larger mast will allow for a better margin of error but will be less rigid. It is therefore a question of finding the right compromise according to your technical level. Beginners prefer a longer mast to avoid stalling in the wave.

Front Wing Size: This is the engine of the foil, the size of your fin will influence your ability to turn as well as your ability to start early and connect by pumping if necessary. A small fin will be more maneuverable but will have less power to pump with. The choice of this fin is also influenced by the weather conditions, when the swell is formed and powerful, the surface area of the fin is reduced.

Fuselage: The length of the fuselage affects the nervousness of your foil, this will free up the foil in pitch. A shorter fuselage will make the foil more responsive, maneuverable and unstable. A longer fuselage allows for great stability. It is also possible to find a fuselage with a mast/fuselage junction that is set back to allow for more efficient pumping.

The stabilizer: As the name suggests, the goal is to stabilize the foil, so a big stabilizer will make your foil more “docile” and a little more lively.

Carbon or Aluminium foil: Both work very well, it’s a matter of budget. An aluminum foil will be cheaper and stronger to impacts. A carbon foil will be faster and more manoeuvrable thanks to its reduced rope and thickness, but it will be more expensive.

An example of an ideal foil for downwind riding at SROKA is the 1190 SHA Lift with a 90 cm mast and a standard fuselage.

The choice of paddle

A carbon paddle will clearly be more efficient. To be the most effective, you should opt for a carbon paddle with a minimum of 50% carbon.

If you are not totally comfortable, put on a helmet and a buoyancy vest or an impact vest, the goal is always to have fun and therefore it is better to avoid injury.

Foil carbon Elite SROKA avec un mât de 14mm d'épaisseur construit en 100% haut module M40J

2. The choice of the spot

Don’t overestimate yourself, choose a spot with few people to start with and above all stay away from everyone else to avoid colliding with another person.

Choose conditions where take-off is easy but where chop does not throw you off balance. Find a place where the swell is right in line with the wind.

Be careful at low tide where there is usually no bottom and the swell may be less in some places.

3. Learning balance and stability in downwind foil

Before you set off on a wave, get used to the stability of the paddle. If you are a total beginner, first try to be towed by a boat to discover the flight. Otherwise you can get closer to the wake ski lifts, most of them do foil initiations.

Stability on downwind boards is precarious, take your time and don’t get discouraged.

4. Efficient downwind foil paddling technique

The technique differs slightly with a short and long board. But the efficiency of the train is fundamental to leave easily. It is the explosiveness of your movement that will make you move quickly and allow you to gain speed and be propelled by the wave.

Practice like on the flat start video.

Once in the air, a few strokes of the paddle at the right time can save situations where you risk losing the flight, such as the loss of a swell train or an imbalance.

5. Observation of the swell and the body of water

Observing the water and your surroundings in general allows you to maximize your chances of lengthening your flights. Anticipate wave changes or times when you need to relaunch by pumping and paddling.

Sets of bumps usually work in groups of 2, 3 or 4, so be sure to stay in these sets to avoid a period without dips forcing you to pump or paddle more than you intended.

5 conseils pour commencer le downwind en foil

Bonus! Safety and best practices in downwind

As we mentioned earlier, the purpose of these sports is purely recreational, so you don’t have to put yourself in danger to be able to say that you are stronger or weaker than your neighbour. So if you’re going away from the board, opt for safety gear. If you’re close to the edge, there’s no need.

So if you go far, it is absolutely essential to equip yourself, the helmet and the impact vest are the minimum.

The safest thing to do is to practice in a group and for everyone to look out for the others.

But to avoid problems, it is ideal to take with you:

  • a telephone
  • a GPS watch (ultra 2)
  • a fluorescent vest
  • possibly flares
  • a tow line

If you still have questions about this, or for any other request, please do not hesitate to contact us !

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