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Foilboarding Sports

Posted by Tucker Vantol on

Welcome to the beginning of our knowledge center. While we're building out this new category on our webpage, we'll be pairing our Foil Friday videos with these extensive blog posts. If you have any questions, be sure to let us know in the comment section of the video.  


Have you ever seen a pelican soaring inches above the water? Smoothly cruising the shorelines, unaffected by the choppy waters below, pelicans are a frequent sighting at many beaches. If you have ever seen one, you have probably marveled at their grace and efficiency. Not being hollow-boned creatures with wings, hydrofoiling is likely the closest approximation that we can achieve. Whether behind a kite, boat, sail, or on a wave, the smooth efficiency of foils allows the rider a Cadillac-like ride above the chaos.

Here at MACkiteboarding, we have been kiteboard hydrofoiling since 2012. For us, it started as a way to access light winds previously not possible with twintip and directional designs. And it certainly did that well, but also so much more. We quickly realized that the kiteboarding device had unlimited applications in the other boardsports that we practice. Wakefoiling, surf hydrofoiling, SUP foiling, and windsurfing with a hydrofoil came screaming into the picture, with each sport broadening the foil's use and adapting designs for their respective demands. Fast-forward to today and we have defined categories for each with well-designed offerings for each situation or rider that we may encounter.

Blake Olsen is always pushing it on the water. 


Kiteboard Hydrofoiling

Let us first examine kitesurfing (or kiteboarding) foils. There are many ways to ride a hydrofoil behind a kiteboarding kite and the type of foil will be defined by that as well as your weight. The predominant styles of riding are Light Wind, Freeride, Freestyle, and Racing. The most popular of these styles is undoubtedly light-wind riding. Utilizing the ultimate efficiency of the hydrofoil's design, these riders ride in as little as a 4-knot whisper with the correct gear choices and skill. This category is so popular because it will add more sessions to your kiteboarding schedule. Previously untouched days become blissful riding opportunities that allow you to soar over flat water and take it all in. Some gear favored by this kind of rider includes large to extra large wings (130-280 sq in), wide boards (19"+), and ultra-lightweight kites to hit those days with the most success. Outside of just "mowing the lawn," these riders also enjoy doing carving tricks, fancy footwork, downwind swell riding, touring, and other aspects of freeriding.

Foils

  • Slingshot Fsurf H2
  • Cloud 9 P27 Ghost Rider, S24 Sabre
  • Liquid Force Impulse foil
  • Lift 150, 170, 200
  • Delta Surf foil, Delta Mega Surf
  • GoFoil Iwa 170, GoFoil Maliko 200
  • Naish Thrust WS, Thrust Surf L, Thrust Surf M

Boards

  • Slingshot Alien Air, Simulator, WF1
  • Amundson Nubby, JohnO
  • Pyzel Screaming Eagle

Kites

  • HQ4 Matrixx, Freeracer
  • Airush Ultra
  • Naish Boxer
  • North Mono
  • Liquid Force Solo


Freeride

Freeriding is quite similar to light wind riding. The largest difference between the two is the wind speed that is optimal for their equipment. Freeriding for most riders would begin somewhere near 10-12 knots, or wherever they can easily fly and relaunch a leading edge inflatable kite. Since this type of wind does not require any special lightweight kites, your typical kiteboarding kite will suffice. However, the increasingly popular trend is to use a downwind drifting surf kite. Surf kite benefits include a kite that provides smooth power delivery, pivotal turns, and downwind drift. Unlike twin tip or surfboard riding, getting upwind is not an issue with a foilboard. Rather, having a kite that will fall downwind, thereby keeping line tension, is appreciated. This is so that your kite will not fall behind you as you ride downwind with unbridled avarice. Some of these kites are the Cabrinha Drifter, North Neo, and Airush Wave. Obviously, they also double as fantastic wave kites for when the waves turn on. Foil designs for this style of riding vary widely based on the rider's preference, kite power, and conditions. That being said, the most popular choice is a medium to large foil wing (130-200 sq in) with a medium to large sized board. This gives the rider a wide range of use while providing a stable platform without the need for exorbitant kite power.

Foils

  • Slingshot Fsurf H2, Hover Glide H5
  • Cloud 9 P27 Ghost Rider, S24 Sabre
  • Cabrinha Double Agent
  • Liquid Force Impulse, Rocket, Thruster
  • Lift 150, 170
  • Delta Freeride, Surf
  • GoFoil Iwa 170
  • Naish Thrust WS, Thrust Surf L, Thrust Surf M
  • North Speedster

Boards

  • North Freefoiler, Pro Foil
  • Slingshot Alien Air, Converter, Hypermiler, Dwarfcraft 4'6, WF1
  • Liquid Force Rocket, Happy, Galaxy
  • Naish Hover 130, Hover 155
  • Cabrinha Double Agent

Kites

  • Cabrinha Drifter
  • North Neo
  • Naish Slash
  • Liquid Force Wow
  • Slingshot Wave SST
  • Airush Wave

Freestyle

Speaking of exorbitant kite power, our next style of riding is freestyle riding. Probably the most difficult and dangerous of the options, freestyle hydrofoiling offers the excitement of huge jumps, high-speed riding, and even unhooked tricks. This type of riding is not for the faint of heart, but it sure is fun to watch. Some gear that is effective for this type of riding is small wings (80-120 sq in), lightweight foils, and small light-weight boards.

Foils

  • Slingshot Ghost Whisper 91, 101, 111
  • Lift 110
  • Delta Freeride

Boards

  • Slingshot Hypermiler, Dwarfcraft 3'6
  • Naish Hover 112

Kites

  • Cabrinha Switchblade, Apollo
  • North Evo, Rebel
  • Liquid Force NV
  • Naish Pivot
  • Slingshot Rally, Turbine
  • Airush Lithium

Racing

Another powered form of kite hydrofoiling is racing. Whether it’s beer league with buddies or Olympic training, the goal of foil racing is to be faster around the course than the rest of your competitors. While still a bit of a niche category, we have found many recreational foil racing leagues emerging around the world. The name of the game for racing is all about top speed and efficiency. The gear reflects that need with small to medium size high-aspect-ratio wings, narrow boards, and highly efficient kites. This gear tends to be a little temperamental and does require some special skill to master.

Foils

  • Slingshot Ghost Whisper 111
  • Lift Race
  • Delta Race
  • Boards
  • Slingshot Hypermiler
  • Lift Custom Race
  • Delta Custom Race

Kites

  • HQ Freerace
  • Slingshot Phantom
  • Surf and SUP Hydrofoiling

Surfing with a hydrofoil 

Another sport that has really taken a liking to hydrofoils is surfing and stand up paddleboarding. We group these two together because, while the boards vary widely, their foils remain quite similar or the same. Just like kiteboard foiling, this hydrofoil category has a few different styles and, as a result, requires a different type of gear choice.

The preeminent form of surf and SUP foiling is small wave riding. This form of riding utilizes the efficiency and long glide of foils to take advantage of waves that are chest high or smaller. Similar to light-wind kiteboarding, these foils are large to extra large (150-280 sq in) to provide early lift as well as long glides at low speeds. With the proper "chop hop" technique it is possible to link multiple waves in a single ride. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a downward pressure but rather sucking your knees up and riding out the glide. By unweighting the foil, it will rise quickly with your feet and allow you to glide out until your board falls near the water again, similar to a paper airplane or glider. This phenomenon is exaggerated by any undertow or current that the wave behind may be drawing. For small wave riding, a larger board is often used to help catch the wave earlier. Catching the wave earlier means that you can ride it longer and also makes the takeoff less critical and easier for new riders.

Foils

  • Slingshot Fsurf
  • Cloud 9 P27 Ghost Rider, S24 Sabre
  • Delta Surf, Mega Surf
  • GoFoil Iwa, Gofoil Maliko 200
  • Naish Thrust Surf L, Thrust Surf M, Thrust WS
  • Lift 150, 170, 200

Surfboards

  • Amundson Nubby, JohnO, Iwa Bird Surf
  • Pyzel Screaming Eagle
  • Slingshot Sky Walker
  • Naish Hover 5'6", Hover 6'0"

SUPs

  • Amundson JohnO, Iwa Bird SUP
  • Slingshot Air Strike
  • Naish Hover 95, Hover 120, Hover 120 crossover boards

Larger Waves 

Experienced riders are starting to get out into larger and more powerful waves. This requires skill but also a smaller foil wing that will handle that extra speed and power. These wings range from as small as 110 sq in for tow-ins on large waves to as large as 170 sq in for heavier guys on head-high breaks.

Riding larger and more powerful waves has significantly increased risk to you and those around you, so please know your limits and respect everyone else in the water. Unless you are riding in a remote location, on a larger day there is a good chance there will be surfers, SUPs, and bodyboarders in the water. It is your responsibility to stay far away from them, so finding a less frequented spot is recommended.

Foils

  • Slingshot Fsurf
  • Cloud 9 P27 Ghost Rider, S24 Sabre
  • Delta Surf, Mega Surf
  • GoFoil Iwa, GoFoil Maliko 200
  • Naish Thrust Surf L, Thrust Surf M, Thrust WS
  • Lift 150, 170, 200

Surfboards

  • Amundson Nubby, Iwa Bird Surf
  • Pyzel Screaming Eagle
  • Hover 6'0"

SUPs

  • Amundson JohnO, Iwa Bird SUP
  • Naish Hover 95

Waves that never break 

The previous two styles of riding involve breaking waves near the shoreline. Downwind SUP foiling does not require a breaking wave but it does require some skill and specific equipment. Since you do not have a breaking wave pushing the board along with a good amount of power, you will need decent paddle skills and an extra large foil. Common wing sizes range from 200-280 square inches with some as large as 300 square inches. These massive wings provide lift at an extremely low speeds and have the longest glide of any wings available to provide the longest rides with the least amount of wave power. It is common to see skilled downwind foilers travel miles without touching the board down. As a result of their efficiency, the race crowd has even taken a liking to these and will resort to foiling in some windier conditions for the best times.

Foils

  • GoFoil Maliko 200, Maliko 280
  • Delta Surf, Mega Surf
  • SUP Boards
  • Custom MHL
  • Custom Amundson

Windsurf Hydrofoiling 

Downwind foiling is not the only sport using larger equipment. Windsurfing also requires larger equipment but not necessarily larger wings. The larger boards and rigs on windsurfers demand a longer fuselage in order to stabilize the foil. Windsurfing foil masts also tend to be on the longer side (34-40") when compared with other foils. Similar to kiteboarding and surfing, windsurfing wing size is determined by board speed, rider/rig weight, and the skill of the rider. Low-speed riding requires large wings (170-280) whereas high-speed riding is better suited to smaller wings (110-150). Windsurfing has also been dabbling in testing crossover wings. Surf wings such as the Naish Thrust Surf, GoFoil, Slingshot Fsurf, Cloud IX, and Delta Foils are popular choices for light winds.

Board connections for windsurf hydrofoils can be a bit of a confusing mess. If you are already a windsurfer, you are probably familiar with this issue. There are many different styles of windsurf fin boxes as well as the common plate connection now standard for hydrofoils. The most common connections with regard to foils are the deep Tuttle and plate connections.

The deep Tuttle box is a recessed cavity in the board that the mast drops into. This type of connection is very sleek but may require some sanding for the perfect fit. Deep Tuttle boxes are common in windsurfing, however, if your board was not made with the intention of foilboarding it is likely not reinforced enough to stand the test of time. Foiling has some serious torque on those connections and requires special construction to remain intact.

It is also important to note that deep Tuttle are not the same box as standard Tuttle, Probox, Chinook, GoFoil Tuttle, etc. They are not the same and will not be compatible. That also means that our GoFoil Tuttle adapter will not work with these deep Tuttle foils. Our brands currently using the deep Tuttle connection include Slingshot, Neil Pryde, JP Austraila, Delta, and some Naish foils.

The need for a stronger box and adjustability has seen a recent surge in the number of windsurfing foilboards using the plate (track) system. The plate system is undoubtedly the strongest board connection and also happens to be the most adjustable, maintenance-free, and easy-to-repair system as well. In addition to these benefits, plate systems are more common throughout the rest of the foil sports so crossover is possible. You can find the plate system on Naish windsurf foil boards, and many others will be following suit in the coming years.

Board choice for windsurfing is similar to your typical board choice for a given situation. Wider boards are nice for up-hauling in light winds, whereas narrower boards reign supreme for high-wind scenarios where you may need to hike harder. Shorter boards are typically preferred as they have a lower swing weight and as a result are more nimble.

Your sail or rig choice will also depend heavily on the wind conditions and your intended riding speed. Most riders will choose a sail 2-3 square meters smaller than they would ride in that same wind. This is due to the incredible efficiency of foils. When you get on foil and start moving, it generates a lot of apparent wind with nearly no drag, so you can become overpowered quickly.

Foils

  • Naish Thrust WS
  • Slingshot Fwind1
  • Slingshot Fwind2
  • Neil Pryde RS-Flight AL.
  • Neil Pryde RS-Flight F4

Boards

  • Slingshot Dialer 130
  • Slingshot Dialer 145
  • Slingshot Wizard 105
  • Slingshot Wizard 125
  • Slingshot Wizard 150
  • Slingshot Flyer 280
  • Naish Hover 122 WS
  • Naish Titan 120
  • Naish Hover 120 Crossover
  • Neil Pryde RS:One Convertable
  • Neil Pryde RS:X Convertable
  • JP Australia Hydrofoil 135
  • JP Australia Hydrofoil 155

Sails

  • Naish Lift 4.7, 5.7
  • Neil Pryde RS-Flight 5.4, 6.2, 7.0, 7.8, 8.8

Wakeboard Hydrofoiling 

Last, but certainly not least, are the wakeboard hydrofoils or wakefoils. This is quite possibly the fastest growing hydrofoil sport due to the established boat-sport industry and accessibility to good riding conditions. Let's face it, not everyone has access to great wind or waves, but most people do live near some body of water that could be suitable for boats. Unlike wakeboarding or wake surfing, wakefoiling does not require an expensive boat. You can foil behind nearly any boat with a motor larger than 25 horsepower. In fact, learning is ideal behind smaller craft such as a jetski, fishing boat, or pontoon as they create less wake.

Wakefoiling without the rope uses the power of the wave to propel the rider forward just like surf foilboarding. This style of wake foiling requires a large surf wing, larger wake and a bit more skill from both rider and driver, but is the ultimate way to ride. The endless wave allows you to perfect your skills in the first, second, third, or even fourth wake back.

Foils

  • Slingshot Fsurf H2, Fsurf H4, Hover Glide H5 (Wakefoil package)
  • Cloud 9 P27 Ghost Rider, S24 Sabre
  • Liquid Force Impulse, Rocket
  • Wakefoil foil
  • Lift 150, 170, 200
  • Delta Surf foil, Delta Mega Surf
  • GoFoil Kai 120, Iwa 170, Maliko 200
  • Naish Thrust WS, Thrust Surf L, Thrust Surf M

Boards

  • Slingshot WF1, Dwarfcraft 3'6, Alien Air
  • Liquid Force Galaxy, Happy
  • Amundson Nubby
  • Pyzel Screaming Eagle
  • Wakefoil board

As you can tell, there are a lot of variables and choices to be made when investing in a hydrofoil. We can help you out; just reach out to us via email at kiteboarder@mackite.com, online chat, or at 800.622.4655 to connect with our foil team. There is also a lot of useful information on our foil knowledge center.

So, what are the differences in these hydrofoils?

KITEBOARDING HYDROFOILS AND FOILBOARDS

  • Long mast (30-40") to handle waves and chop
  • Short fuselage for tight turns and quick pitch adjustment
  • Full range of wing sizes to adapt for speed, conditions, and riding style. (90-280 sq in)
  • Track box is the most popular type of board connection
  • Most boards range in size from 3'6-5'
  • Most boards have the option to mount footstraps or hooks

SURFING HYDROFOILS AND FOIL SURFBOARDS

  • Shorter masts (20-30") to allow for small wave riding without hitting the bottom.
  • Short fuselage for tight turns and quick pitch adjustment
  • Wing sizes range from large to very large. (150-230 sq in)
  • Both track boxes and Tuttle style boxes are common.
  • Most boards range in size from 4'5"-7'6"
  • Added volume aids in early paddle entry on smaller boards
  • No footstrap mounting options for most

SUP HYDROFOILS AND SUP FOILBOARDS

  • Shorter masts (20-30") to allow for small wave riding without hitting the bottom.
  • Short fuselage for tight turns and quick pitch adjustment
  • Wing sizes range from large to very large. (150-280 sq in)
  • Both track boxes and Tuttle style boxes are common
  • Most boards range in size from 6'-10'
  • Added volume aids in early paddle entry on smaller boards and additional stability when paddling
  • Footstrap mounting options are available on some custom boards

WAKEFOILS AND WAKEFOIL BOARDS

  • Short masts (15"-30") to handle chop and steep wakes
  • Short fuselage for tight turns and quick pitch adjustment
  • Full range of wing sizes to adapt for speed, rope-less riding, wake size, and riding style. (90-210 sq in)
  • Track box is the most popular type of board connection
  • Most boards range in size from 3'6-5'
  • Most boards have the option to mount footstraps or hooks

WINDSURF FOILS AND WINDSURF FOILBOARDS

  • Long mast (30-40") to handle waves and chop
  • Long fuselage for stability and pitch stability
  • Full range of wing sizes to adapt for speed, conditions, and riding style. (90-280 sq in)
  • Tuttle is the most popular type of board connection
  • Most boards range in size from 6'-8' with some models as long as 12'
  • Most boards have the option to mount footstraps or hooks

Hydrofoil data sheet

Hydrofoil wing data

Hydrofoil properties chart


 

Tucker is MACkite's resident surf and "foilboarding junkie." You can either catch him on the phones or on the water at dawn testing new gear. He is proficient at a myriad of sports and passionate about getting his water time. When he discovered kiteboarding it took over as his predominate sport, the same could be said about hydrofoiling.