Hydrofoiling: What to ask before you buy - Foil Friday: EP 19
Over the last few years we’ve been testing all the hydrofoils extensively- with the kite, behind the boat and in the waves. In that time, most of our staff has progressed from complete beginners to advanced riders. We’ve noticed that as we progressed there were different things to consider when choosing which foil to learn on, which foil to progress with and which foil to use for different sports. With there being so many options and styles on the market, we wanted to make your life a little easier. With that said, we’re going to share our list of things to consider before your first or your next hydrofoil purchase.
There are a lot of hydrofoils to choose from
Weight & Price
The first consideration you're going to make is how much you’re going to spend vs how much do you want your foil to weigh. These two things are often at odds with each other. The more you spend, the lighter your hydrofoil will be, the easier it will be to carry, and the more nimble it will be in the water.
For new riders, it can be easier to opt for something a little larger, heavier and more economic. Not only will it be more stable in the water, but you won’t feel as bad beating it up.This is just a generalization as there are some foils that are not as expensive as their full carbon counterparts like the NP Glide Surf Foil.
The big questions here are:
- How long have I been riding?
- Do I mind carrying something that is a bit heavier around?
- Will I benefit from having something that is lighter and more maneuverable, yet twitchy in the water?
- Will I benefit from something that is larger and heavier, yet easy, smooth and stable in the water?
- How much am I willing to spend?
Here's a simple graphic showing some samples of weight and price regarding kite hydrofoils.
The question is: Which is right for you? For most, this comes down to two factors:
Your Current Ability
Your current ability is important to consider, as lighter foils are widely acknowledged for their higher performance capabilities. The lesser weight means the foil accelerates more quickly and can be maneuvered abruptly to make the most of underpowered situations. This is especially evident in waves, where their positive buoyancy will allow the foil to rise more quickly during pumping actions. Experienced foilers also tend to have their foil care dialed. Full carbon foils require more care, as they are more easily damaged and more costly to replace parts, while aluminum foils tend to be more robust and can roll with mishandling mistakes common with new riders. There are other benefits for new riders on aluminum foils, including price, ballast, and momentum.
When you are just getting into something new, you are not as comfortable spending large sums of money on it (although it is quickly justified by the fun you have once you get going). This leads me to drive a $700 van and ride a few $2200+ foil setups. Priorities, my friends, gotta have them!
Ballast is an often-overlooked benefit of alloy hydrofoils. Like in boats, ballast in your foil setup can add stability for choppy seas and inexperienced riders. Heavier foils, such as the Naish Thrust Surf and Slingshot FSurf and FSUP models, are less twitchy and require more intentional input from the rider. Your minor mistakes as a new rider will have a less noticeable effect on the ride. Additionally, ballast stability is more significant at the lower speeds that newer riders prefer. As you progress into faster speeds, it becomes less apparent.
A bit more physics applied to fun, the additional two to three pounds on aluminum foils allows for more momentum. Once moving, heavier foils carry their speed in the direction they are headed. This means your ride will be less affected by shifty currents and waves, kind of like your Dad’s old Cadillac down a bumpy road.
Your Potential Rate of Progression
Everyone has that friend that can learn anything at hyperspeed (and we all envy him/her). When making a choice about which foil is correct for you, it is important to take note of your probable progression rate. This will help you make the correct choice not only for your current ability, but also for your skills down the road. Slower-progressing riders will really appreciate the help that the heavier foils provide, while a quick-progressing rider might wish that they had chosen an option that will provide them the benefits they will come to appreciate with practice. The good news is that all of these foils are phenomenal! There is no bad choice, just different benefits that come with each.
If you’re struggling with making a choice, you can always ask us via our live chat service and we’ll be more than happy to talk it out with you.The NF2 is quite affordable at $599 and 11 pounds, while the Ghost Whisper 91 is $1799 and a mere 8 pounds. The NP Surf Glide sits in the middle at $899 and 9 pounds. Of course, there are many variables to consider. Keep reading and we’ll dive into those as well.
The track system is the most adjustable
The Connection System
The next thing to consider is which board connection system. The question to ask is, "What system do I want or need?" If you already have a board, you’ll want to get a hydrofoil that will fit the current system. If you don’t, there are some things to know about each system.
There are three main types in hydrofoiling. While there are actually more than that, these three are the most common you will come across.
- Plate / Track System
- Deep Tuttle System
- Surfbox / Gofoil System
Plate mounting, or track mounting as it is sometimes called, is quickly becoming the preferred method of attaching hydrofoils to surfboards, kiteboards, paddle boards, and windsurfers. This is due to their ease of use, adjustability, and durability. All plate mounts are compatible with the 90mm tracks found in most boards today.
Gofoil now produces plate mount masts, but will require a plate adapter for their “Gofoil Tuttle” models to be used on a 90mm track mount. Liquid Force, Naish, and Slingshot all come standard with this plate style mount, although Naish uses M6 hardware rather than the M8 used by nearly every other brand. Naish and Liquid Force standard plates offer drop-in slots that allow for quick assembly without the need to remove the screws fully from their track nut.
Naish furthers that idea with their new Abracadabra top plate. The Abracadabra top plate uses an aluminum slide-in slot and a set screw to allow riders to remove and reinstall the foil more quickly. While this is most useful for those who disassemble their foil for transport, it could also be helpful for people with multiple foils or foilboards. Abracadabra plates require more care. Keeping the track clean from sand, gunk, salt, and scarring is essential for the smooth operation of the system. We find that the brass set screw can also be easily stripped, so you will want to take extra care when using it. Be sure to replace it before it becomes overly damaged. For these reasons, we recommend the standard plate to most riders. It saves weight, money, and when used with the drop-in slots, is just a quick attach.
The Gofoil Tuttle connection is unique to GoFoil, but can still be found in popular boards such as Amundson, Kalama, and Jimmy Lewis due to the prevalence of Gofoil products in surfing and paddle boarding. It utilizes a “deep tuttle” board finbox, but the mast end features a flat top rather than the angled version common in windsurfing. They cannot be used without modification in a standard Deep Tuttle box installed for windsurfing. This is because they use a different hole pattern due to that flat top. Although not quite as strong or adjustable as the plate mount, the Deep Tuttle and Gofoil Tuttle boxes have a sleek design that some high-end designers prefer.
Popularized by the windsurf industry, the deep Tuttle box can be found in a majority of windsurfers past and present. Because of this, many of these foils are adaptable to this style of box. Although not all are present in this discussion; Naish, Slingshot, Neil Pryde, and Delta all produce foils or mast adapters that can be used in a deep Tuttle box.
What wing set design do I want?
This means the front wing and the rear stabilizer wing. The design of your wing is going to play the largest role in how your hydrofoil performs and the characteristics you can expect.
The first question to ask here is, "What size wings do I want?"
The smaller the foil, the faster it's going to go and the more power and speed you'll need to generate stable lift.
As you opt for larger hydrofoils, you can go much slower while maintaining stability and the less power you'll need to generate lift.
Some questions to ask are:
- What am I trying to get out of my foil?
- Do I want to ride in the lightest of winds?
- What sport or sports do I want to practice? Kite / Wake / Surf
- Do I want to race?
- Am I willing to compromise top end performance for low end stability?
Some sports require a larger foil, such as surf hydrofoiling or wakefoiling, while with kitefoiling you can get away with any size. When it comes to race hydrofoiling, you want the smallest, lightest wing you can find.
If you're someone who loves to do it all, check out our video on the best do-it-all hydrofoils from a while back.
The second consideration in this area is, "What thickness do I want?"
Something else to consider, aside from size and surface area, is the thickness of your hydrofoil wing. In general, the thicker your wing, the more lift you can generate and the slower you can go. It will also be more stable at low speeds. Effectively, you'll be able to go out in less wind or with less wave power, but you'll trade off some of the top end speed. This is, of course, in relation to the size, surface area and shape. With the same respective size, you'll get less lift from a thinner wing than you will from a thicker one of the same size.
The third consideration in this area is, "What curve do I want?"
We talked about the anhedral curve in our "Best Do-it-all Foil" video, but we wanted to reiterate that this is a big consideration. If you already have a foil and you're upgrading, pay attention to the curve of your wing and how it rides. Pay attention to the "feel", meaning how playful or how locked-in the wing feels. If you're happy with this aspect, you might want to find a new wing with a similar curve. If not, this is an area you'll want to change.
When we say curve, we mean the downward slope of the wing from the center to the wingtips. Typically the more curved the foil, or the bigger the winglets, the more track-like and locked it will become, while the flatter the wing, the more playful it will be.We like the analogy of surf fins. Think of a large curve or winglets as a quad-fin surfboard. High speed, locked-in feel, not as tight of turning. With a flatter or more mellow curve and smaller winglets, it will be more loose and skatey.
This is where things can either get simple or complex, depending on how deep you want to go down the rabbit hole. Let's cover the basics first.
Overall, wings look quite similar. They resemble small airplanes and are all made of some sort of carbon. They can sometimes be difficult to compare without holding them side-by-side. This is because they are all built to do basically the same thing: provide lift at a rate of board speed ranging from 5-40 miles per hour, depending on their intention. All of the brands we carry are well-established with knowledgeable designers, research and development teams, and testing crews. They also happen to be hand-picked by our team of foil freaks because of their excellence. I say all this to qualify the statement, “they are all excellent foils; each simply has its own design intention, feel, and benefits”.
Hopefully this brief look at the most influential design aspects will help narrow your options and further inform you. If you are aware of your riding style, weight, and ability, we should be able to reduce it to just a few product options. From there, budget can be the deciding factor for most. As always, you can simply email, call us at 800.622.4655, or jump on our live chat to explain your personal situation for our best recommendation.
Foil designs are highly influenced by a number of variables, the most basic and important of which are surface area, aspect ratio, and chord thickness. As you might expect, foils with larger surface area provide more lift. Slower riding speeds or heavier loads will require more lift to sustain flight and to remain stable. Small foils have less drag and friction, which gives them a much higher top speed. Because of this, downwind SUP foilers will prefer wings upwards of 1900 cmsq while kite racers prefer foils with under 600 cmsq. Those being the outliers, most wave and kite foilers will find their happy spot somewhere between 650 and 1600 cmsq, depending on their weight, riding speed, and riding style. Reference the chart below to get a good idea of which might be best for you.
Aspect ratio also plays a major role in the design of foils. The higher the aspect ratio, the higher the top speed and the broader the speed range, especially when compared to designs with similar size and chord thickness. The lower the aspect ratio, the more maneuverable the foil will be. Additionally, low aspect foils accelerate and decelerate more abruptly than high aspect foils.
This one is pretty simple. Thicker wings provide more lift, but are also slower due to the larger amount of drag. Thinner wings do not provide as much lift, but do have a higher top speed due to their reduced drag. Most designs with the same intention will be similar in thickness. Noting the thickness can help you correctly compare their aspect ratio, surface area, and resulting lift. For instance, the Slingshot Time Code 68 (H1) wing has a higher surface area and lower aspect ratio than the Slingshot Gamma (H2) wing. However, the H2 is thicker, and therefore has more lift. Additionally, the H2 has a much shallower anhedral curve.
Anhedral (downturned) and dihedral (upturned) curves in wings have a noticeable effect on the feel when turning, as well as the use of the wing’s lift. Anhedral curved wings tend to have the feeling of accelerating through turns, and require a touch more input to initiate said turn. These make up the majority of wing designs on the market today, with some familiar examples being the Liquid Force Impulse, Naish Thrust Surf, Slingshot Time Code wings, and GoFoil products. Comparatively, dihedral wings, sometimes called “gull wings,” produce a rocky-feeling turn from edge to edge, similar to how a V concave works in surfboards. A good exaggerated example is the Slingshot Space Skate wing, featured on the 2019 FKite. These dihedral wings require less input from the riders to initiate the turn, and have the feeling of slowing down through the turn. They also tend to return to center more naturally, requiring little to no input to do so. Dihedral rear wings are frequently used in conjunction with anhedral front wings to produce a blend of the two styles.
Any change in the wing’s shape from flat will decrease the lift slightly, due to the lift being projected in a direction other than vertical. The most exaggerated example would be the Naish Thrust Surf’s bent wingtips. The large, abrupt wingtip bend removes 10-15% of its lift when compared to similarly-shaped foils. It does, however, give a unique locked-in feel to these products and has created a cult following that appreciates its characteristics.
Unique Brand Features
- New wing designs, Lift and Speed options
- Compatible with bolt through (Double Agent board) as well as track systems
- New fuselage design
- Carbon fuselage and wings
- Multiple rear wing mounting positions for a progression-friendly setup
- Two wing offerings
- Compatible with Liquid Force foil products
- Deep Tuttle and plate systems
- Custom made by hand
- Thinner than most designs of the same size for a higher top speed
- Highly durable and light carbon construction
- New for 2019, both Gofoil Tuttle and plate mounts in 24.5”, 28.5”, and 29.5” sizes
- New Gofoil adapter plate available for Gofoil Tuttle models
- Must buy all wingsets as a complete foil for easy fitment. Contact us to talk about additional wings and fitment.
- New for 2019, 200 glide wing and 170 fish wing
- Two-piece design. One-piece fuselage with wings, one-piece mast and collar.
- Excellent durability and build quality
- New surf and kite boards for 2019 shaped by legend Ricky Carroll
- New Impulse foil for the freeriders. Wings designed by Cloud IX.
- Excellent balance of weight, price, and durability
- New for MACkite in 2019
- Race proven performance and reliability
- High modulus carbon construction, durable aluminum fuselage
- Made in Italy. Impressive fit and finish.
- New for 2019. More wing, mast and collar options
- Redesigned fuselage for a more responsive ride
- Adjustable rear wing pitch to fine tune its lift/feel
- Excellent $899 foil
- $299 front wings
- Amazing weight to strength ratio
- Track mount comes standard. Deep Tuttle and surf box available.
Duotone (formerly North Kiteboarding)
- Unique composite injected wings and fuselage for excellent durability
- Compatible with Fanatic SUP wings
- New for 2019, Speedster GT and GT wings for affordable speed
Slingshot / Ride Engine
- Industry-leading popularity
- Amazing durability
- 7 wing options starting at $299. Budget-friendly versatility.
- GW 2.0 - licensed Moses designs for proven speed performance
Now that you have made it to the end, hopefully you've gained some knowledge and clarity into the world of foils. As always, feel free to reach out to us with any questions in order to fine tune your choice for a purchase that is bound to meet your needs. We are available 7 days a week, love to talk about foils, solve problems, and set new riders up for success.
Written and produced by Tucker Vantol, Ryan (Rygo) Goloversic
Mackite's resident surf and "Hydrofoil 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, a shaper 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.