Foilboarding Basics: ​How to Pump your Foil - Ticket to Glide Ep 07

Foilboarding Basics: ​How to Pump your Foil - Ticket to Glide Ep 07

Learn how to Pump Your Foil

There are a lot of new skills to learn with foiling but the most frequently asked about is, “pumping”. Videos online show talented athletes pumping back out to the lineup, off docks, and around boats; pumping certainly draws some attention to the sport as well as lots of questions.

Everybody wants to pump it up, but how is it done? The short answer is, “technique, practice, and/or immense talent”. Let's take a look at some ways to “pump up” your pump skills.

We recommend you download the attached PDF on your phone. Check it before your next session!

Heads up: PDF not available until 1/05/18

You must practice this foilboarding skill a lot

Practice - Spend All Your Spare Time Hydrofoiling

As the old adage says, “practice makes perfect”. Foil pumping is no exception; the best foilers simply spend a ton of time foiling. The more time you can spend honing your skills in the waves, wake, kite, dock, whatever, the better you will get. Duh, I know, but everyone seems to think that they can buy a foil and pump off into the horizon. It requires a lot a practice to even be decent. 

Don’t get frustrated when you do not get it the first time, just try again, and again, and again. Of all the tricks we've covered so far, this one will take the most commitment. This is simply because it takes time, trial and error to find the correct rhythm with your foil.  Have fun with it and practice this skill every time you get out on a hydrofoil.

Find the right rhythm for your foil wing 


When we think about pumping, the image that comes to mind is a frantic hopping maneuver that propels you forward. The reality is that the best pumpers first eke out every last bit of glide and efficiency before relying on the faster rhythmic beat.

1st- Glide it out

To maximize your glide, you will want to keep your foil flying as efficiently as possible to maintain your momentum by keeping your movements very smooth and subtle. When you are getting low on mast, quickly and smoothly pull your feet upwards to “reset” the mast height. Continue to glide out as long as possible on your momentum while slowly standing up taller so you can pull up your legs again without pressuring the foil downward. Once you have eked out every bit of glide from your momentum and you feel you need to pump or sink, then you will want to change gears into a more rhythmic pumping.

2nd- Get busy pumping

With rhythmic pumping, your goal is to create a bit of thrust using the back wing while simultaneously keeping your board high in the water. When done correctly on the proper wing for your size, pumping will allow you to propel yourself for some time without power from a kite or wave. Some people can do this for as much as a hundred yards. While you transition from gliding, the rhythm of your pumps will be slower and progress as quickly as a pump per second for some riders. With some familiarity and practice, you will find a sweet spot and become well acquainted with the best timing for your foil setup. Watching some videos of experienced riders on your same foil design can also lend some insight to which techniques may suit your foil best. Keep in mind that riders of different weights will have different rhythms and success.


  • Glide it out, then bring your front knee gently towards your core and follow with the rear knee to level the foil back off  
  • Repeat until you lose speed- be efficient and use the foils natural glide  
  • Start pumping a faster rhythm 
  • Begin to apply some back foot pressure as necessary to keep the rhythm going
  • Imagine yourself pumping though a rhythm section at the skate park 
  • This rhythm will vary depending on the wing size and design, as well as the rider weight 
  • Find what works for you and your wing; this will take time 

Your weight will impact your ability and technique when pumping a hydrofoil


Weight Matters

With foiling, weight matters. Larger riders will need a larger foil to carry their weight. These larger foils do not react quite as quickly as their smaller counterparts, so they are less lively pumpers. Not only will your weight affect your foil choice, but also your success when pumping said foil. The lighter and more efficient your body becomes, the further you will be able to pump. So work out those legs to make them as efficient as possible for maximum performance.

*This chart is a good place to start finding the right foil for your weight and intentions.  After finding that, see the next one to match your ideal size with the products listed below.

Board Lengths

Board length does have an effect on your pumping performance.  Large boards have more weight as well as swing weight and as a result, they do not react quite as quickly as smaller or lighter options.  This is normally not too much of a consideration, but for pumping it can have a noticeable effect when comparing significant size or weight changes.  Additionally, overly long boards (with respect to mast length) can tap the water's surface when maneuvering the board aggressively as you do when pumping some foils. Just remember, there is such a thing as too small.  Nobody has fun when they cannot get started.

Foilboard Length Makes a Small Difference


Mast length

In addition to their effect on the possible downward angle of a board, mast length can also help your pumping performance in other ways. The first is rather simple, being that you start higher above the water, so you can glide further without touching down.  Additionally, they allow you to sit higher above the water without surfacing the wings; longer masts allow for some forgiveness if you mistime your board movements.  Finally, in water with some turbulence or aeration (bubbles), a longer mast will typically put your wings deeper under the surface where they are less affected by these changes. We find that for riding small waves and wake, the ideal mast lengths are in the 24-30" (60-76cm) range. Any shorter can be problematic for surfacing your wings and any longer risks hitting the sea floor, seaweed, or placing the wings too deep to tap into the wave's internal power.  For larger waves or high speed riding such as kiteboarding or windsurfing, masts can be up to 40" (102cm).

Mast Length Matters When Pumping a Hydrofoil 


If you find that you are not having success pumping, it could be a number of things. The first thing to consider is your equipment. For the best pumping performance, you want to err on the side of large for the conditions. Larger wings provide more lift at low speeds and, as long as they are not too large, produce longer rides. If you find that you ride in choppy waters or ride a large board, you may want to step up your mast size. This will give you some more forgiveness with accidental touchdowns. 

For dock starts, be sure you know how to pump well and have a very large wing before attempting them or you will just be frustrated. Not many people are successful with these until they reach a high level of competency on foil.

If you feel that your issue is technique related, a lesson or coaching can really help. If you have a local foiler who would be willing to give you some lessons, it is always the best way to learn quickly. If not, feel free to take some video and share it with us. None of us are Kai Lenny, but we can spot most common mistakes pretty quickly.

Written and produced by Tucker Vantol, Ryan (Rygo) Goloversic

Tucker Vantol

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.


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4th Jan 2019 Tucker VanTol

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