Wing foiling is a new water sport that is drawing in countless windsurfers, kiters, and foilers looking for something different. There are plenty of videos on social media of people doing incredible maneuvers on wings, but there are very few videos that go over the fundamentals. With this short video series, we hope to explain the integral parts of winging. By the end of this series, we hope our viewers will know what it takes to learn how to wing foil.
Your First Water Session
So you know the basics... but how can you go from the land to the sea? A great way to start is taking out your wing with a stand-up paddleboard. You can focus on your wing with a sturdy high volume board. All of the drills we talked about in the last blog/video can be applied to your first water session, except it will be slightly different as you are dealing with water. The main focus will be to keep the wing off of the water while still practicing sheeting in, flipping, and pumping the wing.
We recommend going out in 8-20 knots of wind, this will be enough to get you moving but not enough wind to become overpowered. You can perform your first water session in a lake, ocean, river, etc. Almost any body of water will work but it is crucial that you have the ability to get back upwind without using your wing. A beach is optimal so you can walk, but a tender boat or paddle will work just fine to get back upwind.
Obviously a wing is needed. But what else? We recommend a SUP with a leash, it’s hard to swim with a wing, which makes a leash essential to prevent losing your board. We also recommend a flotation device and a helmet to minimize the risk of injury.
Carrying Your Setup
When carrying your SUP and wing it is easiest to hold the leash of the wing about six inches away from the leading edge and to place it over your shoulder. With the wing downwind of you it should float and cause little fatigue on your shoulder. If walking in a crosswind, hold the sup on the upwind side of your body and hold the wing by the depower handle with your free hand.
Flipping the Wing
The first thing to master is the wing flip. Relearning this motion in the water is crucial. Knowing how to flip the wing quickly is the difference between drifting 10 feet or 100 feet downwind. There are two ways to go about this: grab the depower handle and rotate the wing with your free hand or you can work your way to the wing tip and flip the wing from the tip. Both methods get the job done but using the depower handle tends to be quicker, however, the wingtip may get stuck in the water. If you are struggling to flip the wing then use the wingtip method, which makes the wing easier to flip as the chord length is much shorter than the wingspan. Again, you can do this by holding the wing by the wingtip and using both hands to flip the wing.
Depowered Wing Handling
One thing that is overlooked by many beginner riders is figuring out how to keep the wing in a depowered state. This skill may seem quite easy yet many people struggle with it if they haven’t had any practice. Before you even think about powering up the wing either kneel or sit on the board with the wing above your head. All you have to practice is switching your hands from handle to handle and switch your front hand and back hand without powering up the wing. By mastering this skill you will be able to learn how to transition faster.
On land, you may have found that certain handles allowed you to control the wing better. This applies to the water as well, try to find the best hand positioning for powering up and depowering in a controlled manner. It takes some trial and error to figure out what handles feel most comfortable to you. Tacking cross/downwind allows the board to start moving, traveling slightly crosswind allows power to build up in the wing. This power will allow you to feel how the wing pulls in different positions.
Swimming to Riding
When you inevitably fall off of your board you will have to get from the water back to a riding position. Start in the water swimming with your board and wing downwind. First, pull your board back towards yourself and hop on. Kneel on your board if you can balance, or sit for more stability; then you will reel in your wing via the leash. If sitting, grab the depower handle and get to your knees. Now you will power up the wing just like on land and begin to tack downwind on your knees. When you feel your speed increase, pull up on the wing, the wing should support some of your weight, and stand up. We like to plant our front foot first then place our back foot. Try to pull slightly against the wing but if you pull to hard you will fall backward. You want to be in about a shoulder-width stance with bent knees. As you start to figure out the wing you can start riding crosswind to minimize the distance you cover traveling downwind. Great, now you are up and riding!
Just like a kite sheeting in and out causes a difference in power. While there isn’t a control bar involved with a wing, the same physics apply. Hold the wing so it makes a 45 degree angle with the water and center strut. To figure out how to power up and depower start with your front arm nearly straight and pull in and push out with your back hand. Pulling in with your back hand will cause more canopy to catch the wind increasing your power. Pushing out with your back hand will cause the wing to point into the wind decreasing power. Try to find what position will give you the most pull without pulling you off your crosswind tack. Once you are comfortable powering up and depowering it’s time to try transitions.
Pumping the wing on the water is just like on land, you just have to be cognizant of balancing on the board. By standing in an athletic position on the board (hips up and knees bent) you can pump the wing just like on solid ground. To effectively pump position the wing so it catches the wind at a cross/downwind direction, pull in and push out with both arms. There will be a certain rhythm that will generate the most power, once again keep trying different tempos until you find one that works best for you.
The same hand movements for transitions that we mentioned in our first video apply here. The only difference is you have to worry about the board. First start to bear off your crosswind tack, as you begin to head downwind put the wing over your head in a depowered state. Next, switch your front hand first and then your back hand. Never hang on to the wing just by your back hand, as this causes the wing to fully power up, this is easily avoidable by always keeping a hand on a handle closer to the leading edge. After you switch your hands you can either switch your feet or ride toeside. On a SUP it is extremely hard to tack crosswind on your toeside edge so we recommend switching feet. It works best to bring your back foot next to your front foot and then slide your other foot to the back of the board. If you were to bring both feet to the back of the board the tip of the board would rise causing the SUP to become unstable. Now that you have switched feet try to find that perfect amount of power once again, it may be tricky because you switched your hands and feet around. Like all boardsports you either feel more comfortable riding left or right foot forward. Most people find it easier to fly the wing with the same hand as their dominant foot. For instance, I am a regular (left foot) rider and am right handed, yet I find that I can fly the wing best when my left hand is in front. Transitions are tricky in the beginning so don’t give up.
Your Next Step
We will have another video coming out soon for your next step with wing-foiling. If you have mastered all of the techniques mentioned in this video/blog and you already know how to ride a foil you are ready to take out your wing-foil board with your wing. If you haven’t learned how to foil yet then we strongly recommend that you take your wing-foil board out behind a boat, jetski, etc. Learning how to manage your wing is already a challenge. It makes the sport much easier to figure out if you already know how to foil. Any boat you can wakeboard behind has enough power to tow a foiler. Stay tuned for our next video/blog to learn how to waterstart with your wing and wing-foil board.