Wake Foiling and Surf Foiling are relatively new sports that have taken the boating industry by storm. The sensation of riding a foil 2-4 feet out of the water feels similar to the best powder day of your life on a snowboard or skis. It’s effortless, and the feeling can quickly make foiling the best part of any day out on the lake.
One of the best parts about foiling is that you can do it in any water condition and behind any type of boat. The foils are designed to rise above the water at a certain speed (faster for Wake foils, and a slower speed for Surf foils) which makes it feel like you’re flying or floating above the water.
I can already hear the cynical person on your boat saying “Isn’t this an air chair?” The short answer is “no”. The biggest difference is that today’s modern foil boards are lighter, safer, smaller, and much easier to use than your Uncle Eddy’s death stick. Today’s foils are extremely efficient, and beginner foils can start to lift at speeds as low as 4 MPH. The barrier to entry is low, and even the most novice watersports enthusiast can quickly get up and ride with the right equipment.
Now that you have a basic understanding of what a wake and surf foil is, let’s go over a few of the key points.
Wake and Surf Foiling Overview
What Makes a Foil Work? Foil Design and Hydrodynamics 101
A foil is like an airplane wing that is submerged in the water. Think of the mast like a plane’s control stick. With different weight distribution and body position, you can control the pitch and roll of the foil, similar to a pilot steering a plane through the air.
Wake and Surf Foil’s are designed for lift at relatively low speeds, with a medium top-end speed. This is the ideal combination for riding behind the boat. It’s stable and forgiving for beginners, but more experienced riders won’t outgrow it.
Wake and Surf Foil’s relatively heavy construction is a good thing, as the added weight down low provides stability for the rider. Lighter carbon foils, on the other hand, are faster and higher performance, but are much more “twitchy”.
What are the main components of a Foil?
The Foil Wing - This is where the magic happens. The foil is the part of the setup that actually causes the lift and because of this, it’s the most important piece when considering buying a hydrofoil. We categorize foils into two different groups: Wake and Surf. Wake foils are designed to work (lift) at higher speeds around the 8 -12 MPH range. Surf foils are designed to work (lift) at lower speeds of around 4-6 mph. Many surf specific foils start achieving lift at just 4 MPH which can be less intimidating for beginners and help people to feel comfortable with the sensation of riding a foil.
The Foil Board - In other board sports, the board is usually the most important because it typically connects the rider to the surface (Water, Snow, Concrete) - In the case of foiling, the boards shape, construction, and style are slightly less important because the foil wing is going to be doing a lot of the heavy lifting (pun intended). You still want a board that’s going to perform how you want it. We recommend using a compression molded or foam-coated board if you are brand new to the sport, and getting something that’s fiberglass or more performance oriented if you are looking to quickly progress and make foiling a big part of your time on the water. Compression molded boards are heavier and they dampen more of the vibrations which can be a good thing when you are first learning how to foil. More advanced boards (carbon fiber and surf construction) weigh less and offer a more precise feel on the water.
The Foil Mast - The mast is the connection between your board and the foil. In general, beginner masts are shorter, and they are built to perform at slower speeds. Larger mast sizes are built for more advanced riders and higher speeds. The larger the mast size, the better it will handle choppy water because it allows the rider to stay on the foil without touching the board to the water.
Foil Boards Explained (Surf Foil vs. Wake Foil)
Surf - Surf style foil’s are designed to be ridden at slower speeds and they are slightly less “twitchy” because of that. Surf style boards begin to foil around 4-6 MPH.
Wake - Wake style foil’s are designed to be ridden at slightly faster speeds than their surf style counterparts. Because of this, most wake style boards will start to foil at speeds of 8-10 MPH and greater.
Mast Size Explained
Wake Foil boards come with different masts depending on your skill or type of riding you are interested in: Surf or Wake. Beginner masts are typically shorter and perform better at low speeds
Starter Masts - Most starter masts are between 15” -18”.
Wake Masts - Most wake masts are 24”.
Surf Masts - Most surf masts are 24”.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of wake and surf foils it’s time to review the key points
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