Intro to SUP and Surf Foiling

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Intro to SUP and Surf Foiling

Here at F-One, we like to keep up to date with the various trends, hypes and developments of watersports, not only so that we can try out new things, but also so we can keep on top of the wants, needs and desires of our customers. Foil technology has redefined the surfing/SUP landscape, allowing boarders to access a new variety of offshore breaks and new waves. What was once considered ‘unrideable’ is now deemed to be a good opportunity for practice, and that’s all thanks to the emergence of foil. But what actually is foiling, and how is it different to more traditional means? We’ve put together an introduction to both surfing and SUP foils so that you can learn all about the concept and decide whether or not it is something you would like to try. 

Surf Foil Guide

Man surfing with foils

What is Foiling?

An exciting experience that is not always dependent on wave conditions, foiling is all about an effortless glide above the water. The controlled flight can occur thanks to the profiled and hydrodynamic design of the winged fin. It eases the impact of the friction on the surface of the water, allowing you to angle at 90 degrees as quickly as possible while also reducing any friction that may prevent you from doing so. It is made from a structure of aluminium and carbon to lift the board, even if being ridden at low speed.  

How Does it Work?

The mechanics of foils is simple by nature and is not dissimilar to how a bird uses its wings to fly. The board is controlled through leaning forward and backwards, which dictates how much lift you will get and thus how fast you will go. Leaning back onto the back foot will cause the wing to tilt upright to get more lift while weight applied to the front foot will make the wing dive underwater. As we have learned with most other watersports of this nature, the key is balance. 

Where to Foil?

The beauty of foil means that you can escape the busy breaks on more popular surfing beaches and practice on whatever condition is available to you, but preferably somewhere that hasn’t got many other people in the sea while you are still learning. Even when the surf seems to be as flat as a pancake, you’ll be surprised as to what you can achieve with a foil. Ideally, you’ll find a secluded spot with moderately-sized waves of around one-to-two-foot. For more information on surfing terminology, check out our recent blog post, Surfing Terminology for Beginners.

Attaching the Foil

Exactly where you attach the foil depends on various factors including weight, height and conditions, and a trusted retailer should be more than happy to help explain how best to use it. As a general rule, you’ll want to position the wing quite far forward in standard conditions, moving it back as and when waves get bigger.

Technique

Paddle out as you would with a normal surfboard, with duck-diving being surprisingly easy thanks to the addition of the foil. Paddle for a wave until you feel yourself catch it and pop up in the same way as normal surfing. Apply a gradually increasing pressure to your front foot as the wave gets steeper, and maintain a squat stance with chest vertical and shoulders open for the best balance. The trick is to find the position that works for you, as every board, rider and condition is different. For many, this will be with your back foot slightly over the mast or just a little behind it.

SUP Foil Guide

Man learning to SUP foil

What is SUP Foiling?

Many have likened SUP foiling to ‘riding a magic carpet’ thanks to the smooth, fast, gliding ride that it provides. Clever SUP folk soon realised that they could lift the wing to experience the smooth glide of foiling through paddle power alone, and it was not long before the first race was established, further cementing the adaption of the new and exciting take on SUP.

Downwinding

A high level of fitness and an expert knowledge of how to read swells, chops and conditions is necessary to achieve foil downwinding, but it is certainly the most effective of the two disciplines. You’ll need to put the necessary time in to learn how and what speed the board comes onto the foil while recognising the most effective foot placement for you. Downwinding is best practised far out to sea and out of harms’ way, where you can have tremendous amounts of fun once you master the basic techniques. This is perfect for when the waves aren’t quite so clean and perhaps are on the smaller side.

Surf 

SUP foiling in surf is much easier than downwinding and a good place to start for most who are trying out foils for the first time. You are able to see the waves coming, giving you more time to correct your foot position and paddle onto the foil. While you don’t need big swells to master this technique and, in fact, smaller waves may be better for practice, it is essential that the water is deep enough, so be sure to pull off before you reach shallow waters. No other board can reach the giddying heights of glide and freedom provided by SUP foil and waves that are further out and unbroken provide the perfect opportunity to displaying your skills.

Where to Foil? 

As you might expect, you can foil pretty much anywhere and, again, we suggest opting for the less busy surfing beaches so as to escape the crowds, particularly while you are practising with foils. The main priority is space, and because you will be able to ride where normal surfers wouldn’t even attempt, you should virtually have outback to yourself, aside from other ‘foilers’. 

Learning to Foil 

Whilst you may have watched experts manipulate foils in such a majestic way that makes it look easy, it’s important to remember that it’s not and you’ll need to dedicate a lot of time and effort into perfecting your technique for flawless rides. The foil is twitchy and correct foot placement is vital to ensuring you get up onto the foil and stay on it! This kind of SUP requires a slightly different level of fitness in comparison to more traditional forms of the sport, in that you’ll need sharp, sprinting bursts of energy. It’s a fast learning curve with SUP foiling, and once you’ve made one mistake, chances are you won’t be doing the same again! 

Safety 

SUP boards can be dangerous at the best of times, let alone with a state-of-the-art foil attached. Even the most experienced of SUP boarders are likely to get hit by the foil or board at some point or another, making a helmet an absolute must and a wetsuit recommended to keep bruises to a minimum. A leash is vital for when the inevitable happens, and you fall off and become separated from your board. In some conditions, you’d be lucky if you ever saw it again and even luckier if it made it to shore without hitting anyone else along the way. As with any sport, tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back, or even better, take someone with you as a spectator. 

That concludes our introduction guide to foiling for both surf and SUP. We hope it has provided you with a little more detail on what foiling actually is and how it is used differently in both sports. Here at F-One, we have a range of surf, SUP and wake foil for you to browse and would be more than happy to provide more information about any of our products. If you would like to know more, contact our friendly team today who will be more than happy to assist.