That moment you wish you could foil and you can! That’s perfect, making the most of all kiting days and circumstances. And leave everybody behind on the beach, just enjoy your session, alone, flying over the water. Seeing people struggle to keep high, seeing kites falling down from the sky and just.. thinking how awesome it is that you are foiling now – who would have said that a year ago….
“When was the last time you did something for the first time?”
BUT the reality is always different… you’re the one still standing on shore, struggling with your kite…wishing you could foil? Well, maybe it’s time to start. It’s not that difficult and not dangerous, you’re never too old and above all if there is a will, there is a way – if not, create one!! We all went through some crashes, but who didn`t when learning how to kite on a twintip or learning that one new trick. You already have the kite control, you “only” have to start over again with the board.
Here 10 tips to help you get started
1. To start straight with the first one, be prepared to crash (a lot – than it only gets better): Yes, riding your twintip or being really good in big air or freestyle, that definitely won’t help you here (maybe a little for some talented people). Forget everything you learned about a twintip and go for it, with an open mind. The body position is completely different on a hydrofoil. And playing with bodyweight is the key. It will cause some unexpected wipe outs and you will realize how many details you need to have for a smooth ride. But hey …beginnings are always hard – don’t give it up!
2. Right gear:
Board: The bigger the board, the more it floats, the easier you can start riding and foiling. You need less speed to ride away (also on the water instead of the real foiling straight away) and you will have more time to find out which balance works where, which pressure on which leg – the right place on the board, all to find the right timing and start foiling for real. Bigger means more control and easier to ride strapless on the water. Smaller means less stable, not so floaty and certainly not easier to start.
Mast: The shorter the sooner you will have a first “hydrofoiling experience”. But the first experience is not the real experience, it`s just a start (around 65cm masts it starts to be real foiling) – sorry. Don’t start straight with a 110 race mast though. It will be more hard to learn (less stable) and the crashes will be more intense (from higher above the water). Build it up if you have the chance. Lucky you, starting in this time (2019) is a lot easier now: baby masts do exist. And a lot of schools do give clinics these days. Aswell as dealers: F-One benelux As a bonus you will find a lot of hydrofoils out there with free- tips.
Wing: Shorter mast and bigger wing in the learning stage. It will make you come up slower from the water and you’re not sky high flying as superman out of the water the first times. It means less dolphins and much softer crashes. When you start rising above the water with the foil you will be surprised the first time, believe me it’s a bit of an unexpected (and quiet) feeling. Although it might be for one second the first time, it’s a surprising experience. However after learning you will need a smaller wing and longer mast to keep this exiting feeling. Bigger wings are more stable, less fast, will need less speed to foil and the movements are slower. Smaller wings are more aggressive, faster and in combination with a longer mast you will go more upwind, faster, more downwind etc. – off course also in combination with different kites.
That’s where you will start learning (and feeling!) all the differences in foils, brands, materials, weights and sizes . Different frontwings, backwings, stabilizers, combinations etc. etc. Depending on your ambitions : race, freeride, freestyle, big – air, waves, sup…………………..and way more. Bigger wings are better in the waves and a bit shorter mast , the smaller wings and the longer mast (for more upwind) are more for race – it’s all up to you!
Kite: it’s easy! Use the kite you know. A bigger slower kite in light wind. But to start and to learn, a bit more wind (smaller and faster kite) is definitely easier. You don’t want to struggle with your kite falling down from the sky every time you look at your board. Or struggle with a big kite to get move it through the sky while balancing on a foil for the first time. That and the board with that big mast which you are not used to yet – all on the same time can be difficult. Once you learned you can ride smaller kites in lighter wind. Or change to a foil kite and ride bigger kites + shorter lines to optimize the race performances.
Strapless/straps: Foot straps make it easier to find a location on the board for your feeds and to start out of the water (keep the board on its side while starting). I didn’t used them, not of all the twisted ankles etc. (I didn`t know about that, that time). I just wanted to get rid of that board when I needed. Just fly off and kick it away, if I was going to fast or it didn`t worked out the way I wanted it to. Or the board got stuck in seaweed or something and decided suddenly to stop. The only difference is that you have to keep the board on the side with your arm or start straight on top of it. Strapless, helped me a lot in the speed of learning (in speed, toeside and turns etc. ) I see now, you’re not scared for your ankle and feeds. It can be the case the board is going one way, you are going the other and your ankles will be in between that… If you use the foot straps don’t really use them by hanging in them (like in a twintip), only use them as location placer and make sure they are big enough when crashing. It will definitely help you keep the board on its side while starting but be more difficult when crashing. Although if you decide to use straps choose for the front straps and later the back straps. And if you’re ready for some jumps, that will be easier with all three straps. Also in racing the tack, will be easier with the foot straps, you have the change of running over the board with a lot of speed or too much power in the kite.
3. Right spot: For the first time – just remember your first time riding a twintip.. impossible to ride upwind, the same will probably happen with the foilboard. And another point you need deep water, deep water and walking together with the foil upwind are not working (especially not when you are small – its onshore and there are waves – out of my own experience). So either learn first to bodydrag upwind (it`s really easy and a nice feeling once you figured it out) or choose a spot with offshore (not in Holland guys ) or side shore wind. Walk as far as possible and bodydrag a bit more, so it will avoid you from hitting the bottom by the first start. Remember: The board will always go a bit under the water. A flat water spot is easier, in the waves you might end up shouting at the waves crashing into you and washing you too the shore again and again … The first times it might be hard to come away from the shore while bodydragging with this “thing” . But once you’re riding it will be hard to go downwind… Walk of shame … YES: there we go again.
4. Wave: Experience in wave surfing would help a little. In wave riding you ride with more pressure on the front foot, same in foiling. It will also help you in the turns and moving around on the board. It might help spending some time on a waveboard before foiling. (or use the adjustable foils wave & foil in one). But NO you really don’t have to learn wave riding first before you start with a hydrofoil. The other way around is also possible, I promise ad I showed you.
5. Start: Easier is to start with the board sideways in the water and your front foot in the strap. Or strapless because it’s safer for your ankles. Than you have to hold the board sideways and your kite just over t to keep pressure on the board for starting. And when starting you have to come on the board and not edge it like a twintip. Place your feet more above or even in front of the mast (both), that makes sure you can ride to board without flying out of the water straight the first time – will save you from some huge superman crashes. From this position you can safely start discovering the balance of the board. By moving your back foot backwards and your weight more from front foot to back foot. Concentrate yourself first on riding the board on top of the water instead of foiling it straight away – while you have never done that. The kite should be on one position after the start, still pulling you forward. In this way you can concentrate on the board.
6. Body position: It’s easy to start with the foil on his side, you have to come on top of the board, like the first times you did with the twintip. Start with the board pointing downwind, you will go upwind fast enough. Don`t start edging straight away.. it will give some funny crashes though. (point 5 said the same, but its important remember this in the water. Especially if the start won`t work ) . It’s a magic carpet and body position is the key (like the balance boards). Your body should be above the board and your weight changing from back to front foot. Front foot to keep the wing under water and your back foot to keep the board out of the water. Don’t send your kite like crazy, better a few times to less than some hard crashes and still no starts later. Once starting to foil you will notice that your body can be more next to the board, but for turns or downwind it’s the easiest body above the board. Everything happens in the weightless moments (pull on your kite if it`s on 12) & before the mast. Like switching feet etc… food for thought , that will come soon enough, I promise! J
7. Riding : The safest way to start is ride the first tries with the board on top of the water. Body position and food positioning is important . Two feet before the mast and move them along if you’re confident enough – or getting bored. The end goal is one foot before and one foot behind the mast. Body weight position should be always n line with the mast. Once you start flying a new world opens! You will realize it’s the board that’s making the speed and not the kite. Combine this two and you will have endless fun and speed. The wing will always push you up, out of the water, always! So if you want to stop and think to edge quickly upwind, you will shoot out of the water. Better send your kite slowly up and ride the board upwind or slow down by more pressure on your front leg (difficult the first times) and let the board touch the water. Once you figured out the basics you will be riding lines in the water you never did before! Don’t forget that not everybody is hydrofoiling… there might be some twintippers riding different lines.
8. Mind: Is a really important thing, keep it under control. Forget everything you learned about riding a twintip, off course not forget your kite flying skills, you might need them
Pressure on the front leg is the most important and not to edge like a twintip. Think about a balance board. Or even better just do it, don’t think too much, go with the flow. Its hard but there is so much to remember and to know, many people telling things BUT, sometimes you just have to do it. Experience it for yourself!!
9. Safety: Shoes, Helmet, wetsuit, floating vest : A floating vest or impact vest is easy the first times (or if your already starting to gain a lot of speed). Will be easy to float a bit while you are fighting with the foil. Also easy to have a helmet, it will safe you’re head when hitting the foil, sometimes it just rides his own way, but even better no water in your ears while crashing. Shoes will safe your feet the first time you’re hitting the foil, because you’re not used to something underneath the board hidden in the water. Or for the stones if you end up once again on the wrong place and need to walk back (up or downwind). With body dragging or starting watch out not to swim against the mast… you won’t be the first! Wearing a wetsuit saves you also from scratches and bruises. Although it`s part of the game, is it?!
10. Fun & never give up! You will get there. If everything comes easy it`s not worth it fighting anymore. And enjoy the ride: It`s such a great feeling above the water, you’re own flying carpet like Aladdin… (which you wished as a kid or not?). Staying above the water the whole session is even better! It opens a looooooot more kiting days. Just not enough days will be fun, choppy waters will be flat again, strong wind is not just for twintips anymore, waves will be another challenge and that island on the other side isn’t that far away anymore. Getting surprised (yourself and others), kiting in 7 knots and landing one- footers, handle passes or freeriding it`s all part of hydrofoiling – you will be testing new limits .. and also: swimming, is part of the game, accept it!
If interested about my relationship with a hydrofoil… read it here and here more: to see never ending possibilities read this article about my first world cup on a hydrofoil…. Sometimes you need to discover the road less chosen and experience it for yourself.
* Off course there are way more tips, these are just a selection out of my personal experience. This might not involve the key for you