2018 is an exciting year for the newest kite discipline of foil riding. There’s an explosion of new foil models that are conjuring their magic behind the kite or in the waves under surfboards, stand-up paddle boards and windsurfing and wake surfing boards. Last season the Kitesurfing Magazine test reported that the newest kite freeride foil models were the game-changers that offered very accessible access to learn to ride a foil. This year there are even better options to learn to foil with extra large, surf foil wings that can plane up early and are even more stable at slower progression speeds and in lighter winds. Whether you are behind a kite, or looking to expand your foil wave riding skills, there are plenty of exciting options available that can help develop your foil riding skills quickly.
The newest kite-specific freeride foils show significant performance enhancements with improved range, smoother carving and smooth and controlled handling at higher speeds. Many of the foil wings and fuselage set ups have improved hydrodynamics with better construction materials and smart modular options for tuning extra lift and efficiency. Most of the kite brands have adopted modular fuselage and mast connection systems that allow the rider to change the front and rear wings for different kite conditions or foil disciplines behind the kite or with an SUP or surfboard or even windsurfing set up. The surf foil wings run on shorter mast lengths of 55 to 75 centimeters. They use thick, large surface area front wings and in some cases surf-specific rear wings that are designed to generate lift and power while riding on moving swell and breaking waves. But the surf foils are kite compatible as well and can generate early lift and stay on foil at very low speeds. The surf foils require even less power to ride than their kite specific counterparts and further enhance the lower wind range of your kite quiver. The test team riders found the surf foils can make it easier for the beginner to learn the basics and they also have benefits for learning more advanced carving and transitional manoeuvres while getting pulled behind a kite. The surf foils have greater lift and cruising ability in light winds and they also allow the rider to cruise at slower speeds and can open the doors to foiling in waves and building more advanced, side-to-side, carving skills. Kiteboarding is the best way to develop foil riding skills that can be transferred into wave riding because you can practice the required carving and pumping skills before you try and paddle freely onto waves with a surf foil. Ultimately, the foil quivers are expanding and with today’s modular set ups, you can change up the wing configurations and customize foil performance for different styles of riding or wind and water conditions.
There were two kite specific models from last season that lead the way for progression, ease of use and accessible performance. The Slingshot Hoverglide with NF2 wing is essentially unchanged but its early planing and easy cruising set up can get you started and carry well into the advanced stages. The Cabrinha Double Agent is also back with some minor tweaks to its set up. This foil ride is still one of the easiest to carve and turn at really slow speeds. With its wide front wing and short fuselage it provides good early lift with tight radius turning that stays ultra stable and predictable for the less skilled.
Several brands have new, specific freeride foils that show advancements in performance, overall handling and efficiency. The North Speedster Combo, the Naish KS Thrust, the Airush Core V2 and Liquid Force’s Thruster all exemplify the next generation, kite-specific wings that offer the ultimate, in well-rounded performance and full speed kite foiling. These mid-aspect freeride wings let you cruise at moderate to fast speeds and run the best using a full length mast. They have stable and accessible lift and they can let the rider build skills for advanced cruising, jumping and manoeuvres. The North Speedster Combo Foil has some of the most well rounded performance for the beginner and beyond. With early lift and intuitive and stable tracking and carving, the Speedster Combo is a solid set up for the up and coming foil boarder. The North Speedster’s composite carbon construction on the fuselage and front and rear wings, has an optimal durability to performance ratio. The Airush Core Foil V2 also shows the benefits of redesign and evolution this year. The premium construction and distinctive shape of the Airush wings and the modular set up of the system make this a great choice for a broad range of skill levels and styles. The Core Foil V2 features full pre-preg carbon wings that are light and crisp and the ride remains silky smooth through carves and at higher speeds. The test team were most impressed by the larger Airush Freeride Surf wing which features a mid-sized front wing; a great crossover kite foil design. It offers easer carving at slower speeds and works well for carving waves in the surf or for learning with less speed and more lift. It has slightly less surface area and a thinner profile than some of the more surf specific wings from Naish and Slingshot, but the Freeride Surf has some better performance behind the kite at slightly higher speeds and can still be used on a full length mast. The Liquid Force Thrust is the kite specific wing that possessed the most refined performance. The Thrust foil has smooth and controlled lift at higher speed, and remarkable carving and control at slower speeds as well. Premium full carbon wings and optional carbon fuselage set the Liquid Force Thrust apart. Liquid Force also introduces the new Impulse Foil as their surf crossover kite wing. The Implulse Foil is slightly less bulky than some of the more dedicated surf foils and has a slightly better performance at higher speeds than the other larger surf wings. The Impulse ride is crisp and reactive in the turns and very smooth to pump up on a plane and carve around at slow speeds. The kite specific Naish KS Thrust Foil was the smoothest and most comfortable cruising foil at higher speeds. It feeds off a bit more power and drive than the North Speedster Combo or the LF Thruster. The Naish KS Thrust has some exclusive features on the tail wing, with a small dorsal fin on the top that helps it track and carve with added control. The Naish fuselage and tail wing attachment system makes it easy and quick to change the pitch of the wing by loosening the bolts and tilting the wing for more or less lift. Naish also offers a full modular system with three different mast lengths so progressing riders can work up to the full speed and long mast, foiling. In addition to the new kite specific shape, Naish has developed a Thrust Surf set up that works on the same mast and fuselage with a large front wing and surf specific rear wing. Developed in collaboration with the foil pioneering legend Kai Lenny, the Thrust Surf large is also great behind the kite with tons of early lift and easy cruising. The extra long fuselage enhances the ability to pump the foil on to a plane and to keep it driving through turns and transitions. It’s also a true surf set up and ready to be rigged to the bottom of your old surfboard or SUP. With long fuselage and downturned wings of the surf foil it’s important to be careful in shallower water that you don’t catch the back wing on the bottom with any back foot pressure, as the glass composited construction is far from indestructible. The Nash Thrust Surf comes in medium and large sizes for different weight classes or smaller and larger waves. The Thrust Surf wings are a must have if you’re interested in learning to carve up some waves or just want an easy cruising, slow riding surf foil to learn the ropes.
Slingshot has the most extensive number of foil set ups available with five different front wings that work in their completely modular Hoverglide system. The Slinghshot wings are made of a high density composite that makes them more robust than other brands’ wings and they are also easier to repair any dings. Their only drawback is the heavier weight. The Hoverglide NF2 is Slingshot’s high performance all around freeride kite wing and is still a top contender for its well-rounded and accessible performance that will get you well beyond the intermediate stages. Slinghshot also has an exciting number of new surf foils that work great behind the kite in lower wind and in rideable waves. The FS Surf with H2 wing has some of the biggest lift of any surf foils in the test and it cruises and gives you the extra glide at slower speeds for practicing transitions. Some of the test team riders that have been foiling for more than a full season on their full carbon race wings found they could learn more carving and transition footwork with this stable but manoeuvrable surf wing. The test team also experienced some great light wind sessions on the H4 wing. This ultra low aspect surf wing has dihedral shaping in both wingtips that give it tighter carving ability and enhanced pumping at tighter carving angles. It was designed for the more advanced foil surfer that’s looking to pull into the pocket of steeper and faster driving waves. The H4’s shaping gives it tighter turns down the line and off the lip. The Slingshot system is completely modular and all the wings work on the same fuselage and the rear wing is also the same for the kite and surf set up. You can also change the placement of the mast to the fuselage for different board riding applications. So if you have Hoverglide with a mid-sized mast from last year it makes it easy to get a new front surf wing and transform your set up from kite specific to surf, SUP or wake compatible foiling.
With all these great equipment options there has never been a better time to become a foil boarder. There’s more to do and more to learn on a foil than ever before and the equipment is here to help push your riding experience to the next level. Look to the next generation of kite specific freeride foils for more control at higher speeds and better tracking and carving performance. If your foil riding skills have stalled with your faster driving, kite specific foil, or if you’re ready to build your wave riding skills, the surf foil is an essential addition to an emerging foil quiver and the modular set ups from all the top brands allow customized performance for every condition, style and skill set.