words by Damien LeRoy
Have you ever dreamed of flying? The feeling of floating in the air with no noise, completely silent, and not a worry in the world? The wind rushing by your face as you average speeds of 20-to-30 knots? The ability to explore the ocean or island you’re staying on? Well let me tell you, this is the feeling of foiling.
Evolution always grows and takes new turns and new directions. Right now in the sport of kiteboarding the newest form of change is coming from hydrofoils. It’s exciting for all levels of riding, from beginner to professional. If you are the weekend rider looking for that lightwind answer, foiling is for you.
There are four big stages I see with foiling that are on the rise:
1. Beginner, lightwind
2. Avid rider looking for a new challenge
The foil gives a new rider the ability to ride in very light conditions. The foil is so efficient that smaller kites can be used which are lighter and more nimble. I’m not saying this is a very easy thing to master but I feel I have a good way to help people get the hang of it (coming up in Tips) There are now options: the 18 meter kite and a big twintip, or the hydrofoil and a 11 meter? Flying on top of the water or mowing the lawn? Questions you have to ask yourself.
You started on a twintip and have transitioned to a surfboard or are maybe even riding strapless. You’re a little pickier about wind conditions: you won’t go out when the wind is under 10 knots. You’re a perfect fit for a hydrofoil. Why? You need a new challenge. A new thrill. Foiling is the answer. I promise. The ability to enjoy lightwinds again. Jump? Yes, jump! Ride waves. There is nothing you cannot do with a foil that you can do with a twintip.
I was in France two years back, racing with the US Lynch/Black Dog Team with over 130 competitors. It was a distance race taking about 25 minutes. Race to a buoy, round it and come back. In the first race I started off well, sitting comfortably in the top three with my special slalom race board, with three 26 centimeter Meanline race fins, just waiting to make my move. I was battling with a foil guy right next to me, not worried, as I thought nothing of it. We rounded the buoy and when the angle changed a little, surprisingly he started to pull away from me. Sure enough another foil guy came up on my hip and passed me. As we hit the finish line I managed to hang on to a top 3 finish. This was my wakeup call. All the local riders ran to their cars and came back with foils. The horn sounded for the start of the second race. The start line was full of hydrofoils.
This was when I realized foils were the future of racing. As of right now they are the fastest things on a course. All the top racers are switching and falling in love with the speed and angles upwind and downwind.
This is the exciting part; the future is completely open. People are mounting the foil to skim boards, surfboards, SUP’s and riding waves. People are riding them strapless. They’ve hit speeds of over 30 knots. They’re riding huge waves and boosting on them. The future is endless.
Tips: So are you are ready to foil yet?
What board to get?
MHL Custom who make LIFT hydrofoils out of Puerto Rico have been building some of the most user-friendly foils for years. They can even finish them with a custom paint job. This is what I recommend. Some companies are driven more in the race side, making their foil a little tricky for the average rider, as well as a little fragile. Check out the Kitesurfing Magazine Foilboard Buyer’s Guide for a complete list of the latest entry-level foils.
What kite size?
If the winds are around nine knots or less I recommend an 11 meter-to-15 meter kite. Depending on your size. You can ride the big kites like 17 meter or 18 meter, but you have to be ready when you get up and you’ll be full-powered. On an average day with less than nin knots I fly my 11 meter Cabrinha Velocity. It’s an amazing combination. I weigh 145 pounds. You want a kite that has a big range. C kites or freestyle kites will make it a little harder to learn. It can be done no question, but will take a little more skill.
The key to learning the foil
OK, here are my secrets. If you add line extensions onto your bar, say, three or five meter extensions, it will give your kite a little more power as well as making the pull a little more gradual when you cycle it up and down. It slows everything down. This is a good thing when learning. The foil takes very little power to get up and go, so less is more. You don’t want to be powered. You want to be good just enough to fly the kite without thinking. Here is a big one: ride the board first before you get up and foil. Shift your weight forward on to the nose of the board or your front foot. Try to ride the board with the foil under water first keeping your weight forward. Trust me, it will be foiling underwater as well and will take you upwind. If you do this you will learn the feeling of it, then you can slowly shift your weight back and it will start to fly. You then can shift your weight forward again and put the board back down. It’s a good way to slowly learn this wonderful feeling. Keep your body in line with the shaft or the strut, that’s very important. Never bend forward or back! If you feel you are going to fall please fall. Don’t fight it. You won’t win.
Biggest advice is: just try not to move.
Have fun and I look forward to riding with you one day.
Originally from Vail, Colorado, Damien LeRoy now resides in Jupiter, Florida. Damien has won numerous national and international titles. In 2011 he was voted the AWSI kiteboarder of the year. He is sponsored by GoPro, Cabrinha, The Black Dog, Alex Aguera, Rista Fins, Costa Del Mar, Corner Five, Lynch Associates and Corner Five.