Riding a hydrofoil board or foil has emerged as one of the industry’s fastest growing new disciplines. One of the greatest things about kiteboarding is its ability to adapt to new styles of riding. In the kite film, Chapter One, pro kiteboarder, Susi Mai put it best when she said, “even when you feel like you’ve done a lot of one thing you can then break into something completely new, and it changes the game completely.” All the top brands have newly designed freeride foil boards that have the performance to change your game. These freeride foil boards have performance that will get you into this discipline and are built for the intermediate to advanced level riders that are not interested in racing and speed, but want a board with optimum low end lift, efficiency and turning performance at more moderate speeds. They enable the rider to develop skills for a focus on carving, easy lift and more user friendly handling over straight line speed. The foil board discipline is exciting for many reasons. For one, it massively extends the wind range that you can reliably kite without the need of a jumbo, 15 to 19 meter, kite. Ultimately, once you’ve learned to adequately ride upwind and down wind on your foil board, the days of slogging around and ‘mowing the lawn’ back and forth are over forever. The foil board can direct and generate the extra power to boost jumps, carve beautiful powered transitions and get upwind at angles never thought possible, even in favorable wind conditions. The time to learn is now and the gear to do it is here.
The hydrofoil board models tested by the Kitesurfing Magazine Team are some of the newest designs from the top kiteboarding brands. All of these hydrofoils are made for freeride cruising at more moderate speeds compared to the race hydrofoils they evolved from. Their shape gives them good stability with efficient lift and drive in light winds. All of the foil models we tested will work very well for getting the beginner into foil boarding, but each of them also have different performance traits driven by their different shapes and design characteristics. The wings and masts all vary in shape, length and size which can determine how the different models feel and work. Some of the design factors that determine the riding feel of each foil include the length of the mast and fuselage, the shape and aspect ratio of the foil and the materials used in the various foil components.
The most obvious and visually dramatic differences in the hydrofoils tested is the different mast length. Having a shorter mast is good for shallow water riding and for learning to foil without less power, sensitivity and crash consequences of a full length mast. To help in the progression of the skills needed to stay up and foiling, several of the models offer the option of using a shorter length mast. Using a shorter length is a great way to get used to the feeling and steering of the hydrofoil beneath you and they allow the rider to easily touch down off the foil and then re-engage without bailing off the deck. This touch and go technique to learning is a safe way to develop foil riding skills. The Slingshot Hover Glide, Liquid Force Happy Foil and the Naish Hover Foil all have shorter mast length options available. The short mast is also beneficial if you are foiling in areas with shallow water or sand bars as full length masts require water depth of about five feet to safely ride.
The wider, short and rounder front wing shapes like the Cabrinha Double Agent and the Naish Hover offer extra lift and power at slower speeds and require less power and lift from your kite to get up and stay up on the foil. They are ideal for the initial stages of learning with their low foil speed and extra stability with less power and pull in the kite needed to keep them up. These two models are all about fun, carving and cruising and getting into foil experience without the hassle of too much speed. The Naish Hover was one of the easiest to get up on a foil in the lowest wind threshold. The full length mast and the larger and wider surface area of the wings on this set up gives this foil a ton of lift and lets you cruise and practice carving transitions at lower speeds. The Double Agent was also very efficient but with a more compact and lively feel. The Double Agent had the shortest fuselage length of the test, and was one of tightest turning foils of the group at low speeds. The compact design of both the top deck and the foil make the Double Agent a freeride weapon for jumping and carving tight turns through easy and fluid transitions.
The other four hydrofoils have a more moderate aspect ratio front wing shape. These include the F-One Freeride 90, the Slinghshot Hoverglide, the LF Happy Foil and Airush Core Foil. The most performance driven of the group were the Airush Core Foil and the Liquid Force’s Happy Foil, with both pushing past an aspect ratio of over four to one. Both the Happy Foil and Core Foil were most comfortable at higher speeds, with a toss up between the Core being the smoothest at maximum velocity of the group in a straight line and the Happy Foil the easiest for edge to edge carving at higher speeds. Spanning the bridge between learning the basics and pushing into higher level riding is the Slingshot Hoverglide. This foil is all about skill development through every stage. It’s available with three different mast sizes to cover the full range of learning to foil. The front wing of the Hoverglide is wider through the center but tapers to thinner wing tips which gives it a good balance of speed and stability. The Hoverglide had one of the most durable set ups with solid composite wings and aluminum mast but its weight is also a bit heavier. The F-One Freeride 90 has a hybrid construction set up, with full carbon wings and fuselage connected to its aluminum mast. The wings and fuselage also assemble using a single bolt, which makes for quick and easiest set ups. The Freeride 90 was also one of the lightest of the group. Its ride and lift was one of the most refined with smooth drive and comfortable carving.
Another less technical but equally important aspect of these foil boards is the deck that they are mounted to. They are all built with different construction and their shapes offer different advantages and drawbacks. In the individual reviews we’ve broken out the tests to cover both the top deck and the foil. So take a read and make this your season to get into foil boarding. All of these models will let you experience the challenge and excitement of this newest kite discipline. Learning to foil will not only save your sessions but open the door to a new realm of kiteboarding experience.