by Jeremie Tronet
Foiling is on everybody’s mind lately, you have the riders who tried it and can’t stop thinking about it and the ones who didn’t try yet and wonder if it is as fun as it looks.
Using a foil is not just an amazing tool for racers, hydrofoils come with complete new sensations, goals and excitements.
With North Kiteboarding introducing the Foil Ltd I finally got the chance to give it a try and understand more clearly this new kind of flying addiction that is rapidly spreading among Kiteboarders.
DisclaimerI have tried one other foil before which had a more traditional shape.I have very little experience in foiling and wouldn’t be able to compare characteristics between brands and foil types. I am sponsored by North Kiteboarding but would never praise a product if I didn’t believe in it.
The North Kiteboarding Foil Ltd has a different shape than the regular foil that you can see out there which intrigued many people.
Performance wise it didn’t feel different than the regular shape foil while riding it (at my humble beginner foil level).
The two advantages that I have noticed with the North Kiteboarding foil Ltd were the added stability and the fact that there are no rough edges to hit when you wipe out which is a very good addition if you want to get into foiling.
After spending a couple weeks playing like a kid on my new North Kiteboarding Foil I have tried to retrace the 8 different stages that might go to your mind before giving it a try.
1- The Admiration
Have you ever seen something you had to stop for a few seconds to make sure you saw right and you were not dreaming ? Then you had to actually take a few seconds to realize what was going on.
That’s what seeing someone riding a foil, flying over the water will do to you, like the first time you saw Kitesurfing.
You are not spoilt by the sight of hundreds of Kitesurfers on the water anymore, you are in awe of this new “sport” all over again.
You sit there and watch that person riding back and forth and start wondering, dreaming and slowly drifting to the second stage: The Envy
2- The Envy
Like the first time you saw someone kitesurfing, you knew you wanted to try it out and do it, Foiling will certainly have the same effect on you. Seeing what can be done and hearing about the silent flight sensations are too good not to give it a try.
Some will be a little more compulsive and will buy a hydrofoil right away while others might deviate to the “questioning” stage.
You start making out the basic physics involved into foiling, in a few words you wonder how does that thing work, is it easy, is it hard ?
Would I be able to do it, Am I a good enough kiteboarder to try foiling and have fun like the other riders ?
To help you go through the wondering stage a little faster, I can tell you that if you are a confident kiteboarder with a good kite control, Hydrofoiling is definitely accessible to you and shouldn’t let yourself be dragged for too long on to the doubting stage.
Before trying on a foil board for the first time you might doubt yourself, the old “good windsurfer syndrome”, if you are a good kiteboarder and some of your buddies are already up and riding on their foil and you do not want to look ridiculous or pass for a beginner all over again.
This happened to a lot of windsurfers who had a good level and didn’t want to become beginners all over again and start kitesurfing …
Even worse, what if I can’t do it, or maybe what if I can go and stand up and ride on the foil at my first try? This last thought will be very helpful to get you the stage of confidence.
You are a Kiteboarder, pro or intermediate, you can kite well, you have a good kite control, how hard could it be, foiling seems almost like using a regular surfboard, so you set up your kite and decide to give it a go, drag the board under your arm, kite in the air feeling super excited and impatient as a kid before Xmas.
Whether you got the latest high end North Kiteboarding Foil Ltd or borrowed a friends board, you’ve decided that you will no longer be the guy on the beach while others are riding in 8 knots of wind but the guy people watch in admiration and envy !
6- The Frustration
As you will try your first water start, you might go through 30min to one hour of struggles or more to finally get going.
Because yes, using a foil is something completely new and will require that your legs forget some of their old muscle memories acquired by kitesurfing.
Even though you read all these instructions, once you have your feet on the board and send the kite to start, your instincts automatically kick in and you start forgetting everything you read.
Having someone to give you the right advice and correct your mistakes will save you a lot of time.
You might feel like a complete beginner for a little bit but once you finally get up on the board, get the foil rising and experience your first foil wipe out you will definitely feel like a cowboy at a rodeo show riding some angry bull.
But after a few tries and the frustration aside, take a deep breath and focus on all these advice you saw online, relax your legs and start shifting your weight more forward on the board.
Start riding the board flat with the foil still under water, as you will gain speed the board will slowly rise up and that’s when you will experience slow levitation, the amazing feeling of flying over the water in total silence.
7- The Addiction
That is it, the foil gave you its first free sample of what it feels to fly over the water, you are amazed on how fast you can go and how far upwind the foil will take you. Experiencing it gives it another dimension, you are like Marty in Back to the Future riding the hover board, or Aladdin on his magic carpet.
You are in love with that sensation, it feels great, and you don’t want it to stop.
Using a hydrofoil board opens you to many possibilities and new goals like finally getting to jibe without putting the board back on the water, riding toe side, etc. Everything that seemed so simple as a kiteboarder become your next goals and feeds your addiction.
8- The Love
As a kiteboarder for 15 years I didn’t get the same thrill as during my first few years of kitesurfing, you loose a little bit of how stoked you get when you go kiteboarding, you miss that new feeling, that spark between you and the sport and it slowly becomes like an old married couple loosing the passion.
Foiling brings that back instantly, you start dreaming of foiling, you still feel the sensation in your legs when you are walking after a long foil session, that gut feeling of flying can be brought back just by thinking about it, it brought back the spark and the passion and you will be ready for 15 more years of happiness.
It will also reconcile you with using your regular kitesurfing boards and might push you to try out other aspects of the sports ( boots, sliders, strapless freestyle, racing, waves, etc ..)
My simple advice:
1- If you have the budget for it, go for the North kiteboarding foil Ltd, it is the one I learnt on and keep on using every day and love it more at every session.
2- While waiting for your next foil, practice riding a strapless board if you have never done it before.
3- I would recommend using the foil strapless to avoid any knee or ankle injuries.( no straps make it a little harder to position the feet on the board)
A lot of people are using the foils with only one front strap or both straps which are also ok, but for my personal experience I loved the feeling of being able to jump away from the board if needed and not getting locked in the foot straps when the foil dives down.
4 – Put pressure on your front leg as you start and while you ride … You didn’t read that enough, you better off nose diving than having the foil jump up.
Do not only “push” with your front leg, but shift your hips and weight toward the front of the board and do not hesitate to shift your front foot even further forward to control the foil better if you are riding strapless.
5- Put pressure on your toes, you do not want to be edging with your heels too much, you want to try to keep your board flat and try to imagine the shape of your foil underwater (thanks yo my friend Alex Caizergues for the advice) it will make more sense of how and why you are doing it.
6- Do not try to hydrofoil for the first time with very light wind conditions, wait for enough wind to keep your kite stable in the air, but do not go too powered, if you would be able to ride comfortably on a 12m go on your 10m or 9m. I personally use my 8m North Kiteboarding Evo during more of my Kite Hydrofoil sessions.
I hope this advice and article will make you want to try out Kite Foiling and experience this great feeling of flying by being part of the wind.
Jeremie Tronet runs the JT Pro Center in St. Vincent and the grenadines. He is sponsored by North Kiteboarding.