Foils #2 – a 2018 snapshot of windfoiling and where it’s at currently

June 8th, 2018

Pics: James Jagger

We’ve talked about foils and windfoiling before yet with the topic still hot we thought we’d revisit and see where we’re at now compared to this time last year. As with our first windfoiling article we’re speaking with Windsurfing UK magazine’s Tez Plavenieks who’s been testing a raft of different foil gear during these past months.

How are foils different to 12 months ago?

We’re now onto third generation foils with some companies – particularly those brands involved from the start. The French, in partic, are surging ahead with their products. As such foils are now much more user friendly than previous. It’s like night and day. Also foil prices are more affordable – especially foils manufactured from alternative materials. Carbon is still around and these foils are considered the pinnacle in terms of performance. Riders now, however, have the option of purchasing foils made from alloy and G10 wings for instance – this type doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

Is foiling still tricky to learn?

As with everything new there’s a period of trial and error and crashes are still going to happen, in the beginning. That said there’s now much more info and knowledge around windfoiling. We now know what height booms should be set at, what sail sizes to rig and loads more about technique. This alleviates many of the tribulations those of us were finding a year (and more) ago. Progress is rapid. Some companies are also adopting technologies and new ways of thinking to combat problems such as over foiling (when the front wing lifts too much, pops out of the water and riders lose all power resulting in big crashes) which is what newbie/progressing foilers will battle with.

4.7 Karma foil jump shot

So where do you think foiling fits as far as everyman windsurfers go?

There’re definitely two camps as far as foil thinking goes. On one side you have the performance crowd who are looking to fly in as light a wind as possible and/or go as fast as they can. You then have the freeride orientated foiler who wants to get going in light winds also, but not necessarily using big rigs and isn’t concerned about warp speed. It’s the latter I subscribe to personally. I’m all for getting on the water as soon as there’s breeze of any kind but I’d rather be doing this on 7m or less. Foiling on 10m sails has zero appeal for me. Elsewhere in the world there are a very tiny few that are attempting tricks and such while foiling. I’m not sure whether this will catch on as when it goes pear shaped it REALLY goes wrong! (Or potentially could). That said respect to those doing this, it looks awesome.

And what about sails for foiling? Do you need specialist equipment?

Anything that has balance, low end power yet can be throttled back once flying works for windfoiling. We’re now seeing a few interesting designs coming out specifically aimed at foiling. I still enjoy using Witchcraft’s Karma 5.3m and 4.7m for foiling as they offer all of the above and seem to suit my weight, foiling location and how I ride. They also have a great range so covers me from around 12 knots to 20 (ish). And let’s not forget how tough and hard wearing all WC sails are. Thanks again to Bouke for loaning them for use when testing kit.

Karma windfoil cruising 4.7m

But just to clarify: you don’t need specialist equipment for windfoiling. It’s easy to think, when looking at images/vids of those sailors pushing the limits (usually sponsored), that racing on big sails is where it’s at. It isn’t. Increasing your standard quiver’s wind range is the point of foiling for the masses.

Any thoughts on the future of windfoiling?

It’s a hard one to call. Many brands are putting lots of time, effort and money into developing their range of foiling products. Some companies, however, aren’t yet convinced. It’s a lot of outlay to begin with for not loads of return as numbers of foilers are still low when compared to conventional windsurfing. That said I’m seeing a few more peeps getting a taste for flying in my area which if reflective of global trends suggests there’s a trickle of enthusiasts ready and willing to get involved. 2018 may see an even bigger influx of flyers, when we assess at the end of the year – especially if access to affordable equipment becomes more readily available. I know John Blackwell (UK Witchcraft importer and foil aficionado) is pushing it in his neighbourhood by giving those interested access to demo kit. Some other retailers and importers have equipment to try but it’s not always obvious how punters can get their mitts on these toys. I’m sure this will be addressed at the many demos that happen throughout the summer. Maybe it’ll become the main thing freeriders do in years to come. Only time will tell.