The last couple of years, I have found myself standing at the beach instead of planing on the water more than I liked. I have tried kitesurfing. It feels great. But after a few hard crashes I decided to quit. Then, on a 13 knots day, I saw these ‘strange’ new things flying over the water. It looked like the guys where holding a kite in their hands while flying over the water. It seemed so easy and mellow. I had to know everything about that! I found out it was Hydrofoil Wing Surfing, and I started learning. Now I can have fun with a little over 10knots of wind.. Here is what I have learned, and how.
Why should I learn wing surfing? Wing surfing is a great new sport that combines the best parts of windsurfing, kitesurfing and hydrofoiling. When wing surfing one needs less wind to have fun compared to windsurfing. Because the wing is handheld it felt much safer to me than being attached to a big kite. Because of the foil far less power is needed to ga fast. The foil also adds the 3D element to the experience which was very playful and gives mellow rides.
I combine my own experience with expert interviews at the beach and a google search for this blog.
First steps to learn hydro foil wing surfing
The first thing I learned when talking to hydrofoil wing surfers was that they had far more day’s that where sailable. This in comparison to when they were only windsurfing. A lot of guys love to rip it up in the waves with a 4.7m2 sail on 80Liters board. But when winds are light, they don’t bother to carry their 140+ liter board with a 7m2 sail to the water anymore. It’s just too much kit and too much travelling for just not enough fun. Maybe you recognize the feeling…
All of that changes when the hydrofoil and the wing come in to play. With a hydrofoil and a 5m2 wing it’s possible to have the great fun with winds from about 10 knots. Depending on your weight and skill of course.
All of this motivated me to learn hydrofoil wing surfing and decide if this was my new hobby.
Just to give you an indication I have inserted a link to the DuoTone website where they show their ‘one for all’ wing: the Slick (access to link Duotonesports.com on new webpage). The table shows that the 5.0m2 edition has a recommended wind range of 10-25knots. I have found comparable indications on other brands websites.
No more sitting on the beach waiting for wind
So, I took a private lesson. First I tried to save a little cash by joining a group of pupils. The instructor told me a private lesson would be much more effective for me. Because I had a lot of windsurfing experience combined with a little hydrofoil practice, I could learn much faster. Or so he thought. After a 2 hour lesson I can only agree.
I learned that most pupils that have little to none experience, use a big 240 liter SUP board during the first full 2 hours. If you have windsurfing, kite surfing or hydrofoil experience you might get up and go with the hydrofoil and the wing faster. I got to switch from the SUP to a real hydrofoil wing board after 50 minutes. Although it was very useful to start on the SUP, the real fun started now!*
By the way. The board had a big beginner hydrofoil attached to it and it had a 140L volume. That felt pretty small in the beginning. But once I got a little forward momentum the foil started working and everything felt more stable. Getting up to a standing position took a few attempts but I got to glide over the water a few meters in the end.
Free lesson for wing foil curious windsurfers
While learning a very interesting difference between windsurfing and hydrofoil wing surfing occurred to me. When hydrofoil wing surfing one can use the gusts to get up to speed and hover. Once gliding on your foil, light winds are enough to stay hovering. While windsurfing, of course you can use the gusts to get planning, but you need more wind to keep planning. This is because the hydrodynamic resistance doesn’t drop as much as when using a hydrofoil. So with a little practice the hydrofoil has an incredible low demand for wind to generate a lot of fun. I was certainly impressed. Therefore I wanted to learn much more so I could go Hydrofoil Wing surfing on my own.
Next steps to become a hydrofoil wing surfer
Now that I knew I liked it, I wanted more. But what is the best way to go? More lessons? Buying kit and practicing myself? Renting stuff and then buy something later?
Here, I found out, a few variables come in.
Money is one of them. If I had unlimited resources I think my choice was made. I would just take more lessons on the 140L board. Gradually reducing the board volume as I would get better.
Cost of buying hydrofoil wing surfing kit
A new set of a board, hydrofoil and wing can be bought online at prices from around €1400/$1646**. That is the most economic offer from an established watersport brand I found. This amount is roughly the price of 10 lessons. A guy I talked too told me owned one of these boards. He said that these boards are OK but not top quality. Other brands, so he told me, are more expensive but offer better quality. You will have to find out for yourself how you think of the price/quality ratio.
Cost of hydrofoil wing surfing lessons
My lessons cost €150/ +/-$176** each. That included gear and a 2 hour privet lesson. For your convenience I supply a little extra info. During the lesson I had my own wetsuit, shoes and helmet. An old wetsuit I still had in very handy. Since the suit might get cut, especially at the shin area, a rental could be an option. The suit got cut at the shins because I hit the hydrofoil a few times while swimming next to the board to get up. Even while I really tried to avoid it, to prevent damage to the suit and cuts in my flesh.
My personal best strategy to learn hydrofoil wing surfing
In my case I want to find an optimum between spending money and learning fast. I have decided to take one or two more lessons. My goal is to hover over the water for more than 100 meters and to sail upwind, half wind an downwind. I can already turn around. Once I master this the next step will be buying my own kit so I can practice a lot more.
Right now I think I will buy a relatively cheap board. I might buy a premium brand wing though. Hoping to keep using it even if I get better.
The reason I choose this strategy comes from interviewing a few guys that already had more experience. Some bought a premium board of 140L. Some followed the strategy I described. Everybody, including my instructor told me to start with a board that has roughly 35-45 liter more than I weight in kilo’s. To start learning I therefore understand why they all bought a +/-140L board to start.
If one expects to learn fast the 140L might get bigger than needed soon. So it could be wise to safe a few bucks for the next board one buys, by buying a relative economic first ‘practice board’. Guys I interviewed bought their second board in a volume range that was about 0-10 liters above their weight in kilo’s. The choice of the second board is a little beyond the scope of this blog. I don’t have the expertise to say more about it. But just to explain my considerations I mentioned it.
So for now I just focus on getting my second lesson and in the meanwhile I search info on good 140L beginner hydrofoil boards.
How much does Hydrofoil Wing surfing cost? Hydrofoil Wing Surfing lessons are becoming more available. I have found offers for a 2 hour private lesson costing €150/ +/-$176**. This included gear, wetsuit, helmet and an instructor. Group lessons can be more economic. All pupils having the same entry level might make these lessons more efficient. I one buy’s a hydrofoil board and a wing online offers can be found starting from around €1400/$1646**
How long does it take to learn hydrofoil wing surfing? Of course the answer depends on a few variables. The pupils fitness level, experience with other water sports using a board or a sail etc. My experience is that, if you have experience windsurfing or kite surfing, a few private lessons can get you to master the basics. For me that included using the wing, entering the water safely, sailing upwind, downwind and half wind on a SUP. I got to hover on the wing for about 10 meters after my first 2 hour private lesson. If you have no experience at all, according to the instructor I asked, you might need 2 or 3 lessons to get to this point.
What is the best beginner foil for wing foiling? Beginners need a foil that provides a low takeoff speed, a stable ride at low speeds and easy turning. Various brands have entry level foils in their product range. Personally I had my first lesson on a 1800cm² main wing. It was the F-One Gravity FCT. The masts for beginner foils are around 70-85cm. Want to know far more about beginner foil choice? My dedicated article about foils and their parts can be very helpful.
*: The above thought me the importance of a good instructor to get on the hydrofoil board safe and fast. A few safety tips got me thinking. I mention them here because I like everybody to stay unharmed. Of course this is everybody’s own responsibility. It’s wise to learn about how to avoid to get hit by the hydrofoil during a crash. The blades are sharp and cut through my wetsuit in my shins. I don’t want to experience what happens if they hit somebody in the face. That’s why a helmet was obligatory during the lessons.
**: 27 aug 2021 the rate I found was €100/$118. This rate can change.