Last year I started wing surfing. And I loved it! Renting a board turned out to be expensive, so I decided I want to buy one. Even though the sport is pretty new there are lots of brands entering the market with a range of models. So, how to pick the right board? I did some testing myself. Furthermore, I did online research. And, of course, I interviewed instructors and shops for inside info. So, What is the best board for wing surfing?
How to pick the best board for wing surfing? Picking the best wing surf board is done in four steps. 1. Make a realistic estimate of your current and near future wing surf level. 2. Determine your budget. 3. Translate your level to the specifications for potential boards. 4. Find the best deal (online). This blog provides you with detailed, bite sized chucks of info to make these steps much easier.
Many wing surfers buy a board based on previous riding experiences or familiarity with a certain brand. There is actually a lot to choosing the right board and foil. Picking a board and foil that match your needs can really improve your wing surfing.
4 Steps To Pick The Right Wing Surfing Board For You
Step 1. Make a realistic estimate of your current and near future wing surf level.
Here are 10 questions based on the first lessons I took. Just answer them with ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.
- Do you know how to set up a wing?
- Do you have basic wing control on a board?
- Can you wing surf for 100meters there and back on a SUP board, tacking or jibing halfway?
- Do you have basic weather forecast knowledge?
- Do you have basic theory knowledge (courses to sail, names of all wing surf gear parts, etc.)?
- Can you set up and foil and attach it to your board correctly?
- Are you a master of basic board and wing handling? In other words: Can you carry them to the water safely?
- Have you had the first 10 meters of hovering or gliding on the foil?
- Have you been able to wing surf on a board with a foil for 100 meters and back?
- Could you jibe and tack while hydrofoil wing surfing at least 100 meters and back?
- Have you wing surfed with windspeeds exceeding 17 knots?
If you have answered the first 8 questions with at least one ‘No’.
Having a few lessons before deciding what to buy is probably a good idea. I say this because in my experience it’s possible to make huge improvements during a few lessons. Why save money on lessons (including renting gear that matches your improving skills) by buying a board? If that board will longer fit your needs after a few practice runs?
If you have only answered the all the first 8 questions with ‘Yes’.
You can start learning wings surfing by yourself now. If you are able to have a few sessions the next weeks your learning curve might be steep. Maybe YouTube video’s or helping friends can be of much value for your learning. A beginner board with a beginner foil attached to it are probably your new best mates.
Board volume is still very important for buoyancy during all the attempts to get take off. But what is the best volume to start learning wing surfing?
I interviewed several experts like instructors and experienced wing surfers. They all agreed on this formula to calculate the best volume for a wing surfboard for beginners.
“Body weight in kg + at least 30Liters” = is a good volume for beginner wing surfers.
Personally, I used my body weight in kg + 60 liters of volume during the first hours of practice. I really benefited from the extra volume. The extra buoyancy made the board feel more stable. That really helped me when climbing back on it and starting again. And again, and again 😉
If you have answered all the first 9, or more questions with ‘Yes’.
You are reaching the point where board volume no longer only benefits you. The buoyancy is nice, but you probably can do with a little less of it over time. The extra volume can start to make the board feel a bit bulky during maneuvers you try. So, let’s see what board volume fits your needs best now.
The easier the taking off becomes, the less extra volume your board needs. Body weight + 20-40L can be the right volume now. Personally, I’ve been surprised by the effect of using a board that has ‘only’ 10% less volume. Testing a board with less volume before buying is wise.
Keep in mind that if you buy a board that is designed for more experienced wing surfers, the included foil might be more advanced too. So, if you get even better ad hydrofoil wing surfing, decide if you only buy a new board. And use it with the foil you are familiar with before you also switch foils. Or switch both board and foil at the same time.
What board do instructors and shops advise for wing surfers with some experience?
For my research I called my instructor, and an independent shop as a double check. The instructor advised a board volume of 20-40L added to my body weight. ‘+40L’ because winter starts here now. A little extra volume would safe me some cold swimming. ‘+20L’ would be an option if I wanted to use the board for a longer time.
The wing surf shop I called, advised a ‘body weight +20L volume’. He emphasized that, compared to a windsurfboard a 100L foil board is more stable, due to the more compact shape. ‘You also stand more in the middle of the board. And the foil gives some extra stability, even on sub take-off speeds’, he said.
Step 2. Determine your budget.
Wing surfing is a gear sport. And gear costs money. Often, better gear costs more money. For example, as a windsurfer, I’m used to pay 20% more for the same board in a full carbon version. In this case, more money buys a board that is more stiff and lighter.
Wing surf boards are offered by various brands in different qualities. Online I have found offers of a single board for about $1600. For that amount of money other brands, like Gong Galaxy, offer a complete beginner set. So, I think determining a budget can be very wise before you start shopping.
Keep in mind that you need all the toys together, to be able to wing surf. A top of the market board, with a foil that doesn’t match your needs could be outperformed by a great matching set of to economic priced medium range pieces of gear. You also need a wing. And they can cost anywhere between about $700-1800 / €611-1600*. That will consume a significant part of your budget too.
For your convenience I have a detailed gear list in my blog: What Is Wing Surfing? New Sport Explained Plus Starter Tips.
What do professionals say about a budget for a wing surf set?
I called a few shops with my wish list. They all told me that, for a board, foil and wing, a budget about €3000/$3420 budget was realistic. Buying used gear (at the end of the season) is an option, so I was told. Then a €2000/$2280 budget was a realistic bottom line. Keep in mind, I was advised, to buy gear that matches the other parts. Gathering parts like a foil, mast and fuselage together from different brands is not a recipe for a great ride.
Step 3. Translate your level to the specifications for potential boards.
Your level is determined and a budget has been set. Now it’s time to translate this in to a board feature wish list. Here is a list of things to consider:
- Board volume & type
- Type of foil & foil surface
- Hard board / Inflatable board
- Type of Wing & Size.
|Level||Recommended volume = “body weight (kg)” +|
|Beginner:||30 or more Liters|
|Beginner able to glide and tack/jibe:||+15 to 30L”|
|Advanced wing surfer:||-20 to +30L”|
For the advanced wing surfer conditions and wing surf preferences matter more for the choice of volume. Also, the type of foil and wing maters.
For example, a very speed-oriented set has a foil that generates less lift. That could make an experienced wing surfer, who starts speed wing surfing want a little more volume for example.
Wing surfing boards might look the same at a first glance but they are not. First of all, you can decide whether you want a dedicated hydrofoil wing board or a cross over. Types you can choose from are, for example:
- Dedicated hydrofoil wing surf board
- Wings surf / SUP board
- Wing surf / windsurf board
- Wind surf / SUP / Wing (no hydrofoil!)
Crossover boards like a Wings Surf / SUP board (little side step from the main topic)
I tested wing surfing on a SUP board. It was very nice to learn the basics but I soon felt I wanted that foil for the real deal.
I also tested a foil on a windsurf board with a regular sail. That I found felt a bit less intuitive for me, though I have spent hundreds of windsurf sessions on a regular board.
Of course, for kids a SUP can be great and a small wing can be nice for them to have fun. Maybe you have no experience with boards on water or sail and wings. Or you find the 3D aspect of the foil a bit too much of a challenge for now. Then a wing foil on a SUP can be a great way to enjoy wind-water sports.
Dedicated hydrofoil wing surf boards
For this blog I focus on the dedicated hydrofoil wing surf boards. I started asking questions to professionals and a few board owners at the beach. To complete the information, I added a Google search. My conclusion is that the first big distinction to make, is between inflatable boards and hard boards.
Differences between a hard wing surfboard and an inflatable wing surf board.
As mentioned, some brands offer inflatable boards. I tested the F-One Rocket Air (140L). The stiffness was impressive. And the low weight was nice. Because they take up less space while deflated and traveling and they are roughly 30% cheaper, I consider them a serious alternative.
While interviewing a few experienced wing surfers I learned that inflatable boards have a possible downside. It’s harder to produce them in a specific shape. So, a compromise might be made on their scoop rocker line, or other features that influence they restarting ability.
What do professionals say about the difference between inflatable and hard board wing surf boards?
To be deciding on the best info I could get I finally asked an owner of a wing surf school about his experience with inflatable and hard board wing surfers. He was very clear: “Hard boards have a better performance. Inflatable boards are more economic priced but they wear faster.“
Inflatable beginner board versus hardboard according to manufacturers.
I believe inflatable boards have entered the marked to stay. Searching a few manufacturers websites, I saw they all claim good performance and stiffness. Some, like Fanatic, describe the use of improved versions of their technologies that further increase stiffness. In my blog about boards you can read more about performance of inflatable boards. I tested a few and I was impressed by the stiffness. Nevertheless, I still feel that a rigid board, especially a carbon version is still a lot stiffer.
Manufacturers also claim improving the outlines of inflatable boards. As I write this article, hard boards still have more distinct outline features. On the other hand, as you get better at riding the foil, maybe the specific outline of the boards becomes less relevant compared to weight advantages and such. Personally, I loved the F-One Rocket Air 140L during my first stints. But I must admit that I also felt that the hard boards I surfed on, outperformed the inflatable boards.
Type of foil:
There are many types of foils. Not only the foil itself, also the fuselage, the stabilizer wing and the mast have a huge impact on the performance.
My testing experience with a foil on a beginner board is, that the where perfectly matched in the manufactures set up. No need for changes here. The only thing to be aware of is the foil surface size. A Google search showed that, even if the foil and wing are offered in a pack, one can choose a foil size. Depending on your body weight, you are advised to take the foil with the smaller or larger surface.
In case you want to start experimenting with foil set ups you need a fuselage that enables angle modification. This requires angle spacers to change the angle at which the stabilizer is attached. I believe that if you are looking to buy your first hydrofoil wing surf board. This can be left out of the specifications list.
How to finetune the hydrofoil setup?
As a windsurfer I have tested many fin-board-sail combinations. Starting with an original setup, and then changing one thing at a time worked best. I think the same goes for hydro foil setup changes. As a beginner I don’t go there yet, since I believe my wing surfing will improve more by just practicing more. Until I get much better at it, I leave the setup as the manufacturer delivered it. They seem to know what they are doing really well.
Step 4. Find the best deal (online).
After all the research I did, I conclude it is impossible to declare one board ‘best beginner hydrofoil wing surf board’. It depends on your personal preferences, your weight and your budget. Once you have decided what you want and what your budget is finding the best deal is the final step. I tested these options:
Calling / Visiting shops to buy a wing surf board and hydro foil.
Calling, or even better visiting, a few shops is wise. Seeing and feeling the boards and foils really helped me to get a better impression of them than just seeing online pictures. Some offer the option to test gear or rent it. That is the best way to experience how a board works for you. Make sure you test in conditions comparable to the ones you will be sailing in.
When calling shops, I got pretty comparable advises about board size and foil surface size. Calling more than one shop, to get a broader picture and to double check, is worth the effort.
Consumer to consumer shopping websites to buy a wing surf board and hydro foil.
Consumer shopping sites, like E-bay, might get you a good deal. I called a shop that offered second hand wings from their rental online. They were sold out quick! That’s what I heard from everyone I asked about C2C or B2C shopping site experiences. So, it might pay of to check a few sites regularly with your wish list in hand. When buying second hand wing surf gear I really want to check it for repairs and damages.
Online shops for buying a wing surf board and foil.
It occurred to me that wing surf brands differ in their sales strategies. Some, like Gong-Galaxy, sell their kit direct to consumers via their website. Other, like Ensis, have a store locator that helps you find a store to buy from.
My experience with buying online surf gear in Europe is very good. All the stuff was delivered undamaged and in time. Calling a shop before buying even got me a quantity discount once 😊. Online shopping has the downside of not being able to test stuff. I only buy things I tested online.