The last two years I saw an huge increase in wing surfers on my home spot. Wing surfing is a new sport that is rapidly gaining interest and practitioners. It looked so cool that I, as an experienced windsurfer, just had to try it. Here is what I learned.
What Is Wing Surfing? Wing surfing, or hydrofoil wing surfing, is a new sport that combines the best of windsurfing, kite surfing and hydrofoiling. The wing surfer uses a handheld wing to catch wind for forward propulsion. Because the board is equipped with a hydrofoil, it hovers over the water once take-off speed is reached. Thus the water resistance is far less compared to other board sports. This way the wing surfer only needs a fraction of the sail power to have a lot of fun.
Perhaps you, like me, too have wondered about wing surfing? Maybe you are a windsurfer or a kite surfer interested in low wind fun. Or maybe you just saw the wing surfers glide over the water so smoothly, you just want to know more. Wing surfing is great, but there is actually a lot to it. Finding the right gear, the right spot and the right lessons took me quite some research.
Wing Surfing Explained Step by Step
This blog covers a few need to knows for a fun, safe and quick start.
As you can see in the picture you will need a number of gear items to start the fun. Furthermore it’s important to learn the basics before you go out by yourself. And last but not least I will share my experience about the costs of wing surfing gear and lessons.
Wing Surfing Essential Gear List
The wing is essential to transform wind power in to forward speed. It is also used for steering. The wing requires to be inflated with an handheld pump. This can easily be done at the beach.
The board is needed for buoyancy. Once take-off speed is reached the board functions as the platform to stand on. The hydrofoil, that is attached under the board, provides upward force that makes the board hover over the water surface. I wrote a special blog on board choice for your convenience.
The hydrofoil is the gamechanger. The foil is a solid lifting surface that generates lift in water like an airplane wing generates lift in air. The foil generates lift in the water because it moves through it at an suitable angle. Therefore the hydrofoil for wing surfing, is attached to a fuselage that has a stabilizer foil at the back of it. This way the wing surfer can easier keep the foil at the right angle while moving it through the water.
Since the hydrofoil is shaped to create more lift than drag the water resistance that the wing surfer has to overcome is much lower than when wing surfing on a board. A surfboard, after all, has more hydrodynamic resistance and water displacement.
It seams such an insignificant gear item, but using a leash when (learning) wing surfing is wise. One leash can be used to make sure the surfer doesn’t loose the wing. A second leash can be used to avoid loosing the board. Both are needed to guarantee a safe return to the beach.
The wing and sometimes the board too need inflation before use. Since the recommended pressure is pretty high a pump is needed. Recommended pressures for wings are around 10PSI (source: NAISH WING Surfer Manual).
Maybe not essential if you wing surf in tropical conditions. But for most wing surfers a wetsuit is necessary at least part of the year to keep them warm. While learning the basics, the wetsuit helped me prevent a few nasty cuts in my shins. I still had a few bruises from connecting with the under water foil tough. Of course I have a blog on wetsuits.
You can question if they are necessary but to me they are. They provide grip on the board and keep your feet warm on colder days. I always where them, because I have stepped on just to many under water sharp object not to.
During lessons I took a helmet was mandatory. I always where one for safety.
Learning the basics before you go out on your own
I really doubted whether to just rent a wing surf set or to take a lesson first. After my first lesson I was only very glad I took it. Even though I’m an experienced windsurfer and windsurf instructor. I have to admit that wing surfing requires a few techniques that I hadn’t thought off.
Basics I learned during my first wing surf lesson
After dialing up a few wing surf schools I found an instructor who sounded like he just understood what I needed. He strongly recommended a private lesson. I hesitated because it was more expensive that a group lesson. His argument was that my (hydrofoil) windsurf experience would get me hovering on the foil faster. In a group lesson I would be waiting to much since unexperienced pupils would need more time. That convinced me.
According to my instructor pupils only use a SUP board without a hydrofoil during the first 2 hour lesson. He promised me I would be able to hover a few meters on the foil during lesson one. He proved to be right and I loved the experience. So, if you have experience windsurfing, kite surfing or even windfoiling, consider a private lesson.
This is what I learned during my first 2 hour lesson:
- How to set up the wing
- Basic wing control
- Wing supping (that is wing surfing on a SUP board without an hydrofoil)
- Basic Weather Forecast Knowledge
- Basic wing surf theory. (Like where to enter the water and what courses to sail)
- How to set up the foil
- Wing and board handling (and how to enter the water with the two of them)
- Non gliding (or floating), jibes and tacks.
- First meters of lift and glide
During the following lessons these subjects are on the menu:
- Steady 10 meter lift and glide (from this level on they renting the gear is possible with this school)
- Steady 100 meter riding both sides!
- Jibes and tacks while gliding.
What do wing surf lessons cost?
This can really differ in various places in the world. To use the Big Mac index.
- My private 2 hour lesson, including gear, costed 22,22 Big Mac’s.
- Lessons for 2 pupils at a time costed 14,80 Big Mac’s.
- Group lessons, that had one instructor on 4 pupils costed 11,85 Big Mac’s.
To learn more about the lessons and cost check my blog on the topic.
Do I Need Windsurf or Kitesurf Experience To Learn Hydrofoil Wing Surfing?
The quick and easy answer to this question is No. With the right lessons you can lean wing surfing without experience in other water sports. Wing surfing requires a basic level of fitness though. Please ask your local instructor about minimum fitness or age requirements.
What Does Wing Surfing Cost?
If you decide to buy your own kit you can visit a shop or buy online. The most price efficient gear set I found online costed around €1400 / $1624*. You can check it at the Gong Galaxy website (I earn NO commission here).
A guy I asked about this gear at the beach told me the value for money on his Gong Galaxy gear pack was good. Other, more expensive brands offer gear that might be of higher quality though. For your convenience I have a special blog about wing surf gear. If you want to now everything I learned during a in dept hydrofoil research, my blog on hydrofoils will tell all about it.
What Is a Good Place To Wing Surf?
Al wing surfers need a spot that provides water that is deep enough for the foil. The masts on hydrofoils for wing surfing are about 60 to 90 cm in length. So waters that are at least 120 cm deep are recommend. Also important is a safe entry and exit of the water. Checking if your safe entry is also a safe exit in waters that are under influence of tides is wise.
Depending on your level you might have more specific needs or wants. As a beginner I like water with only small waves and no current. I also like it when I can stand in the water, so I don’t have to swim every time I fall off the board. Once I got the hang of it, I wanted larger water surfaces because my speed increased. Larger waters are also nice to practice different courses. More experienced wing surfers might want waves so they can enjoy some wave riding.
Can I wing surf on a SUP board? Yes, Wing surfing can be done on a SUP board. I tried it during my first wing surf lesson, and it was great. If you have a SUP board that has extra fins, half way on the sides for example, that can help stay on course. I used a 240Liter inflatable F-One SUP. For your reference, that is a good match to start with if you weight between 60-90kg.
How Much Space Does Wing Surfing Require For Traveling? Wing surfing equipment requires far less space than windsurfing equipment for traveling. The wing is inflatable so when deflated it fits in a reasonable small backpack. The hydrofoil can be dissembled after use in pieces that fit in a quiver bag of less than 100 cm / 39.4 inch length. Boards come in various sizes but for those who want to there are inflatable boards. For example, the board I tested, a 6’6 board with 140 liters and a 5.8kg weight has a 193cmx76cmx12.7cm / 6’6×30”x5”, can be transported in a big rucksack once deflated.
*=The € / $ rate when writing this blog on 2021-11-09 was 1,16