Of all the aquatic sports out there, wing foiling might just be the sport of the future 😎. Yep, it’s just as fun (if not more fun) as kitesurfing, wakeboarding, and even traditional surfing. But what is wing foiling, exactly?
In short, wing foiling is a hybrid between kiteboarding and surfing where you use a foil board (much like a wakeboard or kiteboard) and a wing (a foil-shaped kite). The board has hydrofoils attached to the bottom, which lifts the board out of the water as you move forward. The wing provides the power to get you up on the foil and keep you moving.
This article will give you a complete beginner’s guide to wing foiling; including what you need to get started and some tips for getting up on the foil.
Basic Winging Terminology
Before we dive in, let’s get some basic terminology out of the way.
- Foil Board: Also called a wing foil board, is the board you’ll be riding. It is similar to a wakeboard, kiteboard, or short bulky standup paddle board, but with hydrofoils attached to the bottom.
- Wing: The wing is a foil-shaped kite that provides the power to get you up on the foil and keep you moving.
- Hydrofoils: The hydrofoils are what lift the board out of the water. They’re attached to the bottom of the foil board and allow you to “fly” above the water’s surface.
- Wing Leash: The leash is a safety device that attaches your wing to your foil board. If you fall, the leash will release and keep you from being pulled underwater by the wing.
What You Need to Get Started
- First and foremost, you need a foil board and a wing. You can find both of these items at most kiteboarding or watersports shops.
- Next, you’ll need a harness, wetsuit, helmet, and impact vest.
- Lastly, you’ll need a leash to attach your wing to your board. This is a safety device that will keep you from being pulled underwater if you fall.
If you don’t have any of these items and aren’t sure where to look, check out our reviews on the best wing foiling packages to get started.
How to Wing Foil (8 Steps)
If you have a background in kitesurfing or windsurfing, you’ll find wing foiling fairly easy to pick up. If you’re new to wind sports in general, don’t worry – wing foiling is still easy to learn with a little bit of practice.
Here are a few quick steps to getting you on the board and winging:
1. Grab yourself a foil board and wing
Your first step will be to get fitted for a foil board and wing. This is important because you want to ensure you have the right equipment for your size and skill level.
A good kiteboarding or watersports shop can help you with this. They’ll usually have a few different foil boards and foil wings for you to try out, so you can find the perfect match.
Even if you plan to order your equipment online, it’s still a good idea to go to a shop and get fitted. This way, you can be sure you’re getting the right size equipment.
2. Add on beginner accessories
Once you’ve got your board and wing, it’s time to make sure you have some other gear accessories. While this gear isn’t required to wing foil, they are especially helpful for beginner’s learning the ropes. Double check that you have the following:
Many beginners often exhaust their shoulder and bicep muscles as they learn to wing foil. The pumping motion can be tiring as you learn the technique. One helpful accessory for beginners is a harness. By attaching a harness from your waist to the wing, it takes much of the load off your arms, allowing you to cruise and relax your arms much more.
Impact protection is a great for beginners learning to wing foil. By wearing an impact vest on the water, it can protect you from getting the wind knocked out of you if you hit the water or wing foil board at high speeds. Most impact vest even provide a bit of flotation if you fall off your board.
Another safety measure you can take is wearing a helmet. This isn’t something most wing foilers wear due to the fact you won’t typically be going speeds akin to being towed by a boat. However, it is something first-time wing foilers wear until they’re comfortable on the board.
Depending on the temperature and time of day, equipping yourself with a wetsuit it beneficial of beginners looking to spend more time on the water in cold, windy conditions.
3. Attach wing Wrist Leash & Practice on land
When starting out, practice flying the wing on land. There are a few key techniques to work on before heading out into the water.
- First, put that leash on your wrist.
- Second, grab the leading edge handle, point it upwind, and let your wing feather in the wind.
- Third, walk your hands back and hold both handles. Keep your arms extended to avoid fighting the wind.
- Fourth, practicing “punching the water” with your back hand. Think of it this way – your back hand steers the wing while your front hand stabilizes it. Punching the water is a way of re-stabilizing the wing if you feel it dipping out of control.
- Fifth, practice switching hands and adjusting hand positions until you feel comfortable with how the wing reacts to the wind.
- Sixth, practice powering and de-powering. To gain speed, you’ll want to pump your back arm toward yourself. This will help you get up onto the foil in the beginning. To slow down, extend both arms and point the leading edge upwind.
4. Find a body of water to continue practicing (ideally with no large waves).
If you’re new to foiling, it’s best to start in calm, flat water with no large waves. This will help you get used to the feeling of flying on the foil without having to worry about waves crashing into you. Plus, large waves can be dangerous for beginners and inexperienced swimmers.
Some good places to start foiling include:
- Flat rivers
- Ocean bays
- Calm beaches
It is also best to find water with cross-shore winds, which are blowing parallel to the shore. These light winds will help keep you up on the foil and make it easier to get going.
Offshore wind can be dangerous because they can blow you out to sea. Onshore wind can also be difficult because they can push you towards the shore and into shallow water, making it hard to get going. Once you’re comfortable foiling in flat water, you can move on to larger bodies of water with waves if you like.
5. Carry your equipment out to the water.
It’s time to attach the board’s leash to either your ankle or waist. The leash is a safety device that will keep you from being pulled underwater if you fall.
When carrying your equipment out to the water, be sure to keep your board and wing away from sharp objects. This includes rocks, shells, and coral. Also, be careful not to drop your equipment or hit it against anything – foil boards and foil wings are delicate and can be damaged if they’re hit too hard.
Carry the wing with its handle by placing the leading edge towards the wind to make its lift neutral and easy to carry. If you need to paddle out, flip your board over to even the board out and make it easier to paddle. If you are headed into waves, make sure that the board and the foil are never between you and the approaching waves.
6. get on the board
Once you’re in deep enough water, you can start getting up on the board. This takes balance and might be tricky at first, but you’ll get the hang of it with practice.
To start, hold the board in front of you with both hands and place your knees on top of the board. Kneel upright and grab the wing to stabilize yourself. Once you have your balance, slowly stand up.
7. Stabilize the wing
When you’re first starting out, it’s important to stabilize the wing. This will help you stay balanced and avoid falling. To do this, hold the wing in front of you and keep your arms straight. Then, slightly bend your knees and lean back so that your weight is evenly distributed between your feet and the wing.
Once you’re in the right position, let the wind fill the wing and keep it stable.
If the wind is too strong, you can move your hands closer to the center of the wing. This will help you keep control of the wing in stronger winds.
8. Start pumping!
Once you’re standing up and the wing is stable, you can begin pumping your arms to start wing foiling.
To do this, simply pump your back arm towards your body to generate power. This will create lift and help you get on foil. It will also propel you forward in the water so you can gain momentum.
You can also use the wind to help you by holding the wing up into the wind and then leaning back. This will catch more wind and help you get on foil more quickly.
Once you’re on foil, keep pumping your arms to maintain lift and speed. You can also use the wind to help you by angling the wing into the wind. As you get more comfortable foiling, you can start experimenting with different speeds and turns. Just remember that your body is always an extension of the foil mast.
Once you’ve conquered the learning curve, wing foiling is a great way to enjoy the water and get some exercise. If you’re interested in trying wing foiling, be sure to find a good spot to start and practice in calm water first. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can move on to larger bodies of water with waves.
And by following the tips in this guide, you’ll be wing foiling like a pro in no time!