Pics: Foilshop UK, Oli Lane-peirce, James Jagger
How often have you heard that comment? Back in 2019, when wing foiling wings properly emerged (even though the winging concept isn’t anything new), a 4m was touted as being the only size you need.
Some of us – especially those from a windsurfing background – immediately we’re sceptical. After all, if you’re riding a 4m windsurf sail then it’s usually pretty breezy, unless you’re particularly lightweight. A 4m wing for all conditions, even sub 20 knots? Well, not quite! And so it came to pass. Pretty soon the 4m myth was disproved with most of us needing considerably bigger wings to get foiling. (If you’re not looking to hydrofoil with your wing then actually, maybe a 4m will do).
Wing foiling wings are now available in sizes ranging from teeny tiny (2.5m) right up to 9m. The biggest Foilshop UK has used is the 8m Zeeko Ypsilon.
Even though we’re now familiar with the fact wing foiling wings need wind and power to actually fly there’s still a lot of chat about the size of wings. Many suggest as you go above 6m it’s a case of diminishing returns. Supposedly big wing foil wings create more drag in the air, so are slower as well as being harder to use (think wing tips clipping the water) and are heavier.
The fact is, if you’re a real world foiler, and not some lightweight pro, you need oomph – especially if lighter winds are a preference. For most, wing foiling will be a sub-25 knot activity. The majority looking to fly in less than 20knts. With the best will in the world, however, if you’re on the heavier end of the weight spectrum (85kg plus) even a 5m wing will prove tricky to get you flying – especially if you haven’t developed foil pumping skills.
Tips around wing foiling include using a big foil wing (all this chat of wings is confusing, we know!) – most likely a low aspect surf style front wing. Higher aspect types are certainly faster but also require additional power and rider input. If you’re already struggling to get the necessary juice to actually get on foil then combining with a high aspect will just exacerbate the issue and possibly put you off.
Time and again we see newbie wingers dogging around with too small a wing, on too small a foil in too light a breeze. (Compounding this may also be the fact they’re on too small a board, are riding in a choppy location and the wind’s inconsistent.
Having armed yourself with the right foil (asking advice from a reputable source such as Folishop UK will help), gotten hold of the right board (if in doubt go bigger with more volume – at least to start) it’s then time to choose your wing.
Asking yourself (and answering honestly) some questions will help narrow your wing choices down. Where are you likely to be riding most of the time and what are prevailing conditions like? What style of riding you’re most likely to do and how heavy you are. Unfortunately, as with most board sports, weight does play a big part.
If you’re a bigger boned individual then you need some juice as far as wing power goes. Likewise, if your location suffers from inconsistent, gusty conditions (perhaps with a load of chop in the mix – making the initial foiling take of a bit like riding up a hill) then you need some juice. And if you’re venue is a light wind spot then (you’ve guessed it) you need some juice.
We see it often. Riders heading out with smaller wings proceeding to bounce up and down like voracious Jack In The Boxes. Whilst pumping is indeed a valuable skill, and one all foilers need under their belts, going at the whole thing like a Duracell Bunny when you’re on the wrong gear is a hiding to nowhere. Of course, in time, with a refined technique and the correct equipment you may be able to fly in lighter airs with a smaller wing. Initially you just need the power.
There’s an argument being thrown about that big wings are hard to learn with. Whilst larger wind catching tools are less nimble than smaller types suggesting you can’t learn on one isn’t true. We don’t recommend going straight for a 9m behemoth but a 6m, for instance, is perfectly applicable. If it’s a wing from a reputable brand, who know their onions, then there’ll be no issue. A lot of bigger wings have had their geometry configured to be more compact thereby allowing perceived issues such as wing tips catching to not be a problem.
Taking Zeeko’s 8m Ypsilon wing as an example. We had a first time winger use this for his very first run out. He coped fine. With little prior watersports experience the chap in question was back and forth quick smart. And his comment was how light, yet dependable, the 8m was.
The bottom line is don’t believe the hype – not all of it at least. If you’re a bigger boned, real world winger then bigger wings are worth a look to give you that little extra where you need it. As you progress your technique will refine. But in the short term, at least, why make life hard? You want to be foiling so grab the power source that’ll get you there. You’ll have no issue with depower as this is one of wing foiling‘s beauties.