Next up in our real world Foil Stories series of articles is someone who’ll need no introduction to anyone with a UK windsurfing background. Ian ‘Krafty’ Kraft has been at large for years. And now giving it beans on foil it was high time to check in and see where he’s at.
Give us a brief background on your watersports career to date.
I got into Watersports in the ’90s indirectly through running ski trips for a sailing club, which then saw me drawn into Hobie 16 racing. From there I bought into windsurfing with some used kit and dabbled on and off. Fast forward to late ’90s and a serious knee injury realigned my sporting focus and windsurfing became front and center and having had a sailing racing background I threw myself into the UKBSA (now UKWA) Bic Techno Cup racing circuit, and over the years transitioned to Formula Windsurfing and Slalom Windsurfing.
When did you discover foiling and what appealed?
Windfoiling started to appear on media channels, but also looked pretty unbalanced and challenging, not to mention costly. Those old formula boards suddenly had fresh use and when my friend John Lane offered me a go on his Ker foil / JP slalom set up and that first flight just captured the imagination and despite looking like a drunken dolphin, I was hooked. The old formula board was reassigned and one of those pink Neil Pryde aluminium foils was installed.
Which foiling discipline (s) are you involved with and why?
Initially, I went down the freeride windfoiling route, changing from the NP foil with formula and also Hypersonic boards to a Slingshot Wizard/Infinity 76 set up and then to a crossover style Fanatic Sky SUP WS 6’11 and Fanatic foil set. I used these with my Duotone wave sails and being located in Eastbourne made the most of the coastal conditions journeying up and down the coast and doing my best impressions of riding the swell back downwind. More recently I’ve switched focus to wing foiling, and in order to force the focus, I sold my windfoil set up. Due to the global supply issues, I was a bit later to the party than expected, and of course, the colder weather snuck up faster than my ability to get it nailed. On a positive note, the wing foiling learning curve is sufficiently addictive that I’m still getting out through the winter months and hoping that the persistence will pay dividends as soon as it warms up again and longer sessions are back on the cards.
Has foiling panned out the way you envisaged?
Foiling seriously made the last couple of years a far more active period for watersports in general. The conditions for windsurfing haven’t been particularly good, and foiling has made those ‘rubbish conditions’ so much more engaging. It’s not perhaps how I envisaged it, thinking it’d be something to do every now and again when the wind’s a bit light for the 6m bump and jump windsurfing gear. Foiling has become the ‘go to’ choice unless the wind is up and the shorebreak is flying the ‘no foiling’ flag. The wing foiling hasn’t changed this, but the wind range possible from hand wings has further simplified the ‘what size shall I rig’ aspect. And being so compact it’s easy to throw a board, foil and a couple of wings in the car with a wetsuit. Chances are you’ll then score.
Was it what you thought the first few times out?
The first few times foiling was crazy; lift then nose dive ….. retrain the brain, forget how to windsurf, fly the underwater plane blind!!! Subtle movements brought more consistent flights, and the longer the flights the bigger the smiles.
How many sessions (roughly) did it take for consistency?
The sustained flights’ goal came relatively early on, but getting myself a matched set / dedicated board and foil made the biggest difference to consistency. If I was to put a number on it, maybe between 8-10 sessions to be flying about, relatively comfortable on the sea and going for gybes on the NP set up. The transition to wing foiling was much quicker, having a weekend course at the OTC with Nick Dempsey saw me up and foiling with the wing in about 20-30 minutes. It’s just a shame that following the course it took 7 months to get myself kitted out to wing foil!!
Have you found foiling easy or hard? And why?
Both!!! The conditions that I generally foil in are relatively calm and enjoyable conditions. And the ability to have conversations on the water while foiling help with relaying and receiving tips and pointers too. Foiling along above the chop has been kinder on my knees than flat out slalom kit over the chop. At the same time, when a foil rejects your input and ejects you in a manner that seems impossible, that can bend body and mind quite unexpectedly. Foiling for sure demands subtlety and that’s not my strong point.
What’s the most valuable foiling lesson you’ve learned?
That’s a super tough question. Having matched gear really helps ensure the set up is as close to the sweet spot as possible. Mixing and matching can have you asking all sorts of questions and wondering if it’s you. Foiling is still a ‘new’ sport and in its development phase and of course, different equipment suits different styles and locations. Be honest about your aspirations and intentions.
What’s been your biggest inspiration for foiling, and why?
The local conditions and the scope for maximising time on the water. There is a good crowd locally and ‘foil club’ is a thing. Of course, there are so many epic clips online of foil freestyle, racing, surfing, etc ….. I’m much more freeride biased these days but do still love a ‘journey’ so will be hoping to do some downwinders with the guys this summer.
Where are you now with your foiling?
Windfoiling I’ve parked for now, focussing on the wing foiling learning curve. I’m still crashing and swimming the corners more often than coming out dry, but I’m also riding more consistently in the coastal conditions we get on a 97L board. To counter those short days when the tide is all wrong and conditions to get off the beach aren’t conducive, I’ve recently joined up at Bewl to give me a flat water option. There’s a good crowd there and conditions are ideal for foil progression too, even if the water is that bit colder than the sea!
Any particular goals moving forwards?
Simple goals like wing foiling with less swimming, and riding the swell on downwinders. Being so portable, and with the pandemic restrictions tailing off, I’m hoping to make the most of opportunities to travel with the toys and experience more foil friendly places.
Give us a brief rundown of the gear you’re using and why.
As mentioned earlier, I’ve parked the wind foiling to focus on winging and to power through the learning curve. My current set up consists of: Ensis Rock n Roll 97L board Ensis Pacer 2000 foil (I also have a smaller 1700 front wing which I’ve not had chance to try yet) Ensis Score 6.2m wing Duotone Unit 5.0m wing Duotone Echo 2.6m wing (this is for my kids to learn and also pretty good fun on the skateboard).
How has the foilscape changed for you since you started?
Since my first flight experiences, the scene has exploded. The equipment has been refined and got much more user friendly. The uptake and acceptance that foiling will make what could’ve been a rubbish day at the beach into a super fun session has boosted time on the water over the past couple of years for many, and the mental health benefits shouldn’t be underestimated. Just the smiles on people’s faces turning up to the beach and being excited to get on the water in ‘bang average’ conditions tells its own tale.
Any foiling predictions for the future?
Given the addictive nature of foiling and the fickle nature of the weather, I’m expecting eFoils to become more popular, in the same way E-MTBs are being more widely accepted and adopted on the trails after the early ‘it’s cheating’ claims. IQ foil racing will include even more diverse disciplines and no doubt become the most exciting sail racing Olympic discipline. We are already seeing sailors jumping ship to join the IQ scene. Wing foil racing will become a thing on a global scale. The kids will be making us all look like cautious old pensioners on our foils within hours of their first flights, if ever there is a time to get into foiling, it’s now to get a head start on those pesky kids!!
Final thoughts on foiling?
As addictive as foiling is, windsurfing in waves is going to be the bigger draw when those conditions come calling. In the meantime, foiling ensures time on the water and with that an element of physical and mental preparation for those epic wave sessions.
Thanks and praise?
I can’t pass this by without thanking John Lane for trusting me on his brand new foil way back, and of course, blaming him for setting me off on the foiling journey that followed. As ever, Bob & Stu at www.4boards.co.uk supporting the journey with both advice and equipment throughout. A shout to Nik Baker too for his support and advice (because we are of similar weight and skill set) and also his enthusiastic encouragement to give the wing foiling a go, even with my having to go rogue kit wise to do so due to the supply chain chaos. The coaching weekend with Nick Dempsey was superb, and although there was a long wait between the coaching and the acquisition of kit, the lessons learned were not forgotten. For anyone looking for a fast track, in at the deep end coaching experience, I couldn’t recommend Nick’s courses any higher. A shout out to ‘foil club’ in Eastbourne and also more recently the guys at Bewl too wouldn’t go amiss. With everyone learning and sharing their learning experiences along the the vibe is super cool, and the atmosphere reflects this with smiles all around. As ever, a show of appreciation to the family, some who are already joining the foiling revolution, and others with next to zero real interest but enjoy keeping it real taking the piss whenever I perform some comical maneuver or other, or simply just stack it.
Check out our previous Foil Stories articles below –