Pics/vids: Oli Lane-Peirce, Mike Pringuer
Foiling is a rapid progression area of watersports. With most riders having some foundational skills, born of participating in other areas (mostly fin based), it’s a relatively quick exercise to learn. That said, whatever style of foiling you’re aiming for, there are ways to make it easier and even quicker.
One question we hear often is ‘where can I go to learn foiling?’ And by this, we’re talking the type of area newbies can go to begin and practice. Whether wing foil, windfoil, SUP/surf foiling, eFoiling, pump foiling or other the choice of location for those first and progressive steps makes all the difference.
Wing foiling beginner locations.
It’s totally understandable that newbie wing foilers fancy ripping waves. After all, that’s the type of wing foiling (mostly) promoted on social media and websites. But this takes time to build up to.
A flat water location, with minimal chop and current, is best for learning those wing foiling basics. The flatter the better. Being such a low power sport chop can really hinder progress. It’s a bit like trying to ride uphill with the brakes on.
Lakes are ideal, as are inlets, estuaries and harbours (as long as you’re aux fait with tides and such). And remember the depth of water! Wing foilers can use shorter masts (if they desire) which opens up shallower areas. But you’ll still need some clearance to avoid slamming your foil into the bottom.
Once you’ve dialed in those foil and wing skills there’s no reason not to transfer to more open water, wave venues. But give it time on the flat first. Your wing foil progression will be all the quicker.
Windfoiling beginner locations.
Windsurf sails are super efficient power sources. But even then you want to make the learning process as easy as possible. With windfoiling riders will be using longer foil masts for additional water clearance, because of that power efficiency. Sails give lots of oomph for lift so having a longer style of foil mast means greater leeway and less breaching/over foiling. This contrasts wingfoiling. (Although wingers also need the clearance when riding in more challenging waters).
Still, with windfoiling the flatter the water at your chosen location the better. Chop, waves and current will make learning to windfoil tricky. Again, it’ll be like riding uphill. So somewhere sheltered is a good choice of spot. Even if the wind’s gusty and flukey there’s no issue floating back to your launch on a higher volume windfoil board if the breeze disappears.
Choppy and confused seas are horrible for all types of ‘windy’ foiling. There’s no substitute for groomed waves, with glassy flat spots in between swells. Or completely flat water at sheltered venues.
SUP/surf foiling beginner locations.
Using waves to propel riders forwards and generate momentum to lift is super addictive. Those who foil in surf, without need for wing or sail power, will tell you how much freer the sensation feels. But for learning purposes, it’s the type of wave you learn to foil on which can make or break your progress and fulfillment.
Fattter, slower, crumblier but relatively long waves that peel are ideal for SUP foiling and foil surfing. Sucky closeouts should be avoided. The issue is finding such a location. Especially with depth of water in mind. Most wave foilers use shorter foil masts around 60cm long. But this can mean breaching quicker – at least in the beginning. And sometimes, even with the right wave found, there’s no clearance for foiling as it’s just too shallow.
Waves breaking into sheltered harbours or inlets are worth a look (mini point breaks for instance). And those quieter, often overlooked locations (because of poor wave quality for surfing) are usually good to go. The problem with a lot of these areas – at least during the UK’s summer – is the lack of juice getting in. Headline breaks may at this point offer good beginner foil surfing conditions but chances are they’ll be packed out. And crowds aren’t a good idea with foils.
Some onshore wind isn’t a problem. Although be aware this could make paddling out more arduous than needs be. But an onshore day during high season can thin numbers in the lineup. (With skill and effort chop can be ridable with a foil).
Alternatively, if you have access to a boat or ski, being towed is a good move. And learning how to ride wake on foil will give some idea of what it’s like to foil surf.
Foil pumping beginner locations.
The biggest issue with foil pumping beginner locations is finding a suitable location with a pontoon for dock starting. Many pontoons are privately owned in marinas. Marina management won’t appreciate you rocking up to foil.
Two other options exist. Purchase a foldable three phase ladder to start from off your local beach. Or use a bungee for some bungee starts (see video). It’s much easier to turn up with a ladder or bungee and get started for the pump.
Flat water will also be ideal. As will a lack of current, tide and (initially) swell. Although in time you can use dock starts to chip in to small swell at coastal locations. Just be aware of foil mast clearance in shallow water!
EFoiling beginner spots.
In theory you can eFoil anywhere – as long as the water’s deep enough. The reality, however, is eFoils can be obnoxious craft if the location you’re riding at is busy.
Water users who don’t understand foiling won’t thank you for riding and spoiler their peace. And if you’re a beginner spoiler you’re potentially lethal.
Therefore a quiet stretch of water where you’ll cause no harbour is a good call. Try and limit the amount of current/tide if at coastal venues. And the same for swell and chop/wind. Glassy, calm days are best. And whilst some eFoil brands promote riding waves avoid this as eFoil surf riding is a particular skill that also requires a particular style of eFoil.
Lastly, make sure you’re aware of and abide by any speed restrictions. Authorities may take umbridge to you riding eFoil boards and issue fines. The ‘red tape’ surrounding eFoiling at the moment is grey. But that’s no excuse to not exercise caution.