Pics: Zoltan Pongracz.
Unifoil, whilst being held in high regard among the global hydrofoiling community, are relatively new in the UK. Imported and distributed by Zoltan Pongracz and his Next Level Surf business we thought it a good idea to catch up with the Z man to find out a bit more.
Gives us a little info about your watersports background – what disciplines were you into before foiling?
I started kitesurfing in 2009. In 2010 I qualified as an IKO instructor and I ended up teaching in South East Asia. This was the first time trying surfing in Bali. I remember nearly drowning at Ballangan after paddling out when the surf was solid 6ft. A decade later I now consider my self as a waterman who surfs, SUPs, kites, foils and dives.
Where did you learn your watersports craft?
I remember buying a kite in a shop at Brighton (time before online shopping). I taught myself landboarding with a 4.5m power kite at Regent Park in London. My first proper lesson was down at Camber Sands with Camber Kiteboarding.
Unifoil Hyper full carbon hydrofoil for wing, surf, SUP, pump and downwind foiling.
Front wing size: 210
What’s your go to way of riding these days, and why?
My first choice is surfing and I only tend to kitesurf when the wind/waves are perfectly alligned. My new craze is all about foil surfing but I am also looking forward to mastering wing foiling. Foiling has opened the Pandora’s Box and my addiction is real.
Tell us why foiling appeals?
I always enjoyed learning new things. I feel like foiling is the ultimate challenge and freedom. Kite foiling came first. It was a great tool for kiting in super low wind. Surf foiling also came as a tool for those days when the waves were super weak and slack. Having said that I now come to realise that learning to foil proper waves with the ability to pump is the ultimate freedom.
Which areas of foiling specifically float your boat, and why?
I am really concetrating on my prone foiling skills. My aim is to be able to foil waves I enjoy surfing in normal mode. I also want to get stronger and to be able to pump as far as I can see. Once I have mastered these, I will get into winging. Handling the wing should be fairly easy with my kite skills but not before I have excellent board control.
You recently relocated to Cornwall from the UK’s south coast, how come?
I always wanted to live by the ocean. It took me 35 years to achieve this hahaha! Living in Brighton gave me so much joy, surfing the local breaks will always be close to my heart but no place that could be compared to the beauty and power of the Atlantic Ocean.
What does Newquay offer the foiler?
Newquay has more than a handful of world class foiling waves. There are 2 amazing beaches to learn surf foiling within 10 min drive from Newquay. There is a super friendly foiling community and with the growing number of foilers it is only a matter of time before some of the more famous spots are going to be foiled. Certainly looking at wing foiling there are going to be no limits on where and when.
And stand out sessions so far?
The funny thing is with foiling that every session makes you feel super stoked. The feeling of flying above the water and the combination of speed/length of rides are mind blowing. One of Newquay’s spots works in any wind direction – even with the gnarliest onshore wind. This particular day was pretty big but we had super long rides, however, we were caught in a hail storm with hailstones the size of bullets. I think the message here is that it doesn’t matter how blown out the surf is with a foil under my feet there will always be some fun to have.
Tell us about your association with Unifoil. Why did you decide to import that brand?
I am the Unifoil rep in the UK. I wanted to get kit for myself for a long time because I saw some great riders using Unifoil. I was always impressed by the construction being full carbon and one of the lightest foils on the market. Ordering anything from overseas has never been easy but COVID made things even worst. As there was no one selling Unifoil in the UK it gave me the idea to start importing the gear. Since then there are reps in France, Tahiti, Hawaii, the Canary Islands with the number of countries growing.
What’s your fave Unifoil product and why?
Currently I am riding the 170 Hyper. I was very curious about it because it is a small wing and I am 80kg. But I can tell you that for anyone who is fit and ready the 170 is an amazing foil for prone foil surfing even in the smallest surf. It is insanely fast and an extremely responsive foil. With a bit of practice even the average Joe can get used to it. I have also ordered my self a 150 Vortex for some wing blowing shortboard style foiling. I think the Vortex will suit most of Newquay’s legendary beach breaks.
Which foiling discipline do you think has the most growth and why?
Coming from a kitesurfing background, seeing guys doing back-flips, 360s and massive airs with wings are simply incredible. The sport is growing faster than any other sport in recent history. Riders are 100% pushing the wing foiling limits. I believe that wing foiling and even foil surfing is going to be huge in the UK. Finally there is a sport that doesn’t require top quality waves and people don’t have to take themself too seriously.
Any Unifoil innovations in the pipeline you can heads us up about?
There are always new products in the lineup. But the one that the surfing community is frothing about is the new coming Viper series. The Viper wing is going to be a high performance, yet user friendly middle point between the Hyper and the Vortex series. A wing that will be great for pumping yet excel at carving. We are super excited about it and hopefully stock will be available from late spring.
Final thoughts, thanks and praise?
I recently had quite a serious head injury after landing with my ear on the tail wing, slicing through the cartilage. It’s times like this that make me realise how grateful I am to God keeping me safe while doing what I love doing. I am also grateful to Newquay locals for their easygoing and warmness. Big up to all the brands constantly improving equipment and most importantly a huge thanks to the Unifoil family for their hard work and top quality products.
Don’t forget to check out Foilshop UK’s Foiling Knowledge page for even more foiling goodness –