SUP foiling beginner tips – where to start.

SUP foiling beginner tips – where to start. SUP foiling is, next to wing foiling, perhaps one of the most accessible areas of foiling. Yes, you need to have some grasp of stand up paddle boarding in waves. But you don’t need to be pro level by any means. So where to start as a SUP foiling beginner?

Updated October 2023.

Words: Foilshop UK

Pics: Oli Lane-Peirce, Foilshop UK, Mike Pringuer.

When you dial in your SUP foiling it can be bliss.

SUP foiling beginner tips foil choice.

As a SUP foiling beginner, you’re going to be looking at smaller waves being ridden. Avoid anything much bigger than waist high, Should you fancy this later down the line – once you’ve dialled in your skills – then no probs.

With smaller waves in mind. And weaker, fatter, crumblier ones at that, you’ll need a big foil. Now when we say big foil it depends on the type in question. Low aspect foils are more shovel like and have longer chord lengths (nose to tail). High aspect foils are wider, thinner and have a narrow chord. For learning low aspect foils are probably easier, although it’s close. High aspect foils take a little more rider input but then glide much better. As your skills develop they also pump more efficiently. Lower aspect foils can sometimes carve easier.

SUP foiling with a big low aspect foil in super small waves.

A key aspect to look for is low stall or take off speed. Having this as low as possible will mean the foil lifts with little (or less) forward momentum. We’d suggest a short ish fuselage of around 68cm. (Don’t go crazy short as you’ll lose some pitch control). Foil mast length needs to be considered. We use 60cm and 70cm depending on depth of water. Shorter gives less leeway of the foil breaching but does pull the foil closer to the wave. This is where the power is. With slack waves it’s important to get some oomph going. It also means we can ride in less water without fear of grounding out.

SUP foiling with the high aspect Axis PNG 1150 foil.

Your tail wing should be complementary to your front wing. When learning something bigger (around 400mm) will help with levering up onto foil. As with front wings tails all come in different shapes and aspects. Our advice is don’t go too high aspect with your tail wing just yet!

SUP foiling beginner tips board choice.

Being much shorter and more compact than your regular stand up paddle board may take a few runs to get used to. Shorter boards veer from side to side (yaw) much more. A slightly longer SUP foil board will help combat this. Something 6′-7′ is worth starting with. A longer SUP foil board will also have more glide, helping you paddle into the wave easier.

Shorter SUP foil boards are available but we’d leave these until later. And if your sled comes with footstraps it’s best to leave these off at first. Straps do help with foot location on the deck (if they’re positioned correctly according to where the foil’s center of lift is). And they can help when pumping as they also deliver heaps in the way of leverage. As a SUP foiling beginner, they’ll just get in the way though.

Volume wise you need to be able to float comfortably at rest on it. And not be flailing about trying to get into position. Width also plays a part. Foil boards are generally narrower than normal SUPs but you don’t want it so narrow it’s hard to stand on. And it needs to be tough, well manufactured and able to brush of knocks and bangs. Make sure it has a foil track mounting system and hull mounted carry handle for manoeuvring the board and foil when coupled together.

SUP foil specific boards are the best choice for all riders.

What about downwind boards for SUP foiling?

2023 will go down as the year of the downwind SUP foil board. Initially conceived to make foiling wind blown bumps easier these longer, narrower foil sleds have much more versatility than just downwind.

It’s quickly become apparent that the same gliding and early release characteristics that make downwind SUP foil boards applicable to ‘drift surfing’ also work well for light wind wing foiling and SUP foiling in waves. We’ll not lie, downwind SUP foil boards can be technical to use – especially the narrowest. But some brands are now bucking this trend and aiming to open up the discipline with more user friendly sleds. AK’s Nomad SUP foiling board range which you can read about via the links below. If you want more manoeuvrability then a shorter board may still be the way to go.

SUP foiling beginner tips paddle choice.

Just as with stand up paddle boarding whilst stuck to water your paddle is super important. Without one, you’re just standing. And with a rubbish version, your SUP foiling journey will be much harder than it needs to be.

SUP foiling aboard a prototype inflatable foil sled.

SUP foiling paddle shaft length will need to be a bit longer than your standard if you plan on paddling whilst flying. Adjustable paddles can be a good option if you’re switching between foiling and non-foiling. whatever your choice your paddle should deliver efficient power from the off. You need as much vroom from standing. So something that’s very stiff will help.

SUP foiling can help if you wing foil.

In terms of SUP foil blade size that’s down to you and how high a cadence you’re going to paddling. We will also add that a SUP foil paddle should be durable and tough, as well as light. You may catch your paddle with the foil whilst paddling. Foil wings can be wider than your board so this can easily happen.

SUP foil leash choice.

Some riders choose straight surf leashes, but we find these have too much habit of wrapping around the foil. Dragging in the water they also create resistance. A tiny amount, yes, but enough to impede performance.

SUP foiling beginner - where to start.
A coiled leash we find to be the most applicable type of foil leash.

Coiled SUP leashes can work well as they are raised off the deck. Be careful of the recoil if wiping out, however. Our preference is for a waist coiled leash. It’s nicely forgettable, doesn’t add drag and can be used for wing foiling as well.

SUP foiling beginner tips venue choice.

We touched on this above. When starting out on your SUP foiling journey you need to choose smaller, softer, fatter, crumbling waves. There should be plenty of wide open space for you to fall and not cause issues with other water users.

The depth of water you’re foiling in should be able to accommodate your chosen foil mast length. Being mindful of how shallow it will get as your fly on waves towards shore should also be taken into account.

Small, fat, crumbly waves are best to start your SUP foiling journey.

When choosing your take off wave having broken slightly is a good spot to aim for. The white water will propel riders forward and hopefully deliver enough speed to rise. No doubt you’ll stack the first few waves until you get a feel for flying. But it does get easier. In a few sessions you’ll be getting longer flights.

SUP foiling wipeouts.

When you bail, which you inevitably will, going with it is best practice. Trying to stop the process will most likely result in you falling and hitting the foil. Instead, go with it and over egg the wipeout by jumping clear.

SUP foiling wipeouts do happen. Embrace the fall.

Don’t come up too soon. Wait for things to subside before surfacing. And do so covering your head and face. Wear a helmet and impact vest for additional protection.

Moving forwards (and up).

For additional wave catching goodness consider getting hold of a wing. The foil you choose for SUP foiling will work for wingsurfing. As will the board. And there’s nothing like additional versatility to eek more bang for Buck out of your purchase.

Wing foiling can often be done on the same board you SUP foil.

If you have any questions about SUP foiling or foiling in general get in touch with us here at Foilshop UK.

Check out the following articles for even more foiling knowledge and tips –