Pics: Steve West, Oli Lane-Peirce
Wing foiling is most definitely the headline-grabbing foiling discipline currently. It’s all still very new but holding a blow up ‘sail’ (for want of a better description) in your hands with its power propelling riders along above water on foil is pricking interests of many.
As with anything new there’s much hype. Chat surrounding the type of boards you can use (low volume for the experienced) to the simplicity of wings themselves (inflate in mere minutes and off you go) adds to the appeal of wings. It’s suggested that many a windsurfer, who haven’t been anywhere near a sail in years, are being tempted back into blowy conditions because of wings. Additionally, wingin’ is touted as being a wind driven discipline with wider appeal. I.e. you don’t need prior windsurf/kitesurf experience to get involved. In fact, zero wind sport experience doesn’t matter with winging being easy to learn.
Windsurf foiling (windfoiling) in contrast is (supposedly) only going to hold interest if you’re already a windsurfer – although from our point of view the jury’s out on that…In terms of efficiency, getting up on foil, and actually using the wind to drive riders up onto foil windsurf sails win hands down. (And we’re talking about real-world riders and real-world conditions – if you’re 60kg live in Maui, have yet to break the 20yr old age bracket and are possibly semi-pro then possibly a different story). Most of us, however, live and/or sail in locations which are gusty and prone to chop. These elements all conspire to work against learning to foil. Simply put: wings need more wind to overcome certain obstacles and get you flying. Windsurf sails, because of their rigidity, will get you on foil much more efficiently.
There’s no question wingfoiling offers a unique feel. It’s very addictive. But then that can be said of any flight discipline. When you dial in that ride height and fly above water you’ll most likely become obsessed with foiling, as we have become.
Here at Foilshop UK we’re out on the water most days. Conditions are ever changing, with good and bad sessions. Our general rule of thumb is if it’s on the lighter side (sub-15 knots), and/or particularly flukey breeze, then we’ll windfoil.
If there’s a wave in the mix it comes down to choice (if you do both). Windfoiling is often made out to be the more ‘mowing the lawn’ discipline and not as good for wave riding. If you’re someone who has any grasp of wave sailing – in a traditional windsurf sense – then you’ll have no trouble transferring these skills to wave windfoiling. And we’re not talking about riding rolling swell in a downwind fashion. We’re talking proper bottom and top turns. It’s very much possible but you’ll have to adopt a go for it attitude and choose your venue accordingly. A critical point break wave, for instance, isn’t the best. Softer and mushier surf will be the go.
Wingfoiling gives the option of throwing away, so to speak, your power source when on a wave. We’re sure you’ve seen pics and vids of this in practice. Riders pulsing along with their wing flagged out behind. This allows a different kind of wave riding style and therefore delivers a different feeling.
In a nutshell, both windfoiling and wing foiling are there own entities. Whilst marketing hype portrays the latter as being cooler it’s more a case of choosing your flavour for the conditions on the day and how you fancy riding. Both have plus points; both have drawbacks but both are super fun and will add masses to your watery life. Comparing is like putting apples and pears next to one another. Our advice: do both then you’ll be 100% covered for everything Momma Nature chucks your way.