Windfoil (windsurf) vs wing foil – no comparison.

Pics: Steve West, Mike Pringuer, 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 the interests of many. 
Foilshop UK testing Mistral’s new wing foiling wing.

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.

Whirling and twirling on the Hyde Sails Blast wing.

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 sports experience doesn’t matter with winging being easy to learn.

Foilshop UK windfoiling with the Avanti Sails Icarus 5.5m foil specific sail and Axis S-Series Glide foil.

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 that are gusty and prone to chop.

Young gun Tom Pringuer getting some windfoil miles under his belt.

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.

Wing foil sesh with the Fly McConks Go Fly 6m wing foiling wing.

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.

Boosting with the Witchcraft Windsurfing Karma 4.7m sail and Axis S-Series Glide windfoil foil.

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 their 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.

Update May 2022:

As of May 2022 choosing between wind or wing foil is perceived to be whether you want to race or go freeriding. It seems the industry is keen to push windfoilers down the race route, ala IQ Foil gear or similar. Those riders wanting to wave ride, jump/spin or just cruise are being led into wing foiling. The whole freeride aspect of windfoiling, whereby sailors use smaller kit for any given wind strength, is seemingly being forgotten.

As keen windfoilers ourselves we’re keen to keep the freeride aspect in mind. You don’t have to wing to unlock this area of sport. You can just as easily achieve the same style of flying with a sail in hand as you can a wing.

Want to wave ride, boost or carve then windfoiling can accommodate. Just like winging can. The difference between the two disciplines is most windsurfers will already have the base skills of windsurfing locked in. Should you want to wing then whilst the learning curve is quick you still have a whole load of new skills to dial.

As we said above doing both (if you can) gives the best of both worlds. Plus, this approach gives more versatility and the opportunity to make the most of conditions. Sometimes it’s more applicable to wing whereas at other times windfoiling might fit the bill. Why limit yourself?

Get in touch with any questions about either wind or wind foiling. We’re only happy to help.

And don’t forget to check out the webshop, where you’ll find all the best foiling gear, here.