Wingsurfing and wing foiling is THE most attention grabbing foil sport out there. Wind and kitesurfers gravitate naturally towards it (because of winging’s wind similarities). Surfers and wave heads have their interests pricked due to wing foiling’s wave riding potential. But those who’ve never entertained the idea of ‘sailing’ are also intrigued and getting involved as well.
Critics (who’ve never tried) pooh pooh wingsurfing as kooky. Which it does appear to some degree. But when those nay-sayers have a go we know most are then sold. Feel plays a massive part. There’s nothing quite like flying over water. But how do you do it? How do you wingsurf? Here’s Foilshop UK’s ultimate ‘how to become a wing foiler’ guide
Big thanks to Oli Lane-Peirce, Mike Pringuer, James Dunstone and Peter Hickson for the additional images. And props to those who helped and contributed to this article.
What’s Foilshop UK’s wingsurfing experience?
Before we get into the nitty gritty of how to wing foil we feel we should clarify our experience. There’s a lot of information available of which some is based on hearsay and unfounded opinions. Wingsurfing hype is also rife. The latest trends are always being pushed hard.
We come from a long history of watersports. Surfing, windsurfing and stand up paddle boarding have been staples. When foiling, in its modern form appeared, we were one of the first to get stuck in. This was windsurf foiling and SUP foiling at the start. And we spent considerable time with both forms of flight. We still do!
At winging’s inception, there was a lack of knowledge and gear. 4m wings were standard with foils being rather clunky for learning. We’d gleaned a lot from our windsurf and SUP foiling experience. Whilst we were keen to begin our wingsurfing journey we were hesitant.
Equipment testing and demoing are a massive part of what Foilshop UK does. As winging evolved so in turn has the equipment. And with advances in gear, an improvement in the overall windsurfing experience has happened too. And we’ve been all over it.
To date, Foilshop UK has tested nearly 500 foil boards, 200+ wings and a similar amount of foil boards. We’ve been (and continue to be) involved with foiling R&D. As well as riding for personal enjoyment. Needless to say, we have unique insight into what makes wing foiling equipment ‘good’. And how this knocks onto you, the everyday foiler.
Where do I start my wingsurfing journey?
Starting your wingsurfing journey is best done on land first. If you have a mate, or access to someone with a wing, having a ‘feel’ of how the wing behaves in light wind whilst standing on Terra Firma is a good idea.
Size of the wing doesn’t matter at this stage. Simply holding it and moving around with your mitts grabbing in will give an initial impression of wing handling.
Chances are you’ll realise there’s a whole heap of new muscle memory to be learned. Time and again – even from fit and athletic types – we hear about how quickly upper body fatigue sets in. And it’s true. Just messing about with a wing on land for a few minutes will make your arms, shoulders and neck ache! But stick with it as these are good foundations for your onward wingsurfing journey.
Wing skating, does this help?
There’s a certain stigma attached to riding a skateboard in later life (which we get). It’s one thing to roll on fours in your teens but fast forward to those 30s for instance and self-conscious feeling kicks in – maybe.
And yet wing skating is a great tool. Learning how to move forwards with momentum, with power in your wing, is good experience. You’ll start to develop that necessary muscle memory quicker and learn even more about how wings and boards work together.
Wing skating is a great training tool whatever your level. Learning new transitions for instance is doable when riding a skateboard with wing in hand. There are some safety protocols to observe. Such as wearing pads, a helmet and riding in an open space away from others. Also, you don’t need lots of wind to wing skate. In fact, slightly less is best.
For anyone considering the wing skating route, we’d suggest an oversize longboard is the best platform. A forgiving and wide deck will allow for dodgy foot placements. Forget using your old street deck as that’ll make things tricky.
One wheel wing skating.
One option is using an electrically powered one wheel style ‘skateboard’. We appreciate not everyone will have access to a sled like this. But the one wheel nature of these boards delivers a similar feeling to foiling in water as you’re going to get on land. (Our choice of one wheel is from UK based brand McConks. Their one wheel set ups are very affordable if you’re keen to check them out).
And you don’t need any wind for one wheel wing skating and the forward momentum you generate makes it feel like there’s wind in your wing. As with wing skating on non-motorised powered board make sure you wear protective clothing and practise in a wide open, flat space in light wind.
Is it worth getting a wing foiling lesson?
Wing foiling lessons make the process of getting to grips with the sport as easy as possible. You may have plenty of prior watersports experience but wing foiling is its own discipline, with its own muscle memory requirements and set of nuances.
Wingsurf instructors will give you the right equipment, take you to the right location and get you started at the right time. Under an experienced and watchful eye, your progress will be much quicker than going it alone. Plus, you’ll get a real handle on whether you like the sport or not.
Most new wing riders won’t have any previous foiling experience, let alone wing. They might like the look of winging (as many do) but there’s no real way to ascertain whether it’s really for them until they’ve had a taste.
Wing foiling lessons will also give a signpost to what gear might be suitable. There’s plenty of chat and ‘noise’ surrounding wings, foils and foil boards. Not all of it is based on experience or fact. Having a few initial runs with a coach will give you way more gear knowledge than you will have previously had. And that makes the buying process much more informed.
What if I want to learn by myself?
As we said above, learning to wingsurf is much more efficient if you go with a qualified and experienced instructor. We appreciate, however, that some circumstances mean this isn’t possible. Or in some cases, riders prefer to take the plunge by themselves.
If you’re going it alone there are a couple of golden rules to live by. This has been learned by us having gone through the process. We mentioned them already but to hammer the point home beginner wingsurfers should keep these factors in mind:
- Right equipment.
- Right place.
- Right time.
The right wing foiling equipment is vital. Choosing the wrong gear (such as the most trendy thing) isn’t the wisest. It’ll slow your progress and cause much frustration. We’ve had numerous customers come to Foilshop UK having purchased gear only to find it’s not doing them any favours. It’s then been a case of splashing yet more money, buying twice, to finally get hold of kit that’s applicable to learning.
Location, location, location.
In tandem with wrong foil gear choices is heading out at inappropriate locations. We understand that seeing glossy images and funky videos of riders gliding idyllically on groomed waves is attractive. But starting your wing foiling journey at a surf orientated venue is a no no. The flattest water possible, devoid of current and chop is much better. A location like in the video below will aid progression much quicker than a more exposed spot. (Note: the video was from a particularly cold session, which isn’t ideal for most. But the example of conditions is what most wingers should be looking for when building their skills).
The other sexy element of wing foiling is being able to ride in uber light airs. With barely a puff of breeze, experienced riders are up and flying effortlessly. What’s missed is the technical aspect of this. It takes a little while to dial skills in and be able to accomplish sub-18 knot wing foiling. When learning you need wind. At least 20 knots. When paired with flat water and combined with the right equipment riders are much more likely to have success.
Scroll down for more info about wingsurfing locations.
Is it worth getting a tow before adding the wing?
Learning the foil is essential. Much more so than the other bits of kit. It’s long been known that being towed behind a boat or ski, by a competent pilot, is a way to ‘learn’ the foil before adding a wing. Having lessons will potentially open this experience up as sometimes, we appreciate, access to powerboats isn’t available.
eFoils can be another good option when trying to understand how a foil works. This is perhaps simpler than being towed. However, access to eFoils can also be limited due to their cost. Some wing foiling schools do have them though. And can be offered as part of the package.
The foiling assist – what’s this?
New onto the market are what the brands concerned are calling the foil assist. This is a retrofitted propeller and battery back that perches on the rear of your foil board. Using a Bluetooth, wireless controller throttle controller you can use the foil assist to help you get on foil. It works for winging, SUP foil and other areas of flying above water. Plus, whilst not being an eFoil per see, these ‘toys can be used for cruising on flat water when there’s no wind to waves.
The tech of foil assists (like the Esea Foil system) is very new. But, again, unlike eFoils, foil assist units are potentially more palatable due in part to their lower price point, easier set up, lighter weight and versatility. We’re currently playing with the Esea Foil foil assist so watch this space.
What is the right wing foiling kit for a beginner?
Go big! A big, early lifting low aspect foil will serve you well. If we’re going to put a number on it then a front foil wing with at least 2000 cm 2 area is best. The fuselage should be longer to aid leverage when taking off and also help with pitch control once up and flying. And the stabiliser/tail wing should also be bigger and not tiny. Mast length is a personal choice but we’d suggest 75cm at least. There’s actually nothing wrong with going longer if your spot is deep enough. A longer mast gives more leeway and copes with chop much better.
A big wing is also a must. You may want to use a 4m but most real world riders need at least a 6m for 20 knots – sometimes bigger still. Don’t underestimate this. At 90kg (dry) we used a 7m wing regular up to 25 knots during those early stages. Power is essential. If it all becomes too much then don’t forget it’s easy to dump the oomph by sheeting out. That’s one beauty of winging. As you improve you’ll be able to drop a size or two relative to the wind strengths you ride in.
Newer, modern manufactured wings are definitely more efficient. And the materials used make for better efficiency. But it’s still power a beginner and early intermediate needs.
Wing foil boards with higher volume and greater width are essential. Avoid the hype by going too small. There’s no reason why the board you learn on can’t last – contrary to popular opinion. Lower volume, narrower boards are definitely more nimble and give a better ‘feel’ of the foil. But this is often to the detriment of starting. Choppy waters and flukey winds (which we find in most real world winging locations) make using trendy, smaller wing boards a chore. In time, sure, drop your board size. But don’t make life harder than it needs to be.
Isn’t wing foiling equipment expensive?
Wingsurfing kit isn’t cheap, that’s for sure. Especially the premium brands. But, as with anything, you get what you pay for. A top tier brand will have good quality manufacturing in place as a start. This’ll mean the longevity of equipment and performance to match. This is particularly the case when talking foils. There are a lot of forces being exerted on a foil when in use. It certainly needs to be up to the task.
Products manufactured with exotic materials do tend to be a little more fragile. But beginners and early intermediates should be aiming for kit that’s more durable. The upper echelons of wing and board design are generally for more advanced riders.
When looking at the cost of gear keep in mind your foil is the most important component. As such this is where the majority of the cost should be spent. Also, keep in mind foiling’s versatility. The sport’s ability to straddle disciplines gives way more bang for buck if you’re open to these other areas. Plus, it’ll help your overall wing foil riding as well.
The three types of foil you’ll (generally) be choosing between –
- Low aspect foils – shovel-like in appearance low aspects have lots of low end lift and are generally carvier. They can be slower though. Great for learning and getting to grips with all things wing.
- Mid aspect foils – many brands were previously billing their mid aspect foils as high aspect in previous seasons. 2023 will see a bunch of redesigned mid aspect foils that’ll be more user friendly and aim to cover glide, speed and manoeuvrability in a better way. These could become the go to foil for most.
- High aspect foils – thin, a wide span, narrow chord and delivering oodles of glide and pumpability high aspect foils are seen as the most performance side of foil design. They’re not always the most user friendly though.
Going back to the ‘getting a lesson’ point and this could get you past the initial stages and equipment you’ll be needing to use – board wise at least. You’ll then be in a position to purchase kit that won’t need to be moved on quite so quickly.
What foil mast length do I need?
Here at Foilshop UK we wingsurfed with every lenghth of mast you can get. Whilst there’s argument to hop on a shorter one when learning pretty soon you’ll out grow it.
Foiling can be a scary thing at first. The feeling of hovering above the water is off putting and unique. But you get used to it and love the feeling. And the difference in ride height between say a 75vm mast and 90cm isn’t that much. Yet you gain way more by going longer.
Once you’re foiling having a longer mast gives a lot more leeway. You breach less, can ride over chop easier and when it comes to learning to tack/gybe there’s less crashing.
As such we always recommend going longer from the start. Unless you’re winging in a particularly shallow location. Everyone we know who’s started on a shorter mast has swapped to longer as the benefits are tangible. As a beginner, you may as well go down that road from the off. Not least because it’ll save you cash in the long run.
What location is best for learning to wingsurf?
Wingsurfing spots vary massively, depending on local factors. Open, exposed wave venues aren’t the best. You really should be aiming for the flattest water possible when learning. Also, somewhere that doesn’t have lots of current.
The UK’s wind isn’t the most consistent. So watching the forecast and being able to line up sessions with as consistent wind as possible is best practice. This does mean there can often be a lot of waiting around for the right day. But windows do open. And sometimes for longer periods than you’d imagine.
Here are a few suggestions of spots that are great for learning and improving (there are plenty more) –
- Meon Shore, Hampshire.
- Portland Harbour, Weymouth.
- Poole Harbour, Dorset.
- Daymer Bay, Cornwall.
- Instow, Devon.
- Roadford Lake, Devon.
- Southport Marine Lake.
- Queen Mary Reservoir.
- Dale, Pembrokeshire.
- Tiree, Scotland.
- Cork Harbour, Ireland.
Note: all spots should be approached with understanding. Tides, general conditions, access and other local factors all have to be considered when choosing your wing spot.
Improving your wing foiling.
Once those basics have been mastered it’s then a case of consolidating what new skills you’ve gained. Sustaining flights in both directions and being able to stay upwind are key. Then riders are few to begin their gybing journey.
Some foilers do learn tacks in tandem but gybes are arguably easier for most, hence this turn being the first port of call. With a solid gybe you’ll find riding at more locations starts to open up. During the still falling on turns phase, we know how much fatigue can set in. Clambering back onboard often is energy sapping. As such, if this is where you’re at, we’d suggest waiting a little while longer to hit the waves!
Foil pumping – an essential skill to learn.
One of the foundational building block skills of foiling (all types not just winging) is pumping. If you can learn to pump efficiently you’ll be able to make much better use of high performance foiling gear, in rubbish conditions more often.
There are still what we’d call advanced riders we know of who whilst being pretty consistent would be able to do so much more by dialling in their pumping skills. It does open the door to much more foiling fun.
Pumping is very subtle and can change slightly depending on the foil you’re using. It’s worth checking out what experienced riders consider to be good foil pumping technique and then adapting that to your own riding. Doing other foil sports – not just wing – is also a good way to really discover how to use your foil effectively. Foiling is super versatile and shouldn’t just be limited to one discipline in our opinion.
Entering the surf arena.
Wing foiling’s ability to milk waves is tangible. This is, for many wingsurfers, a big draw. Flying out to sea before switching direction, picking up swell, flagging the wing and gliding on a liquid wall will get most foiler’s juices flowing. And the waves don’t need to be of consequence. Wind blown, gutless bumps are ripe for some wing action.
As mentioned above it’s worth nailing down your gybes before heading for the waves. This will make the experience much more fun. And it’ll be safer. Working your way up to surf foiling is the best approach. Be under no illusion, however, that even mellow wave days will see you get tumbled and washed. Your first few wave sessions will feel like a boxing match at the end!
There’s a fallacy that riders should also be able to tack if considering wave foiling. This isn’t true. For those that can gybe fairly consistently, that’s enough. Learning to tack will add more versatility but it’s not essential. More key is being able to fly early, stay on foil for the majority and go around corners efficiently. You’ll still fall from time to time but with a higher gybing hit rate your wave winging won’t be as hard work.
Do I need to swap my gear for more performance orientated kit?
One of the biggest wing foiling myths is that you just have to be using small, low volume wing foil boards. Going smaller does give riders more manoeuvrability, a more direct foil feel and good designs can unstick and fly earlier. But you don’t HAVE to be riding a sinker. In fact, for most foilers this isn’t the best choice.
The trickiest aspect of all foiling disciplines is the start. Trying to get up and foiling when the water’s choppy and the wind’s gusty with a low volume board isn’t fun. You may persevere and get to a point where this becomes a doddle. But for riders who want to stick with their tried and tested intermediate gear until they feel truly good and ready this is fine.
If you’re going to swap anything out then looking at your foil first would be a better suggestion. Something with more speed and, more importantly, better glide and pumpability will open up more opportunities. A glidey foil will make tacks and gybes easier to nail whilst pumpability will make getting on foil easier – as long as you have the basic mechanics of pumping down pat.
Also, adding to your wing quiver is worthwhile. Wings do have big wind ranges. But an additional size will see even more bars covered. Swapping your original types out for something newer and more efficient will also see more fun. New wings, which are a tad more costly granted, have more features to enhance your riding as well as manufacturing that will deliver higher performance. Once you’ve ticked this all off and improved your wing foiling skills further it may then be time to change your board.
But how small should I go with my wing foiling kit?
This is ultimately down to the rider and what they feel comfortable with. For wingers with appropriate skills, who ride at locations where conditions are conducive, then sinker board and high aspect foil setups are certainly an option.
As wing foiling evolves, and new equipment comes to market, there’s understandably a draw where riders want to experiment and see what’s possible. During the last few years advanced wing foiling has been about using small foil boards and smaller foils. More recently there’s been a shift back towards more sensible volumes, widths and board lengths with, at time of writing (Mar 2023) foils heading back to mid aspect creations.
One observation from Foilshop UK HQ is the majority of wingers want to ride in less than ideal conditions. These equipment choices need to be reflective. Hence why the extreme end of wing gear is probably not the best fit. But each rider will have their own set of criteria based on user weight, style, location and aspirations.
Wing design has come on leaps and bounds since the sport’s initial explosion. Back then a 4m, saggy, baggy and efficient wing was par for the course. It became apparent soon after that riders needed a quiver. And bigger sizes too.
Keeping things simple was the name so soft handles and a basic leading edge/middle strut/canopy were what you had.
As wingsurfing evolved, however, it became apparent that better performance was needed in tandem with incremental sizes to cover all eventualities.
Wave riders require a specific feel. As do freestylers. And with wing foil racing gaining traction the kit as a whole needs to be able to cope with the rigours of burning round a course. But Freeriders also need to be catered for. And so, designers went back to the drawing board and looked at everything from wing geometry to materials.
If 2022 was a year when more exotic materials were introduced more widely 2023 is where brands have been concentrating on handles. More specifically, wings now come with soft handles, rigid handles and booms. Some models offer the option of swapping between one style and the other depending on what ‘feel’ riders are after. And the best designs utilise handles to make up the whole design and have everything working as one efficient unit. As such, wing prices have increased but so has performance.
One benefit of improved wings is the ability to use less size. Where once you may have needed a 6m it’s perfectly feasible to be using a 4m. And all in partnership with new school higher aspect foils. Foil and wing design go hand in hand. As foils improve so does the need for better wings. All this should in theory give a better experience on the water once riders have advanced beyond the beginner stage.
Do I need a harness to wing?
With improvements in wing design come additional strains and stresses on the rider’s body. One beauty of wingsurfing and a big appeal for those coming from windsurfing and kitesurfing is the ability to do away with harnesses and ride in a freer manner.
The forgiving nature of wings to date means anyone can learn, improve and advance without the need to be coupled to your wing. Harnesses are currently a choice. No question they do aid upwind riding and can help foilers prolong their sessions further. But a harness, or harness hook, isn’t a necessity (yet).
As wings improve, and efficiency ramps up, we may get to a point where everyone needs to be wearing a harness. Otherwise, the rider in question won’t be able to hold on. The wing will be too powerful and not offer any leeway. We’re not there yet but it mightn’t be that long until we are. Some critics have already suggested this type of situation may halt wingsurfing’s growth. As with all sports if it becomes too elite then the masses get put off. But equally, we can’t (and shouldn’t) halt progression.
Can I jump my wing foiling kit?
There are plenty of examples online of wingers jumping – some getting considerable hang time whilst others contort, twist, flip and bend into all kinds of shapes. So in a nutshell you can jump your windsurfing gear. Here at Foilshop UK we’re fond of a boost or two ourselves!
Foils are a little like trampolines when thinking about jumps. You can literally spring upwards, using the foil’s spring and even from flat water get considerable height. Add a ramp to the mix, such as a wave, and it’s possible to boat even higher. For riders who can control the loft you can float pretty high and come down with a relatively soft landing. But there’s always the possibility of breaking something…
Spend any time in the air and sooner or later something will give. You may land at a funny angle or just get it wrong completely. Good quality foils are super strong these days. But all equipment has its limits. If you want to enter the realms of wing jumping feel free. Just be aware you’ll need to check your gear regularly and replace and/or fix anything that’s damaged.
Also, be prepared for a few swims. You may have to bail your equipment if it does malfunction you’ll need to get back to shore. If jumping then we’d suggest not riding miles offshore, just in case it does all go pear shaped.
Can I go wing foil racing?
Wing foil racing is fast gaining traction. It stands to reason that competent wingers fancy pitting tier racing wits against others and seeing who can make it round the race course first. They’re unique in many cases (compared to say windsurf slalom) as they can include elements of freestyle, pumping and flat out speed.
Wing foiling races are springing up everywhere in the UK. The UK Windsurfing Association organised a series in 2022 which saw young gun Hugo Dobrojevicz take the top honours. In 2023 more dates have been added to the racing calendar.
Further afield and it’s possible to find race events globally. There’s even a wing foiling pro tour encompassing elements of wave, freestyle and wing racing. From a brand perspective wing racing is giving the opportunity to develop ever more performance orientated equipment.
This ultimately knocks on to recreational riding as breakthroughs in design can often benefit the mass market. Unfortunately, the caveat is price increases. That said if we all end up with better performing kit then that’s a good thing as it’ll make the sport even more enjoyable.
And what about wave winging?
We’ve mentioned wave wingsurfing already. But for many, this is where the appeal lies. Being able to ‘tow’ yourself out before turning and riding waves back towards shore is a highly addictive thing. Waves don’t need to be huge, such is the efficiency of the foil. You mightn’t be gouging rails and sending buckets but gliding, swooping, cutting back and heading round sections with speed is what some riders chase.
Once you can competently ride the wave arena’s yours for the taking (if that’s a preference). The good news is some UK locations are perfectly set up for wave wing foiling and have now developed quite the scene (even if swells don’t materialise all the time).
Being safe when out wing foiling is a priority – there’s a lot that can go wrong. And as the sport grows it’s inevitable some mishaps will occur. To date, this has mostly been about equipment parting company with riders due to leash malfunctions. Or foils breaking. No serious accidents have occurred. But it’s definitely worth being mindful of. And that includes being mindful of other water users. Not everyone understands foiling. And many won’t appreciate you riding in close proximity. Our advice is to steer clear as much as possible. We don’t want any unfortunate incidents or bans being imposed because of reckless individuals.
Here are a few windsurfing safety aspects to observe –
- Check ALL your gear is in good working order BEFORE hitting the water. This includes tightening and maintaining your foil bolts!
- Fix and/or replace anything that’s damaged.
- Make sure your leashes are working properly.
- Consider where you’re launching and what the conditions are like. Don’t take on anything that’s beyond your ability.
- Wear a good quality wetsuit to help protect against the water’s chill – we favour UK brand NCW. Also, wetsuits may give additional protection if you land on foil kit.
- Wear an impact vest and helmet if you feel the need.
- Don’t cause a problem to other water users – including other wing foilers. Ride respectfully and steer clear of any hazards. Keep well away from swimmers!
- Get a wing foiling lesson. This may help fast track your learning process as well as signposting any potential safety points you hadn’t previously considered.
- Be careful when carrying kit around on land. You don’t want to damage other people’s property or cause unnecessary injury to yourself or those close by.
- Be an ambassador for the sport in every way. Show others how to be a well thought of rider. Leave the ego at the door.
How have others found the process of learning and improving their wing foiling skills?
You mightn’t think it when looking at the marketing hype surrounding winging but every rider goes through the same process of learning – to more or less degree. Wingsurfing is often portrayed as a super easy sport, which isn’t quite true. For sure, if you have prior experience you may pick it up fairly swiftly. Especially if you’re dogged and spend considerable time on the water dialling in skills. Equally, not everyone has this luxury so time is required. The best thing is to not get despondent or down if you think improvements aren’t being made. Keep plugging away and eventually, it’ll click.
We asked a few riders for their wingsurfing experiences to date –
Rowena Hammal, mum and avid super keen wingsurfer:
‘I’ve been winging for nearly a year and am totally addicted – nothing beats that foiling feeling! I windsurfed as a kid but this is much easier in terms of setup and lugging kit around. I’m currently working on gybing and would love to be able to ride some waves one day.’
Tez Plavenieks, co owner of Foilshop UK and all round waterspports/action sports fan:
‘I started windsurfing and SUP foiling first and was doing that for a few years prior to wing foiling emerging. When it did I wasn’t initially convinced and took a little bit of time to get involved. Even when I did I thought it was pretty naff. Wings were baggy and inefficient, offering zero power. As a windsurfer this was annoying. A few months later I decided to commit and spent a period of weeks really dialling in the skills needed. Wings were improving, as were foils and my understanding.’
‘When I switched to a huge shovel like low aspect foil things really started to click. Initially, I’d written the design off as too big. Now I know better. For a while, I was happy riding on 6m/7m wings with the aforementioned foil. But then my skills took another leap forward and suddenly I was able to get going with much less wing area and smaller foils. The chance to try a few high aspect designs came soon after and I was blown away with the glide. Suddenly gybes were much easier. Fast forward to now and I’m pretty consistent with what I do. I know what kit works for me and the way I ride. Having tested so much gear I’m confident with looking at something and assessing whether it’ll work or not for my ability and style. My goal now is to pass this information on and help others get to the same comfortable point with their own riding.’
Angus McIntyre, software developer and foil nut:
‘My winging career began in late 2020 after being introduced to it by my sister. It very quickly replaced windsurf foiling as my go-to watersport. There is something about the equipment that feels playful and uncomplicated and this is very appealing to me.’
‘Initially, I found winging frustrating and had to find the right equipment before the sport was truly unlocked. I’m now flying around nicely, turning at both ends with a few variations and enjoying the odd wave when it’s there. Wave riding is a brilliant sensation on a foil, and something that every winger should try and do. I’m on my board 2 or 3 times per week and keep being drawn but by the versatility of it. If there is wind and I can launch without being wrecked by the surf, I’ll be out there, loving every moment.’
Mike Pringuer, dad and accomplished windsurfer:
‘Being an experienced windsurfer, an early adopter of windsurf-foiling, and seeing my son take to it like a duck to water….I set aside the tail end of summer ‘22 to focus on winging exclusively. After all, it’s only an engine change…’
‘With advice, I made a key decision to plump for an ambitiously sized board (volume, width) as opposed to a bigger beginners board, hoping that prior experience would carry me through. Armed with a borrowed older gen-1 “shovel” foil and a borrowed wing (courtesy of foilshop.co.uk) , I was out there thinking that the choice of board was a terrible decision but perseverance, a lot of swearing and prior relevant experience carried me through.’
‘Those first flights were very satisfying and the smack downs continued until suddenly the lights came on and was able to get some semblance of control. Plus the board became “right-sized” having grown into it. Being a windsurfer, I felt somewhat naked without straps so they went on pretty quick; if nothing else they are a brilliant cue for where to put your front knee prior to standing up, and where to put your feet when standing.’
‘Having promised myself to not buy any more winging gear until those first flights, I took the plunge and ordered a new high aspect Axis foil, which provided a night & day game changing difference. As we emerge from winter recess, the game is now gybing and getting stuck into the swell & waves and find a way to make it complement windsurfing.’
‘Top beginner tips from me: Straps for a foot placement guide; impact vest for those smack downs; and a helmet – remember they cost nothing to buy and nothing to wear.’
James Dunstone, teacher and water enthusiast:
‘Growing up by the beach in South Devon I’ve always known which way round to point a bodyboard, but it wasn’t until my twenties that I first picked up a ‘proper’ surfboard in anger. A camping holiday in Woolacombe and Croyde and a few years living in Cardiff and access to the waves at Porthcawl and I was hooked. Throw in some 5mm neoprene and a shortboard and I progressed fairly well. ‘
‘Enter my thirties, a move to Hampshire to be with my now wife, a new teaching career, 2 small children and a pair of dodgy knees from years of football and my surfing was rather non-existent for the best part of a decade. Now in my forties I’ve got a bit more time and balance back. I’d looked at kite surfing a few times but never took the plunge.’
‘Paddle boarding seemed a more accessible way forward, so I bought an inflatable SUP for a family of 4 to play with, but always looked to do something more progressive. The first time I saw someone wing foiling it looked pretty painful, with lots of effort for what seemed very little reward. But the more I watched the more excited I got. After several attempts, the rider lifted and flew across the water, with long flowing turns. From that point and with the conditions here on the south coast, I’ve been determined to give it a go.’
‘I started chatting to a fellow Dad on the school run, Tez Plavenieks, who knew a bit about this sort of thing. Turns out he knows rather a lot. A few conversations turned into lots of conversations and a whole wealth of SUP, foil and wing knowledge. I now have a new hard SUP board and paddle for SUP surfing and a plan of attack for the foil, with more understanding of conditions and hydrodynamics. I’ve tried wing handling on dry land, one wheeling with and without a wing, skating and wing skating, all with a view to putting it into practice on the water. Hopefully with some wing skills and muscle memory to fall back on, learning to fly on water will be a mid-life crisis made a little bit easier.’
Tom Partington, naval architect, hydrodynamicist and owner of TT Designs:
‘I started my wingfoil journey in May 2021, at the same time I started working for Mistral International as a designer. I found the process of getting flying consistently relatively easy but really struggled to master gybes. Once I got over this hurdle, my love for winging has grown and grown. Currently, I ride Slingshot wings and foils with a TT Design (my company) board.’ You can find out more about TT Designs here.
‘Currently working up to doing some of the UKWSA Slalom events and 360 transitions.’
‘My best advice is not to progress your equipment too quickly, with the nature of designing and building prototype equipment I was using foils that were above my ability level, which looking back, really slowed my progression. Stick on your starter equipment until your can consistently gybe, switch your feet and are crashing less frequently.’
‘Don’t get too caught up with high aspect ratio kit, you can have loads of fun on front wings with 5.5 to 7 aspect ratio and they’re much easier to ride.’
Mark Graham, owner of North Coast Wetsuits and co owner of Foilshop UK:
‘My wing experience is currently limited to wing skating. Firstly, it’s NOT easy! But when it comes together it’s great fun and you can really get a shift on!’
‘What surprised me first off is how heavy and awkward the wing can be either when there is little wind OR when you get a sudden gust. It really takes some time to get your feet planted on the board without the wing dragging you off. You really have to understand wind direction and when you want to go, where to hold the wing to get there. It’s a lot to take on board.’
‘It’s also pretty physical on the arms, shoulders and abs, and in my case, I have no abs due to surgery after an accident. When the wind drops it’s damn hard to keep that wing where you want it.’
‘The thing that I really found was inflation. You want the wing to be really well inflated to work (to its max), if it’s under inflated it’s hopeless. Also, keep in mind you don’t want to be dragging the edges of the wing along the floor. Wings are pretty well made, with reinforcements on the tips, but you can hear the abrasion and I cannot imagine it taking too much abuse to wear a hole.’
‘Find somewhere with plenty of space as you are going to go all over the place until things start to click. I found, as a newbie, there was either not enough wind or far too much wind, so it’s going to take time but be patient and you’ll have a blast.’
If you want to find out more about windsurfing, going in general or need more answers then feel free to get in touch with us here.
For further reading check out Foilshop UK’s Foiling Knowledge page here.