For anyone who keeps a keen eye on watersports trends and fashions, 2019 was the year that wing foiling really took off (pun intended!). Although wings have been around since the 80s, and some ‘mad scientists’ have continued to use wings since back in the day, it’s only recently that wings have really captured the watersports zeitgeist. And that’s for two key reasons – a. hydrofoils and b. inflatable technology.
Early incarnations of wings were made using similar canopy material to windsurf sails, the other notable difference being the wing‘s struts which were hard, much like windsurfing masts. With improved inflatable construction and efficiency, born of the inflatable stand up paddle board industry, this tech has been implemented with wings. Inflatable wing designs are now much lighter weight, easy to pack down and transport/store and arguably easier to use on the water – whether foiling or not.
So what exactly is wing foiling?
Simply put it’s plugging a modern hydrofoil into an applicable board (usually a foil ready SUP or hybrid foil specific board). Then the rider in question will hop aboard and use their wing – held aloft – to harness the power of breeze and be propelled along. At certain speeds (usually quite low with the right type of foil) the hydrofoil‘s lift kicks in raising the rider and board above the water. As soon as this ‘release’ occurs everything turns silent and frictionless because of the lack of water contact. Wingers will be flying solely off the foil only using the board as a platform to perch and control the foil. In foiling mode manoeuvrability is greatly improved when compared to winging with a board stuck to the water. And the upwind and downwind capabilities of your equipment are far superior on foil to that of being off foil.
Having mastered the basics it’s then a choice of how to ride. Wingers can stick with those back and forth, upwind/downwind runs, possibly chucking in some foiling turns at either end. Others may have a bash at ‘moves’ such as jumping and the emerging foil style discipline – although that’s quite technical. The most popular route for wing foilers is into waves.
Using wings riders head out beyond breaking waves before turning round and heading back towards the beach to ride swells, just like in SUP foil mode. The only difference is wingers have this ‘thing’ in their hands. Having picked up a wave the trick is to luff the wing by holding onto the front strut handle with one hand, allowing it float behind the rider’s back on the breeze. This total depower and ‘forgetting’ of the wing allows foilers to use the power of each swell to keep them foiling and perform moves (at least those with skill) reminiscent of surfers (think carving), the only difference being it’s all done above water. Having completed a wave ride it’s then a case of carving board and foil round to face back out to sea, grabbing the wing simultaneously to utilise the wind’s power. This process is then repeated.
(Note: the above vid is Kai Lenny who has obviously spent considerable time honing his skills! This level of wing foiling won’t occur overnight and is simply and example of what you can do).
But is it hard to learn?
For first timers grabbing a wing and heading out their McConks inflatable SUP, without a hydrofoil, harnessing the wind and getting a feel for going back and forth is easily achievable. Riders WILL end up downwind to begin with which is to be expected. The trick is to use the board’s tail edge, by depressing it slightly, in conjunction with the wing‘s power to edge upwind.
On from that it’s then a case of learning how to foil. McConks doesn’t provide hydrofoils or foil boards (yet). A low aspect, shovel like foil (which is a touch slower and more stable), combined with a higher volume and fairly wide foil board will yield best results to start. If you can get a few tows behind a boat or jetski then this’ll give better an understanding of how the foil lifts and reacts.
Following this you may decide to test your foiling mettle in waves – just be sure NOT to go where others are when learning. SUP foiling is great fun when done in smaller, crumbly swells and will teach riders a lot about the foil’s reactivity.
With time on the water under your belt, both on foil (either behind a boat and/or in waves) and off, combined with wing wind exercises, such as learning how to change hands, you’ll be ready to pair the two in actual wingfoil mode soon enough.
There’re a few skills you’ll need to actually take off. Getting to your knees first, then powering up the wing a little will give stability and something to lean against as you pop to your feet. Once standing powering up the wing further, by sheeting in (without dipping the wing tips into the water causing a crash), will increase stability further. These are the exact movements you employ if wing riding aboard your McConks SUP without a foil. The key part next is to pump. Hopefully you’ll understand a bit about pumping from your time spent flying behind a board and/or on waves. Pumping is a case of weighting and unweighting the board to push the foil up and down thereby inducing water flow around the foil wings. Pumping the wing in tandem will also help (this is a skill you can practice on the beach and in non-foil mode also). Quick smart you’ll suddenly find the foil lifting and be flying above the water.
Written down the above sounds quite convoluted and technical – it is to a degree but not as hard as you might think if you take things step by step. For actual specific technique details check out the many videos online that’ll hopefully help. The below gives an example of how to get on foil with the McConks Go Fly 5m wing using the described technique above.
For any questions about the McConks Go Fly 5m wing get in touch.
You can read the parts of our windSUP/windsurf/wing surfing/wing foil articles by hitting the links below.
Stay tuned to the McConks blog for more about the windy side of SUP coming shortly –