Now that Lisa and I have started our journey of windsurf foiling, people have started asking about the gear we have selected and why we selected it. Let me start by saying that we have limited experience foiling and limited experience with our gear thus far. However, there is still much insight that I can give based on our recent experience, research, and intentions. For two years, I watched everybody else on their windsurf foiling journeys before we pulled the trigger. I listened to what they said they did wrong. I watched to see what worked for them. I researched just about everything out there. Finally, we just had to do it!
Our intentions are specifically geared toward Windsurf Wave Foiling. This is a discipline that is very different from most aspects of windsurf foiling. There are only a handful of riders in the world that are dedicated to Windsurf Wave Foiling. Fortunately for us, the east end of Lake Erie is home to the founders of Windsurf Wave Foiling. We are very, very lucky. The discipline of Windsurf Wave Foiling has a very different stance, technique and approach compared to other windsurf foiling disciplines. The stance is more upright and over the board. It is more about surfing than windsurfing. There are basically 4 categories of windsurf foiling: Windsurf Wave Foiling, Windsurf Freeride Foiling, Windsurf Freestyle Foiling, and Windsurf Race Foiling. You can learn more about the four disciplines here Four Different Windfoiling Types. While Lisa and I are most interested in the wave aspect, the gear we have selected, which is specific to Windsurf Wave Foiling, is also excellent for learning the basics of all windsurf foiling disciplines, and it has been a blast for Windsurf Freeride Foiling thus far. Let's get into specifics more.
The board we are using is a modified SUP foil board called Top Gun (model Iceman) designed and built by local Buffalo board shaper Casey Treichler. It is 7 feet long, 31 inches wide, and 120 liters. You will notice from the two pictures below that there is about a 14 inch tail behind the tuttle box, which is very different from most windsurf foil boards you have likely seen. This tail makes it a wave catching machine and offers more float and volume for uphauling and more float and length for early planing. The sharp edge behind the tuttle box allows quick release of water from the board surface to improve planing. There is also a channel down the middle to help the board track straight when pumping and when getting on plane.
You will also notice that the board is strapless. This makes it very easy for learning because you are not tripping on anything. There are markers on the board that you can easily feel with your feet so you know that you feet are in the correct position. We have only used the board in freeride situations so far, but when we get into waves we are excited to have the freedom of not having foot straps so we can move around on the board to adjust for different conditions. While this board works well in freeride conditions, it is not really about freeride foiling. We are not interested in having our feet locked in one place. We ultimately want to ride waves on days when the wind is 12-20mph without needing to use the sail much. The intention is more of a 'surfing' experience rather than a windsurfing experience. That is what makes this such a different discipline. It's not so much about the wind power as it is the wave power and foil power. Even in the few freeride sessions we have had, I've already found that the foil is more useful than the sail. Even at my early stage of learning, I can move my feet around the board to get in a better position for pumping the foil, and then move my feet again once I'm up on the foil. Your feet are so free. It is very versatile and comfortable
Our foil selection came with the same intentions in mind. In the picture below you will see our foil which has a 29.5 inch mast and 1922sq. cm. front wing. This setup is designed for early lift, wave riding, and small sails. It is also great for learning, and it is pretty fast, although not as fast as a freeride foil. But, we have no interest in going fast as a dedicated discipline. We want to foil waves in light wind with small sails. So far, the biggest sail I have used is 5.3m in 12mph wind with gusts of 15mph. Once I improve a little more, I expect that 4.7m is the largest sail I will be using. It's that efficient. I was on a 4.2m sail just the other day in about 15mph wind with 18mph gusts, and I felt over-powered. Small sails make everything so maneuverable. Even on my wave board I strive toward small sails because it makes the wave experience that much more maneuverable. You don't have the advantage of a foil on a traditional wave board, so you need power from the sail, but a small sail still equals greater maneuverability.
This foil system has a mast with a wide chord for extra stiffness. Stiffness means efficiency. It has a head fit for a deep tuttle box, and the mast/fuselage is one piece, again for stiffness. The wings attach with one screw each, and the tuttle box has the usual two bolts. It takes a total of four minutes to assemble the foil, get the board out of the van, and attach the foil to the board. I timed it several times. You do NOT need to mess around with 14 bolts of different sizes and waste time with gear assembly. You don't need to figure out which end of the fuselage you want to use for wing placement. You don't need to adjust the pitch of the rear wing. None of that. It's just plug and play!!! And, it's very light.
It is still too early to give a final verdict on gear as we have just begun this journey. Thus far, the gear has been perfect for learning and for freeride. It's very easy to ride and quick to assemble. And, judging by the high performance riders who are using this exact same set-up, I think it will prove to be the best gear available in the discipline of Windsurf Wave Foiling. Stayed tuned for more good stuff. Enjoy!
Today was session number 6 in the quest to learn how to windsurf foil. Again on 5.3m sail, but this time with a little more wind of maybe 12mph with gusts of 18mph. The wind was a little on/off, but I felt like I made great progress.
The biggest accomplishment today was learning how to steer. Yesterday, I was instructed that steering on the foil is done with the back foot. So, today I tried it. Works GREAT!!! Get the board level, and just a little pressure with the toes or heel of the back foot and you can go wherever you want. I was pretty excited about learning something so simple. A few more sessions and I feel like I'll be able to start banking the board a little bit with the turn. The water is still pretty cold, so I'm trying not to try too many new things and crash.
The next area of accomplishment today was in sustained riding up on foil. During this session I was able to comfortably stay on foil the whole time between tacks. On starboard tack I was able to drop the back hand, but not the front hand. On port tack I was able to drop the front hand but not the back hand. I couldn't figure out how to do it the same both ways, but I'm sure the solution will present itself soon.
Today's session was about an hour or a little less. That's a good amount of time to make progress without getting tired to the point where I pick up bad habits. I remembered an article I wrote a few months ago called Continuing To Improve. I went back and read it again. It reminded me how important it is to deliberately pay attention to your body parts and what they are doing. When I'm more aware of my body parts I improve faster. This is a very fun journey!
If you have read my previous blog post, April, Windy But Chilly, dated April 30 2020, you learned that for the 2020 season I decided to add 2 categories to the wind log. These 2 categories include days that are over 50 degree air temp and days that are over 60 degree air temp. As you may recall, I generally record data for days when air temps are over 40 degrees and the wind blows at least 15-20mph+ for at least one hour. By sorting that data a little further, the additional categories of 50+ and 60+ degree days can be useful to those riders who only ride on warmer days.
Since it is not that difficult to sort the data, I decided to go back and do the same thing for 2019. The results are actually very interesting, and almost surprising. Here are the results:
2019- 40+ degree days: 159 days, with average sail 5.0m, equates to 4.5 days per week
50+ degree days: 136 days, with average sail 5.0m, equates to 3.9 days per week
60+ degree days: 102 days, with average sail 5.2m, equates to 2.9 days per week
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I am surprised to see that sail size is actually not much different in the warmer categories. My hunch was that the category including the colder 40+ degree days would reveal a smaller sail size, but that is not really the case. For the 50+ degree days the sail size is the same as for 40+ degree days. For 60+ degree days the sail size is only slightly larger. Of course, there are fewer number of days at the warmer air temps which is obviously expected.
Maybe you find this helpful and interesting. Have fun on the water!
April has come and gone, but along it's path was a month of very good wind. Air temperatures, however, were not so friendly. The month of March spoiled us a bit with the warm air. A local meteorologist reported that Jan-March of 2020 was the warmest for that 3-month period since 1939. April, well, brrrrrrrrrrrrrr!
In spite of the chilliness there were 24 days of at least 15-20mph+ wind for at least one hour with over 40 degree air temps. The average sail size on those 24 days was 4.5m. That's a pretty good month. That's 5.6 days per week on an average sail of 4.5m with air temps over 40 degrees. Sounds good! But, keep in mind that many of those days were right near the 40 degree mark with no sun. So, it was chilly riding. I passed up many sessions simply because I wimped out on the air temp.
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Windsurfing When The Walk Is Far (6min 49sec)
This season I decided to add 2 additional categories to the wind log. There is now a category for sessions with at least 50 degree air temp, and a category for sessions with at least 60 degree air temp. I thought this would be useful data for those riders who only sail on warmer days. It's not that much extra work to sort the data. So, here it is so far: The total sessions for 2020 with 40 degree air or warmer and at least 15-20mph wind for at least one hour is 39 sessions and average sail size 4.4m. Sessions with 50 degree air or warmer is 8 sessions with average sail size 4.0m. Stay tuned for sessions over 60 degrees. It is interesting to note that in the warmer category there was a resulting smaller sail size. My hunch was that it would be the other way around. The warmer category is a much smaller sample size, so maybe I will go back to the 2019 data and sort it by air temp. I don't think there are many conclusions to draw from that data, but it's nice to know that there have been 8 sessions in 2020 that were warm so far.
On a side note, we got our foil and board, and I was able to get one session on it so far. Just AWESOME! As you may recall, I tried 2 sessions of foiling in Florida for my first time this past February. Here is that blog post My First Impressions of Windsurf Foiling. I've been waiting for a warm enough day here at home to try foiling when I do NOT need to wear thick mittens. That day finally came earlier this week. IT WAS AWESOME!!! The board popped right up on foil in 12mph wind and gusts of about 15mph with a 5.3m sail. It just rips once you're on foil. I had several beginner challenges, but got some good rides too. Improvement over an hour was very noticeable. Hopefully we will have it on the waves in the open lake soon. The gear is as follows: GoFoil Maliko200 wing (1922sq. cm.) with 29.5inch mast, and Top Gun Iceman board which is 120 liters, 7feet long, 31 inches wide and designed for windsurf wave foiling. Can't wait to get the next session. It is equally as exciting to foil in 12mph wind as any good day of regular windsurfing! I"m HOOKED!!!!
Usually we are lucky to score just a couple sessions in the month of March here in WNY. Lake Erie is often frozen, and air temps are typically not friendly in March. But 2020 has been a different story.
While most of us have been occupied with more serious issues this month, the wind and warmth has prevailed this March like no other year that I have witnessed. Although I have not personally gotten a ton of water time, I have still recorded the data. It's fun to think about even when we don't get out on the water every day.
As many of you know, I record sessions only when air temps are 40 degrees or more AND wind magnitude is at least 15-20mph for at least one hour. And, of course, the water must be ice free. In March of 2020 there were 14 sessions that met this criteria, with an average windsurfing sail size of 4.3 meters. Average air temp during those sessions was 46 degree while each session individually was at least 40 degrees. And, on Tuesday, March 31, the temperature of Lake Erie was 41 degrees which equals the warmest temperature ever recorded on that date.
Not bad for March. The 2019 season was the best overall season I have ever recorded even though Lake Erie was frozen through most of April that season. I can only imagine how good the 2020 season will be if it continues on the path it has started, especially since we have the bonus months of March and April compared to not having those months in 2019. Let's look forward to getting outside and enjoying the fresh air.
Today I stopped by 3 local beaches to see what the conditions were like. Unfortunately, I was not able to windsurf due to the ice, but here is an update for you.
Gallagher Beach - There is ice in the half of the box closest to shore, so there is no way to enter the water. Maybe in another week.
Woodlawn Beach - Nearly all of the shoreline has hills of ice about 10 feet high and shore ice about 20 yards out. At the extreme south end the ice hills are very small and there is no shore ice, however, it is not safe to enter the water because if you get downwinded you would not be able to exit the water. Probably a couple weeks before this spot will be accessible. I was surprised to see logs up by the railroad tracks where we park. This must be from the Halloween storm last fall. Here are a few pictures. The Tiki Bar is not looking so good...lol.
Hamburg Beach - It is possible to kite here, but it would be very difficult to windsurf. There is an ice barrier about 3-4 feet high along the shore. With a kite you could navigate the ice barrier to enter/exit the water, but it would be difficult to carry windsurfing gear over the barrier. Another week should make it more accessible. There was a kite out there today, and I heard there were a few out there yesterday.
Niagara River, Fix Road - I got an update from Mark while he was at Fix Road. I don't ride in the river, but if you do like to ride there it is looking good.
Bennett Beach and Lake Erie Beach - Another report from Jim says that Bennett Beach is not rideable, but Lake Erie Beach is rideable.
I did not drive to Canada. Maybe tomorrow.
To sum up, windsurf foiling is so AWESOME! I only got two sessions of about an hour each while in Florida, but I can say that I'm totally addicted. I know that a lot of you have been thinking about windsurf foiling and have been wondering what the learning curve is like. I had also been wondering what the learning curve would be like. I will give you my perspective on these first two sessions.
Here is the gear that I rented and used for both sessions:
Board - Slingshot Wizard 125
Foil - Slingshot Infinity 76 wing, with 35 inch mast
Sail - Severne Freek 4.4m, 4.8m, and 5.2m
Session 1: This first session was mostly about getting acquainted with everything. It was all much easier than I expected, but there were a lot of basic things to learn like carrying the board, getting into the water, and not hitting your legs on the wing. Uphauling was easy, but I was often able to water start. Most instructors say not to kick with your leg when water starting because you will kick the wing, but I had no problems kicking. If you touch the wing with your foot before you water start then you know exactly where it is and you just don't allow your foot to kick at that depth. If you have a really short mast, however, I can see how it would be a problem. Once the board gets moving, you weight the back foot and the board comes right up out of the water. There was a lot of up, down, up down, up, down this first session. I thought I would crash when the board came down hard as these boards have short noses, but I never crashed this way. It was a little tricky getting into the front foot strap at first, but I got used to it by the end of this first session. There were no back foot straps so I just had to make sure my back foot was over the mast. I could feel the holes in the board with my feet where the mast attaches, so this was a simple way to know my back foot was in the correct spot. I fell off a few times when the board got too high out of the water because the foil seemed to get very unstable that high up. If you hold on to the boom when you fall then you always land far enough away from the wing that you don't have to worry about hitting the wing with your legs or feet. I made sure to always pull my knees up when falling as extra insurance that I would not hit the wing. I did not get one scratch or bump on my shins, feet, or ankles during either session. I started this session without a harness, but about halfway through I went back to the car and got my harness. My hands just got too tired. The harness allowed me to rest my hands in between flights. By the end of the session I was doing better by staying in the harness the whole time. Everything felt more stable in the harness.
Session 2: The second session was really, really fun! From the first reach I could easily get into the front foot strap, the board came right out of the water, and I was getting nice five second rides with soft touch-downs in between. I felt most comfortable in the harness so I continued to use the harness. After 30 minutes I was consistently getting 10-20 second rides. The most exciting part was that I could pump the foil with my feet and the sail with my hands at the same time, and I was able to get going on a 4.4m sail in gusts of 15mph. Once you're up in the air there is barely any resistance and there is no noise. You just float. As speed increased I felt that I needed more front foot pressure to keep the foil and board down. Several times I over foiled and things got very unstable when the foil got that high. However, I rarely crashed as long as I brought the board back down right away.
Suggestions: I don't have experience beyond these two sessions, so don't take my suggestions too seriously. However, many people want to know what to expect during their first couple windsurf foiling sessions, so I will give a few thoughts. My biggest suggestion is to learn to ride smaller sails and smaller fins on your wave board before learning to foil. This is recommended by advanced windsurf foilers, and I found it to be very important. Learning to ride smaller sails and fins on your wave board trains your body to be in the proper position for foiling. You need to be more upright and over the board rather than outboard like you are on larger freeride gear. In order to ride smaller sails and fins on your wave board you must train yourself to keep leverage off the fin by staying more over the center of the board. Learn to do this first before foiling and it will make it easier to learn to foil. You can read about Riding Smaller Wave Sails here. And you can find 6 videos on Riding Smaller Wave Sails here. You will also want to read this article Two Different Sports: Large Sails vs. Small Sails. In addition, by learning to ride smaller sails and fins on your wave board you learn to be very efficient. I think this efficiency helped me when foiling because I didn't have to work hard to get the board out of the water. It felt very natural to me to pump the sail and foil together to get going, and I believe this is a result of learning to ride smaller sails and fins on my wave board. Make sure to get a foil with a big wing. The wing I used is the smallest wing I would want to learn with. I am actually purchasing an even bigger wing when I get my own gear this spring so that I can use smaller sails in lighter winds as recommended by many advanced foilers. Speed is of no interest to me, but the maneuverability of small sails is of great interest. I thought that starting with a 35 inch mast would be too scary, but it was fine. Initially, I wanted to start with a very small 18 inch mast, but I'm glad I didn't waste my time. The 35 inch mast was just fine. Also, I thought it would be better to learn on a longer board, but I was wrong. The short Wizard 125 was great. I never got catapulted over the front, and the nose never got stuck in the water even when coming down hard. If I had it to do over again I would get rid of the front foot strap. It is suggested to use the front foot strap so that you know your foot is in the correct spot on the board, but a piece of yellow tape would probably suffice and then you would have one less thing to think about and deal with.
Overall, it was much easier and way more fun than I expected!!! I'm really excited and can't stop thinking about it. I expected it to take 3-5 years to learn to windsurf foil competently, but now I can confidently say that one season should be more than enough time to become an effective windsurf foiler.
And so it is that the 2019 season has come to an end (for most of us). But what a year it has been! The 2019 season has crushed wind records since I began recording in 2011. It has been the single BEST season in nearly every category.
As I discuss the numbers keep in mind that I only count days when the wind
blows at least 15-20mph for at least a solid hour AND the air temperature is at least 40 degrees. The same system of measuring has been used each year for consistency and usefullness of comparability.
Let's start with the main data. The season began on March 28 and ended on November 27. During those 245 days there were 159 days when the wind blew at least 15-20mph for a solid hour or more and the air temp was over 40 degrees. The average windsurfing sail size on those 159 days was 5.0m and average board size 93.1 liters. This includes ONLY traditional windsurfing, NOT foiling. Yes, that means that 4.5 days per week allowed you to ride a 5.0m sail. That's pretty amazing! Compare this to 2018 which allowed you 3.8 sessions per week on a 5.2m sail, and 2017 which allowed you 3.6 sessions per week on a 5.1m sail. That's an 18.4% increase in sessions per week compared to 2018, and a 25% increase compared to 2017, plus a slightly smaller sail size. Incredible! Of the 159 sailing days there were 56 days that delivered an average sail size of 3.7m...WOW! That's almost 2 days per week on average sail size 3.7m. INCREDIBLE! And, remember, eastern Lake Erie had ice until near the end of April, so we had to rely mostly on Lake Ontario for that month.
Personally, I had a total of 66 windsurfing sessions with average sail size 4.2m and average board size 85.0 liters. This is a slightly smaller sail size than 2018 and 2017 which averaged 4.3m and 4.5m respectively, but significantly smaller board size dropping from 93.9 liters in 2018 (9.5% smaller in 2019) and 98.2 liter in 2017 (13.4% smaller in 2019). My top 20 sessions had average sail size of 3.3m which is slightly smaller than 2018 and 2017 which were both 3.4m. There were 29 sessions on 3.7m or smaller. Two of the most interesting categories in my log are "Conditions" and "Stoke". These are subjective categories that I rate on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the best and 1 being the worst). They were both significantly higher in 2019. The "Conditions" rating for 2019 is 6.0, while 2018 was 5.4, and 2017 was 5.2. The "Stoke" rating for 2019 is 6.6, while 2018 was 5.6, and 2017 was 5.4. That is as much as a 17.8% increase. A big jump in stoke and conditions. Why such a large jump? I think part of the drastic increase in rating this year is due to improvement in my personal skill level. With increased skill level comes increased stoke and the feeling that conditions are better. Plus, there was just more and better wind.
My greatest areas of improvement this year were in the carving step jibe, riding smaller boards, and carve tacking on 85 liter board. At the beginning of the year I set out with 9 goals so that I had different things to work on in different conditions. Can't really practice wave riding in flat-water conditions, for example. Of all the goals, I am most excited about my carving step jibe this season. It is a move that eludes many of us. This year the move came with a lot more time during the jibe to address each little part. Progression has reached that critical point so that the basics are now internalized, and there is now time during the jibe to more carefully focus on the finer details. Here is a brief article that you may appreciate on "Continuing To Improve".
A couple other notable items from 2019: We had a streak of 33 days of wind in a row from September 22 to October 24 with average sail size 4.8m. That's pretty cool! And the month of August was windy 27 days out of 31 days. That's amazing for August! Remember, that's at least 15-20mph wind. Wow! Lake Ontario hit record high water levels at over 249 feet in late Spring, which made it difficult to find safe launching locations. Eastern Lake Erie had ice through much of April. The storm of November 1 caused a seiche that forced water levels up 10.6 feet in Buffalo and down 2 feet in Toledo. That's almost 13 feet of water displacement. Property damage and shoreline damage is significant. Recorded wind speeds at the Buffalo Lighthouse were close to 70mph during that storm. The storm of October 27 brought winds of 50mph. While Lisa and I had a very successful session that day when the winds dropped to upper 40's, the gusts of 50mph finally convinced us to purchase a 2.7m sail. For several years we delayed this purchase, but now I wish we had done it sooner.
For us, next season will be the year of the foil. We have finally made the decision, and we have secured a board specifically for windsurf wave foiling. The foil will be ordered closer to Spring. I'm optimistic that with a little practice we will no longer need anything bigger than a 4.7m. Sometimes the winter can be long, but this new endeavor will keep us mentally excited about next April. And, who knows, there may still be a warm day in December to sneak another windsurfing session. Our gear is accessible in the garage and the snowboards are not yet loaded into the van. 2019 was an incredible season! This sport just keeps getting better and better.
Friday was the first day of the previous 33 days that the wind did not blow at least 15-20mph for a sustained solid session of at least one hour in the WNY area. This ends the longest streak of continuous days of wind since I began recording. Not only were there 33 days in a row, but the average windsurfing sail size during those 33 days was 4.8m for a person my size. That's pretty incredible!
In determining what qualifies as a 'windy day' I use the criteria of at least 15-20mph of consistent wind for at least one hour. If the meter hits 15 or 16mph a couple times during an hour, that does NOT count. If there is consistent wind of 15-20mph for 55 minutes, that does NOT count either. There must be consistent wind of 15-20mph for a solid hour.
Based on the complete records I have kept over the past three seasons, the 2019 season has kicked butt in almost every category. There is still over a month of wind to observe, but I have the feeling that November will also deliver. At the end of the season I will share the results of the entire season.
October and November are known for bringing good wind to the GLR, but some years September can be fickle. This year, however, September delivered the goods. There were 22 days of wind over 15mph this September that offered an average windsurfing sail size of 5.0m. This equates to over 5 days per week on a 5.0m sail. That's pretty good! I personally was only able to score 10 of those 22 sessions, but I was pleased to be able to use an average sail size of 4.1m. I'll take that any month of the year.
Temperatures have been pretty nice. According to the National Weather Service website Lake Erie sits at 67 degrees today which is just one degree lower than the highest all-time record temperature for the last day of September. This should at least give us fairly warm water through mid-October or later. It looks like tomorrow will bring air temps in the low 80's, so I wouldn't expect Lake Erie to cool off much in the next few days.
As we get into bigger wind and more days of consecutive riding don't forget to pay close attention to proper nutrition and recovery techniques that I have talked about in my videos. This can really help to keep you on the water as much as possible without injury. I am posting links to those 2 videos below for ease of access. Get It Good!!!
Recovery Techniques for Windsports https://www.ericthebige.net/recovery-techniques-for-windsports.html
Basic Nutrition for Recovery in Windsports https://www.ericthebige.net/basic-nutrition-for-recovery-in-windsports.html
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Eric L. Mihelbergel is an intermediate level windsurfer and kiteboarder living in the Great Lakes Region of New York State who enjoys writing about windsports and fitness.