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!
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.