Shopping for your first gear set-up can be unnerving and frustrating. Wingsurfing is a relatively new sport and yet it seems there’s an astounding range of products on offer already. The first and best piece of advice we can give you when it comes to boards and foils is: don’t go too small too early. While the following guidance may seem conservative compared to some recommendations you might find online from people who can already wingsurf competently, we asked Slingshot’s Wyatt Miller to explain how he suggests that new riders navigate through their comprehensive range of products
WORDS: Wyatt Miller Main image: Wyatt with the new Slingwing V2 wing, designed to be ultra-light weight with no oscillation when you are luffing it so you can concentrate on the board, foil and swell in front of you
Shopping for your first geat set-up can be unnerving and frustrating. Wingsurfing is a relatively new sport and yet it seems there’s an astounding range of products on offer already. The first and best piece of advice we can give you when it comes to boards and foils is: don’t go too small too early. While the following guidance may seem conservative compared to some recommendations you might find online from people who can already wingsurf competently, we asked Slingshot’s Wyatt Miller to explain how he suggests that new riders navigate through their comprehensive range of products
WORDS: Wyatt Miller Main image above: Wyatt with the new Slingwing V2 wing, designed to be ultra-light weight with no oscillation when you are luffing it so you can concentrate on the board, foil, and swell in front of you
Image above: Get started on a stand-up paddle board Photo: Slingshot
Wingsurfing is exploding as a discipline as people who already have a background in windsports as well as complete beginners are all attracted by its simplicity and relatively quick learning curve. Fundamentally, wingsurfing is sailing, so firstly participants need to understand wind direction, points of sail and the concept of the wind-clock. The first step for any entry-level winger is to build some wing skills on land. The more time spent playing with the wing on land, the quicker success will come when you first hit the water. Spending some hours using a wing on land with a good breeze, learning wing control is the obvious first step for anybody new to the sport.
The next step for the non-windsports person is to get some experience on a very stable stand-up paddle board (SUP). You or your friend may already have an SUP, but most don’t have a central keel to stop the board drifting downwind. Hence, we developed our new sUPWINDer stick on keel that can be applied to the bottom of any hard SUP board to make staying upwind with the wing possible. (Here's an excellent and very comprehensive video that runs you through a huge amount of info, starting from the ground up - Ed):
If you are already a wind-sports aficionado spending some time on the big SUP board with the stick-on keel will definitely shorten your learning curve and it’s a lot less intimidating than heading straight out with a foil. Once you have gotten the basic sailing down you could then move to a board with a foil (Shred Sled or Outwit 120) and practice doing the same basic sailing techniques while gradually going out in higher wind, building speed and eventually starting to foil.
FIRST BIG FOIL BOARD
Once you’ve done some time on a SUP (or if you’re a windsports person looking to bypass that stage and jump straight in) you could start with a nice, floaty board like our Shred Sled 3:1 foil board. It has 143 litres of volume and is 30’’ wide, making it a stable platform to begin your winging adventures.
As you will really lack wing efficiency in the beginning, you should pair it with the largest foil you can get. The combo of the Shred Sled and our recently released Hoverglide FWING will get most windsports people up and foiling their first day, as long as they have spent sufficient time learning wing control on land. The FWING boasts our largest wing, the Infinity 99, which has an incredibly low take-off and stall speed. 99cm of wingspan give it a ton of rail-to-rail stability which will greatly aid wobbly beginner wingers.
Action above: Wyatt demonstrates the real cross-over versatility of the Shred Sled
Comparisons below: Infinity 99 Vs Infinity 76
Once you are riding back and forth and making some transitions, the natural progression is to desire a smaller board, which is more adept at surfing waves and pumping from swell to swell while luffing the wing behind you and holding it with one hand – a technique where much of the wingsurfing joy comes from. Making the jump down in board size too early will cause you to spend a lot of time climbing up onto the board and then struggling to get started on your knees, which wastes a ton of energy. Make sure that you are good at deriving your balance from the wing instead of the board before you make the jump to a 100 litre board, like our Windfoil or Outwit 5’10’’.
Your efficiency should have improved by the time you’re ready to drop in board size, but I still recommend using a large foil set-up like our Hoverglide FWING because it will dramatically reduce your necessary wind speed to get going compared to a smaller foil. The low stall speed forgiveness will allow you more time to go from luffing the wing and riding the swell to getting your hands back to the power riding handles before you drop off foil and have to start all over again. The large Infinity 99 wing also makes transitions a million times easier than smaller wings with higher stall speeds and less rail to rail stability.
GETTING AIR AND GOING FASTER
To get air and push your upper limits of speed, you will want to use a smaller, faster foil and to mount some footstraps on your board. All our products are modular, so are interchangeable with each other.
Our huge Infinity 99 wing was not meant for jumping, whereas the Hoverglide FSURF package features the smaller, faster Infinity 76 wing and the smaller 42cm rear stabiliser, perfect for boosting. You’ll need a lot more efficient riding technique or just plain higher wind to get the Hoverglide FSURF up and going, so switching to this set-up too soon will have the low-intermediate stuck slogging.
What I therefore recommend is to switch back to the bigger board when you first start out on something like the Infinity 76, (our Outwit range is ideal in 140, 120 and 100 litre sizes, and even on the 100 litre model you will be able to get back home even if it’s not windy enough to come up on the foil). The Outwit boards also feature footstrap inserts that are necessary for jumping and help with efficiency while pumping the board up onto the foil.
Once you’re are competently riding a 100 litre board, jumping and making transitions on a smaller foil like the Infinity 76; that’s when you’re ready to switch to a smaller board. The size of the board you are looking for will depend on your weight, how much energy you are willing to spend climbing up onto the board and the windspeeds that you ride in.
Moving to a small sinker board of 60 litres or less is a ton of fun and allows a really direct connection and superb foil control. Here’s where there’s some real cross-over between the sports, because our larger kite foil boards, such as the Alien Air or the prone foil boards, like the Flying Fish or High Roller, are great next step options. These boards need sinking under the water where you get your knees or feet on top of the board while then lifting the wing into the air while submerged up to your waist. With enough power you will rise to the surface and come up onto the foil for an exhilarating ride with unmatched swell riding and pumping ability.
The drawback is that if the wind drops off a bit you cannot slog back home while standing and floating on the water’s surface. You will be stuck sitting on the board with the wing held above your head, moving very slowly back to shore. The other downside is the amount of energy you expend getting started. Be very sure you can sail back and forth and make all your transitions before you switch to the sinker board. At 200lbs / 90kg I find that 75 litres is about my minimum volume for a board that I can still slog back home with when there is not enough wind to get me up on the foil. That said, the desire is still strong to push my limits and ride the tiniest board I can manage in high winds!