THE

WINGSURFING

JOURNEY

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

Part Four

LEAPING INTO THE LATEST WINDSPORT!

By: Neal Gent

Main image: Billy Ackerman cruising by the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

THE

WINGSURFING

JOURNEY

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

Part Two

LEAPING INTO THE LATEST WINDSPORT!

By: Neal Gent

Main image: Billy Ackerman cruising by the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

First comes the challenge of figuring out what the best gear, location and conditions are for you to get going in. You may have seen the likes of Kai Lenny pulling huge backside airs on a tiny looking board, but the reality is that you need to put in some time learning a few basic stages really well first! You’ll find a huge variety of available gear online and, as always, plenty of opinion about what’s best. So here we’ve tried to offer some advice that is generally tailored to all. FIRST TIME SET-UP As with most watersports, the equipment you learn on is not going to be what you want to progress on for years to come, especially as wingsurfing in particular lends itself to some huge leaps in ability from your very first sessions.

What is evident is that trying to learn when conditions are choppy, or when the wind isn’t strong enough, does not make for the fastest progress. My advice is to look for forecasts that show enough wind to really feel the power in the wing when you’re standing on the beach (15 – 20 knots with a four or five metre wing). You should also definitely make it your mission to find some flat water for your first few sessions. For those who haven’t had a chance to try any foiling yet, there is a case for going out on a SUP board first, just to familiarise yourself with the wing itself. Windsurfers, for example, need to figure out that the wing works at different angles to the sail they are used to; if you try and have your arms straight out in front of you, the tip of the wing will keep touching the water as you try to get going. You actually have to hold the wing much more above your head to begin with. Once up and riding on the foil it can be brought down to shoulder level, but in general, keep it high.

My friends at PaddleBarbados have been running SUP downwinders for ages and have incorporated taking people on their first wing runs on a SUP. Getting the feel for the wing and riding waves without having to deal with a foil or the need to get back upwind is a great introduction, particularly for people with no prior wind sport experience. Holding your ground / getting back upwind is really difficult on most SUPs because they don’t have a centreboard for lateral resistance – but Slingshot have just released the SUPINDer additional fin which you can add to your SUP for exactly that purpose! For those of you already comfortable with some form of foiling, you can probably just make the leap straight onto a foil board because using the wing in your hands is very intuitive. Once you figure out how to create the power needed to get you riding, you’ll realise that all the time you have already spent learning to ride a foil is totally transferrable.

Winging on a foil is not so much a new sport, but rather the latest development of a few different ones rolled into the next generation! It’s much more intuitive than windsurfing, for example, where most people stay on higher volume, lower speed equipment for some time before progressing to shorter, planing boards. In winging we’re seeing riders advancing to fully planing on a foil in one session, and potentially looking for a smaller board very soon afterwards. Image below: Billy Ackerman, this time catching waves at Glencairn Beach, Cape Town. Photo: Anthony Fox

IS IT FOR YOU? If you’re coming from windsurfing or kiting I think the biggest hurdle is whether you’ve conquered foiling already; mostly because of the fear of the sharp bits! However, even those who haven’t foiled before really can just climb onto a big board with a big front hydrofoil and potentially get going in one session. The larger hydrofoils make the ride feel so stable compared to what some of us learnt on in the beginning and, more importantly, you don’t have to be going particularly fast for the foil to start working and lifting you up. Handling the wing itself is really straightforward after the first few awkward tries as you get used to it. There’s no reason that someone without any watersports experience couldn’t learn to wingsurf quite swiftly.

Obviously, anyone who’s surf foiled already will be best placed to make quick progress. One thing I really like is that winging allows me to spend so much more time riding waves on the foil. I also love surf foiling and all these foiling disciplines cross-over so well. If you can get comfortable riding any sort of foil on a wave face, that’s priceless experience, especially if you are interested in also learning to surf foil (paddling into a wave). I think what we’re looking at, and the ethos that Wing Surf World are really behind, is that there’s a new generation of watersports participant who isn’t interested in being limited by doing just one discipline. If you look in the back of cars and vans at beach car parks these days you’ll see that the really active guys and girls are crossing over in their foil skills, from kite and windsurf, to SUP, surf and winging. Potentially, the board and foil you use when you start winging could also allow for your first steps into the surf foiling world and that’s great! However, don’t try to run before you can walk. The pathway to progress isn’t very long, but it really helps to take your first steps on suitable gear. So now let’s concentrate on the key characteristics that you should look for in a board for wingsurfing/foiling specifically.

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