Titouan Galea - this image really inspired us when we first saw it last summer. Pure freedom on everyday wind swell! Photo: Ydwer van der Heide / F-One

THE

WINGSURFING

JOURNEY

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

Part Eight

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER

By: Neal Gent

THE

WINGSURFING

JOURNEY

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

Part Eight

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER

By: Neal Gent

Main image: Titouan Galea. Pure freedom on everyday wind swell! Photo: Ydwer van der Heide / F-One

HELMET When you’re learning you should use one, no question. You may not be travelling as fast as a kiter or windsurfer, but you’ll also just feel more confident when wearing a helmet, and having confidence is a big help when it comes to being able to quickly improve your skills. LEASHES It’s worth thinking about leashes as well. The wrist leashes that most wings come with can be a little annoying once you’re into transitions and riding, as they wrap round themselves and you. I’ve personally found it way nicer to use a waist leash for the wing because it just doesn’t seem to get in the way as much. For the board I tried a coil leash but the first time I used it in what weren’t very big waves it ended up about 30 feet long! I recommend a regular shortboard surfboard leash - if you’re confident you could use a ‘comp’ leash that are thinner and lighter, but I wouldn’t choose that in decent waves. I mainly use a standard six foot surf leash. LIGHT WIND SPORTS OPTION? If you’re thinking this is your new light wind option and that as soon as the wind is over 20 knots then you’ll go kitesurfing or windsurfing; you’re going to need a bigger board. Somewhere around 80 – 95 litres for someone who weighs 75 kilos is going to get them up and going without too much sinking, and, perhaps more importantly, it’s going to get them home if the wind drops!

FANCY DOING AIRS LIKE THE GOOD GUYS? You’re going to need stronger winds, and to spend the time learning to deal with the challenges of deepwater starting in foot straps. DOWNWINDERS You might not be interested in using a small board to jump in high winds, so you’ll be pleased to know that I have definitely had some epic sessions with my six metre (light wind) wing in waves when there is nowhere near enough wind to think about jumping. The really fun element of this sport, that you can enjoy from very early on and never gets old, is cruising downwind, riding the foil on a swell or partially broken wave. You also don’t need huge amounts of wind for this, so it’s very accessible. If you’ve done your first steps on a big board and then bought something sensible (maybe ten litres or so more than your weight), you could potentially stay on that first board and foil set-up for a long time. Don’t worry, you can still jump bigger boards if you put foot straps on them, but obviously if you’re ambition is to eventually make those big tweaked airs, you’re going to have to put the hours in to learn to ride a little board. Image below: Jo Aleh using a waist belt that she attaches both her wrist and ankle leashes to. Some riders prefer this for an easier sense of freedom in their arms and legs Photo: Georgia Schofield / Armstrong

NEAL’S OWN SITUATION I’ll be honest, I thought I was being brave when I ordered the 80 litre Armstrong board (they do two bigger sizes), but now it seems to be just about the perfect combination of being not too small when the wind is really light (I can get home by plodding back in three to four knots, it just takes a long time) and I also have the option of paddling it without sinking should I really need to.

I think from about six knots upwards it’s more comfortable to just steadily plod back to the beach, but that 80 litre board is also not so big that it holds me back when I’m fully powered up in the waves. I will definitely be keeping it as my go-to summer board for cruising out to sea and doing unsupported downwinders.

I am also now able to deep start my 33 litre 4’5’’ Armstrong when I’ve got the straps on and the wind is strong. Once up, it feels amazing on the foil, but I wouldn’t want to get stranded on it! For jumping it’s way way nicer than the ‘big’ 5’5’’.

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In an attempt to find the common ground, and the ‘perfect’ board for me (around 73 kilos), Jon at JP Surfboards is currently working on a 4’8’’ x 21” with 50 litres of volume. That’s my personal guess at the right middle ground. What I’m really looking for is a board that I can wing on most days (maybe not superlight conditions, and definitely not ten miles out) that is still small enough that I can surf foil on. Travelling with gear even pre-COVID was a challenge, so who knows what the restrictions will be in the near future! Even with current restrictions, if I also pack a foil board for surf/kite, and a kitesurf waveboard for the windy days, then I don’t have space for a pure surfboard! I realise not everyone takes so many options, but I like to try to have gear for all possible conditions!

I’ve worked out that if I can ‘shrink’ the wing board to work as a surf foil too, then a surfboard will fit in my baggage allowance as well. Once bitten by the foiling bug, it’s very likely you’ll start looking at the ocean like a waterman / woman too and appreciating all the possible riding potential! After all, any time on the water is good experience and usually good times! Neal uses Armstrong boards and hydrofoils and Ozone Wasp wings.

WINGSURFING IN BARBADOS Okay, so world travel is a little bit hampered at the moment, but Neal and Jess’ favourite place for all-round surf / wind / watersports is Barbados. Here’s a little video from their last trip there at the start of 2020.

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