THE

WINGSURFING

JOURNEY

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

Part Seven

EQUIPMENT: WINGS

By: Neal Gent

Main image: Georgia Schofield / Armstrong

THE

WINGSURFING

JOURNEY

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW

Part Seven

EQUIPMENT: WINGS

By: Neal Gent

Main image: Georgia Schofield / Armstrong

DIFFERENT WING SIZES? The wings are a little easier. For someone who weighs around 80 kilos, I would advise a five metre as the ideal first size. It covers pretty light winds once you’ve got the hang of pumping the foil onto the plane – maybe 12 – 15 knots depending on your foil and your ability, but then has a comfortable range up to around 25 knots. I thought I would never need a big six metre wing, but I actually really love riding it when the conditions are light. The four metre is lovely when it’s really windy, but perhaps people who cross-over from kitesurfing / windsurfing will find themselves switching back to those sports in those winds.

However, the better I get at winging, the more the lines between when to wing and when to kite are blurring together. Essentially, you need just one wing to start with. If you’re lighter, go for something more like a 4.2 metre. If you’re an averagely weighted guy, opt for something around five metre.

Image: Mala'e McEleny using the Duotone Echo wing, which has a boom. Find out more about this 12-year-old hot shot here!

ESSENTIAL WING FEATURES? This is dangerous territory for generalising! I know people who swear by using the boom (featured on the Duotone Echo) rather than handles, and I know those who swear at it! The boom seems to offer a really concrete connection with the wing, and I think riders coming from windsurfing like the familiarity. It is easier perhaps to ‘micro-tune’ your hand positions. Having said that, I haven’t found the handles on my Ozone Wasps to be misplaced, so I haven’t needed to move them ‘between’ the current positions. What I do like about the Wasps are the cross bridges between the front edge and the centre strut. Whilst they offer more stability to the structure of the wing itself, they are also really nice to use when you’re really powered up, and especially heading upwind, or jumping. I haven’t used a wing with windows but I haven’t missed them. They will be very useful however if you’re learning, particularly when at a busy spot, but as you progress it’s easy to lift the wing and get a 360 degree vision underneath. Lightness does seem to be really important in the wing design... so that’s something to watch out for in the future. Images below: Jess Gent

PROGRESSION RATES AND IDEAL LEARNING CONDITIONS Try to find flat water conditions with enough wind to make it easier to get onto your feet from a kneeling position, using the wing for support (15 – 20 knots is usually good). When it’s lighter you have to essentially do that move with less uplift support from the wing overhead, which is more challenging. A bit of ‘guaranteed’ power in your back hand when you sheet in also makes life easier than having to pump, and the sooner you are moving the sooner the foil underneath is adding stability so you can concentrate on the important bits. Also, try to avoid waves at this stage – you have enough to concentrate on without that added complication. Winging is so intuitive that anyone with windsurfing/kiting experience will figure out handling the wing itself very quickly. Expect to be calmly cruising both ways on flat water on a SUP pretty much straight away, and the more adventurous will have worked out how the wing goes overhead in transitions pretty soon afterwards. Someone with foiling experience will probably crack coming up on the foil in a dozen runs, especially with a big front wing (1500 and above). The turns are a challenge on the foil, and as you get better you’ll realise that speed and commitment into the turn are your friends, but too much speed can seem unnerving. So, on your first runs try to get a feel for where your feet need to be to pressure the inside rail to get the board to carve. Switching your feet around with the board stationary on the water’s surface is wobbly, but somehow seems less risky than riding at speed. I promise you you’ll soon gain confidence and start carrying more speed into your turns.

I found confidence to start riding the waves pretty quickly, though I do have quite a lot of surf foil experience, but it does take a few sessions to feel comfortable enough to let go of the back handles and only hold the leading edge handle and truly depower the wing to ride. My wife Jess is around 58kg but she absolutely loves our 80 litre Armstrong board and isn’t particularly motivated to dive down the smaller board route. She’s quite happy to have the spare volume and balance it provides. She has done a decent amount of foiling with a kite and wave kites very well, so it wasn’t a big surprise that she had winging dialled down in just a couple of sessions. I don’t think she’d mind me pointing out that her learning curve was on flat water in Barbados which may have helped! It means that she’s now keen, rather than scared, to test her skills in the choppier, colder waters of England’s south coast. As an example of progression, she has 14 wing sessions under her belt and can air gybe both sides and is starting to pump the foil and ride swells with the wing depowered. The biggest change I noticed was how much faster she was able to get up and foiling as her skills developed. Pretty much as soon as she has the wing in her hands she’s standing up and driving up onto the foil. Image below: Neal Gent, punting in Barbados at the start of this year

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