If you've landed here, you’ve likely discovered the new, ultra-fun world of wingfoiling. It's accessible, adrenaline-inducing, and an entirely new way to enjoy the water. Whether you're a kiteboarder, windsurfer, wakeboarder, or new to it all, we think every newbie could benefit from some expert tips to help you get going. We caught up with Ozone Kites’ North American Manager, David Tyburski, to share some helpful tips you'll want to take to the water on your next foiling excursion. You can find the top 5 tips from this interview at the bottom of the article.
So what makes wingfoiling special? What’s all the commotion about?
For me, I’m really into swell riding. What’s amazing about riding a wingfoil in swell is that you can get the same feel of glide that you get from surfing. It doesn’t take very big swell to get that ‘surfing’ feel, but with winging, you get so much more glide time. I would say it would take me 10-20 wave surf sessions to get as much glide time as I get in one session on the wingfoil in swell here in the Columbia Gorge.
Even without swell though, it’s an incredible sport. There is a sense of flying above the water, it’s quiet, and you don’t need strong wind to have a nice long session. You can practice technical maneuvers, tricks, or just cover a lot of ground, enjoying time on the water without the complications that come with other wind sports such as setting up lines or rigging a sail. In certain locations where I’ve become a bit bored with kiting, wingfoiling has completely reinvigorated my motivation to get on the water and enjoy it in a different way.
Accessibility seems to be a huge factor in the popularity of this sport, how so?
Yes, absolutely. For example, to compare to kiteboarding, you don’t need someone else to help you launch or land, or space to run out your lines. Steady wind is not as important, which opens up a lot more locations for winging – really anywhere you can carry a wing and board into the water is a place you can wing.
The fact that you don’t need steady, strong wind is huge. What do you think is the minimum amount of wind needed then to be able to wingfoil successfully?
Since the sport is so new, I think this will keep changing, and it depends on a lot of factors; one being skill, of course, but also the size of the board (a bigger board makes it easier), the size of your wing, and the size or surface area of your hydrofoil. Your bodyweight plays a role and all these factors make up the entire equation of how much wind you’ll need; however, we are seeing people wingfoiling below 10 knots, which is incredible, and new innovations will only make this threshold more flexible.
Speaking of innovation, how new is the sport exactly, and how did it develop?
So handheld wings have been used for a long time on land, ice and snow, etc. The hydrofoil is the main piece of equipment that made using a wing on water more achievable, because the foil is so incredibly efficient that once it’s up and going, it doesn’t need a lot of wind to maintain. The last decade or so has seen a huge uptick in hydrofoil use among watersport enthusiasts, so this was the main component to launch wingfoiling in the last few years as a more mainstream sport that pretty much anyone can do.
It’s also an interesting sport because we are able to pull from decades of development and innovation in kite production and further focus that knowledge to wingfoiling specifically, so it’s not starting from zero. Ozone in particular draws on a deep history in paragliding as well as leading edge inflatable kites, so developing wings is very natural and exciting as we discover new possibilities in refining the design and feel.
Any tips for just getting up and riding?
I would suggest first practicing wing handling skills on the beach. If you’re not coming from a hydrofoil background, it’s a good idea to practice with the wing while on a SUP board or old windsurf board to get a feel for the wing on the water; this way you don’t need to learn how to get on the hydrofoil initially, you can learn to control the wing and then move onto the hydrofoil aspect next. Other things that will help increase your skill level before diving into wingfoiling are hydrofoiling behind a boat as well as stand-up paddling for the balance skill. It’s also good to remember that it’s better to have more power when beginning than not enough power; it makes getting up that much easier and staying up more attainable.
Interestingly, it’s usually easier for people to go upwind on a hydrofoil than downwind, which is the opposite for kiting. It’s really important to find the sweet-spot on your board and foil setup – figure out where you need to position your feet and get comfortable making micro-adjustments from there. Foiling requires making small, micro-adjustments to foot pressure and position since the foil is so reactive. Big adjustments in movement or weight transfer can bring the board up or down quite significantly, so finding the right position with your weight over the board so that small adjustments are possible and intuitive.
Keep in mind that wingfoiling is one of the easiest ways to learn to hydrofoil, so if you’ve never foiled before, it’s okay, the learning curve is not prohibitively steep.
What are the main wing maneuvers a beginner should practice?
When riding, you’re going to be doing one of three things; pumping the wing for power, placing in a depowered position, known as luffing (mostly used in swell scenarios), or you’re just maintaining your wing, engaged across the wind, sheeting the wing in or out as needed to generate power as you move across the water.
Do I need lessons to get started?
It’s not as essential to get lessons for wingfoiling, in comparison to kiteboarding or windsurfing. I would recommend them if they are available, but they aren’t a requirement by any means. I would say it’s smart to at least have someone that can guide you, get you going on the right path, and keep an eye on you if you need assistance the first few tries. Ideally it will be a person who has made the mistakes and can provide easy insights and make the learning curve faster. But yes, getting professional instructions will most likely make learning more fun and successful.
Any innovations we should be aware of with wings since they are so new on the market?
At this point, it’s very exploratory, every brand is testing out new things. Some companies are including rigid booms whereas some just use handles on an inflatable boom, some use a combination. Some have windows in their wing, and others don’t. Really, brands are just determining what the marketplace is wanting, seeing what sticks, and where demand goes. They are quite exciting times in the industry.
What makes Ozone wings special?
For us, we’re pulling from decades of wing design, from foil to inflatable kites and wings. Design around aerodynamics is where our core competency lies, so by communicating across design teams and developing with this established knowledge base, we have special insight in this new category beyond just being a ‘kite’ company.
What do we need to know about getting started with gear?
Location consideration: You’ll need the appropriate setup for where you’re going to be foiling. Lighter versus strong wind conditions as well as flat versus swell or wave conditions will change your needs and requirements. Check with a local shop or dealer to get your specific questions answered.
Harness: While this is an optional accessory, many find it to help relieve the arms while sailing and is a nice way to leash yourself to the wing, versus a wrist attachment.
Wings: Having a few sizing options is ideal, keeping in mind that a larger wing will be more helpful for starting to capture more wind and assist in getting up and going. Try and test out a few different brands to see what setup you prefer.
Hyrdofoils: Generally, you are going to find foils made of either carbon or aircraft grade aluminum. Carbon is more expensive, stiffer and lighter, whereas aluminum is going to be heavier and not quite as sturdy. This is another piece of equipment that is going to be key in getting advice from a dealer or professional on something that is suited to your weight, skill level and riding conditions. There are plenty of entry level, all-around good hydrofoils that will get you going until you want to upgrade to something more advanced feeling. Overall, these will be shorter for entry level, and then you can graduate to the longer hydrofoils as your skill and comfort on a mast improves.
Board: While you can use just about any hydrofoil board for wingfoiling, such as a SUP foil board or prone hydrofoil boards, more brands are creating wingfoil specific boards to cater better to the sport. For starting out, the bigger and higher volume, floatier boards will be easier to learn on.
Helmet: I also absolutely recommend using a helmet, from beginner to advanced foiling. The foil itself can become a very dangerous thing if fallen on or if it lands on you during a crash, so best to be safe with a helmet for protection. This helmet from Vivida is perfect - fairly low profile with high safety standards.
Wetsuit: The right neoprene can be essential to an enjoyable session. Even in warm-ish conditions, things can get chilly when it’s windy. Check out the eco neoprene hoodie as a great layering piece and this women’s sustainable wetsuit from Vivida.
✨ TOP 5 TAKEAWAY TIPS ✨
1. More power is better than less power when getting started (think bigger wing and/or more wind).
2. Try and learn the 2 skills; wing control and foil riding, separately before combining them. For example, hydrofoiling behind a boat or with a kite, and separately, learning wing control on a SUP board or on the beach.
3. Find the sweet-spot on your board as soon as you’re up and riding – the spot where your body is positioned perfectly to allow for easy micro-adjustments, directing the board up, down, or through turns and slight changes in course.
4. Make sure your gear setup is right for you and the conditions you are in.
5. Wear a leash. If you let go of your wing, it might be long gone without this to keep it nearby. Leashes can connect to a harness or your wrist and ensure you won’t be paddling back to shore sans wing.
Jackie Tyburski dives deep into the stories and true essence of the Vivida Lifestyle brand, ethos, and mission. She believes the right words illuminate our purpose and capture life's moments in pure, imperfect, and poetic form. Travelling, cooking, yoga, and paddle-boarding are a few of Jackie's other favourite things, alongside being a mom and wife to a few awesome humans.