A Beginners Dummy guide to Hydrofoiling..

Hydrofoiling (or simply Foiling) is currently without a doubt the fastest growing watersport. This is because hydrofoiling harnesses a power to create efficacy, glide and an effortless sense of freedom, which creates the famous “floating on a cloud” sensation, that hydrofoiling is known for. Furthermore this platform is not limited to one sporting code, hydrofoiling is available across numerous sporting codes.

Link to Foiling or Hydrofoiling Lessons
Behind the Mastercraft on Rietvlei

The ability to turn and go fast as efficiently and effectively as possible is the underlying concept of many of our sports are about!! Its what drives us sport loving active folk Mad!!! For many of us it has become the reason which drives us to get our daily tasks done.. Just to be able to get on the lake earlier for an hour before the sunset sets.

However, learning to Hydrofoil, and mastering the ability to manipulate the foil can be daunting. Where to learn, how to learn and start up costs can all be challenging. So where does one begin when trying to get into the sport of Hydrofoiling?

To me with out doubt ‘Behind a boat” has proven to be the quickest , easiest and most effective way to begin your hydrofoil journey!

“Behind the boat” holds the key of teaching you the correct techniques and understanding of how the hydrofoil reacts to your every movement … it provides the safest way to learn as you would generally be learning in a controlled managed environment.

Once you’ve learned and aquired these basic skills its a lot easier to get into which ever direction of foiling you want to go .. weather it be wake foiling , kite foiling , wingfoiling, surf foiling, sup foiling , wingfoiling /wingsurfing / dock starting and pumping. The list goes on and on.

Taking the time to get onto a boat and learn to hydrofoil will also give you a much better sense of the embodiment of the sport and create a good base for your educated decision when making your 1st hydrofoil purchase.

Hydrofoil Performance

The performance characteristics of a foil is the combination of foil size, aspect ratio and the shape of the foil

Understanding Aspect Ratios of foils

Surf winging on Rietvlei, with F-one foil, f-one Strike and rocket wing foil board
F-one Rocket Wing Board and Strike Surf Wing

You will hear this term spoken of a lot , basically the aspect ratio of a hydrofoil is the ratio of length (or Span) vs the depth (or Chord) of the foil.

High aspect ratio foils are generally a lot faster higher performing , which inheritly involves a higher skill level.

The are generally easier to pump as they create more momentum created via a pumping action which ultimately drives the hydrofoil wing forward giving it rise through its forward glide (More speed)

Low Aspect Ratio hydrofoil – easier to learn on as its more stable and comes up onto the plain at a lower speed.. they also safer to learn on as the generally have less of  “Pointy end”

Foil sizing

Bigger equals Slower speed. It also means more lift and more stability.

Smaller equals less lift, and more speed in order for foil to get onto a plane.

Foil Shape

A dihedral Foil shape enables the foil to turn and bank better.

Comparison of 2 very Different foils

example of Lower aspect ratio hydrofoil
Lower aspect foil
example of High aspect ratio hydrofoil
Higher aspect ratio foil

The F-one Range of foils

I myself  have been foiling for many years, and can attribute F-One as not only a phenominal brand in the wind sports industry but also have proven themselves to be a highly respected pioneering brand of hydrofoil! Their products have all been put through their paces by arguably the best professional riders , and designed by the highly experienced French master mind Rapheal Salles.

So Lets choose our Sport and see what we can do….

Foiling on a Kitesurfer

Foil SizeGenerally a smaller foil is used. From 400 up to a max of 1200
Aspect RatioGenerally medium to high aspect ratio are used for kite based hydrofoiling.
Mast Length65cm – 100cm ( ideally a longer mast is used for kiting )
Boardsmall low volume board used (Anything up to 150cm)

Some Recommended Kiting Foiling equipment

Foiling with a Surf Wing or Wingsurfer

Wingfoiling has taken the centre stage of Hydrofoiling. And for good reason!! Hydrofoils and Wings are a match made in heaven, the 2 complement one another perfectly.
Your capabilities are endless… Having the ability to downwind in nuclear conditions (conditions which are deemed as ‘blownout” to most kitesurfers), flat water cruising; wingfoiling turns watersways into 3 dimensional playgrounds. (Foils are incredibly efficient, and point upwind like you’ve never seen on any wind powered craft!!)


Then there’s Waveriding plus advanced freestyle for the more adventurous to explore….

Foil SizeGenerally a bigger foil is used. From 1700 up to a max of 2200
Aspect RatioGenerally medium to medium – high aspect ratio.
Mast Length75cm. Definitely to learn on, and a good general length.
80-90cm for downwinding, racing, or using in swell. The longer mast gives more forgiveness in terms of breaching – basically the front wing breaks the water surface, losing all lift and then falling back into the water
BoardBeginners require bigger and more stable Boards. ( typically 105L – 120L )
Intermediate size boards are typically between 75l to 100l.

Some Recommended Wing Foiling equipment

Foiling behind a Boat – Wake Foiling

Foil SizeBeginners learn on a smaller Wing (850 – 1000. Less lift than a bigger foil)
Go bigger when you gain experience and want to start surfing the Wake (1200 – 1500)
Aspect RatioMedium aspect foils are perfect to learn on.
As you progress you will naturally want a Medium / High aspect ratio foil, as these foils are easier to pump, plus they turn better. (A slight dihedral Foil shape enables the foil to turn and bank better)
Mast Length65 / 75cm to learn on
85 cm is your ideal length for a more advanced rider. (Allows you to pump the foil from a higher altitude, plus the foil sits deeper in the water allowing you to turn harder)
BoardBeginners prefer a slightly bigger board to keep them away from the foil, as well as the volume in the board saves you if and when the foil breaches. You want strap inserts in a beginner board (130cm -150cm)
As you progress you will prefer a smaller board with lower volume. This creates a far better bump ratio, as well as it creates a far more direct feel to the foil. (anything up to 130cm)

Some Recommended Wake Foiling equipment

SUP Foiling

To learn, limit yourself to the smallest and slowest breaking wave in the hood. (2ft Ideal)

If you like to make things easy for yourself.. Begin on a larger board with a volume of at least 1.5 times your weight. Glide ratio is in your favour!

Make sure the boards tail rocker only begins after the foil tracks! If not, your foil will sit at the wrong angle in proportion to the board and the hydrofoil will work against you (sucking down opposed to creating lift).

Then the foil. A smaller hydrofoil needs too much speed and power to get “on plane”. A bigger foil will rise easier, but the reality is you can quickly become overpowered by the lift created by the power of the wave. In my personal experience I’ve found a mid sized hydrofoil to work best.

A hydrofoil with a slight dihedral is always best for turning as it allows the hydrofoil to turn and bank. Turning is what wave riding is about!

If you are already advanced on a hydrofoil choose a longer mast, as it will make for a more forgiving “drop in” to the wave, without you breaching too soon. Otherwise for learning a 75cm mast is pretty much ideal.

Foil SizeBeginner: 1200 – 1800 (Mid to mid/high aspect ratio)
Advanced: 1200 – 1500 (Mid / High aspect ratio)
Mast LengthBeginner: 70 – 75cm
Advanced: 75 – 90 cm
BoardBeginner: 100 – 150l (Around 5’10)
Advanced 60- 90l

Some Recommended SUP Foiling equipment

Surf Foiling

This is without doubt the most challenging of all the hydrofoil categories. Ideally you would need to be a decent surfer or / and have your hydrofoil skills properly dialled in!

Learn in super small surf and broken waves (Foamies). You really don’t want to be trying to learn in the critical section of the wave. My Advice is to wear a full suit as well as booties to give yourself all the protection possible and to stop you from slicing yourself on the foil.

Foil Sizes and Aspect RatioWhen it comes to choosing the right wing for Surf foiling, Ideal sizes range from 900 all the way up to 1800. However I would recommend in the region of 1200-1500.
A higher aspect ratio foil will give you better pumping ability and get you to that desired dream of pumping from one wave to the other! Remember you want a slight dihedral in order for the foil to be able to bank and turn!
In terms of foil placement .. to increase lift (Smaller surf)– move the foil further forward
To decrease lift shift the foil further back!! This will also give you more of a drawn out arcing turn
A straight rear stabilizer ( Not turned up or down tips) will loosen the foil up a lot and allow the foil to turn ( However the turned up tips will increase the ability to pump and create drive)
Mast Length75cm is ideal. Any shorter you will breach too soon, longer increases the danger level..
BoardVolume is your friend, as the board will plane easier and quicker. Plus the volume will protect you from the foil blades should you fall.

Some Recommended Surf Foiling equipment

Final Thoughts

Please send us your comments or questions. Alternatively pop us a mail, or come and visit us at Sunset Beach and we can discuss your requirements or just have a chat.

We stock a full range of F-one Foiling equipment, and also carry Slingshot foils.

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