Saturday, May 25, 2019

A Foiling Jibe!

I am REALLY enjoying hydrofoil windsurfing, which I think is worthy of a big new branch on the growing tree of human- and nature-powered water sports. Since windsurfing was invented there have only been a few other "branches" of innovation that compare in terms of significance: the advent of shortboard windsurfing in the 1980s, the light-wind shortboard revolution around 2000, and the spread of kiteboarding and standup paddleboarding also in the early 2000s. Hydrofoil windsurfing (aka "windfoiling") is not just a minor advancement or change in style. It's a revolution in terms of how little wind/sail power it requires compared to shortboard windsurfing, and it's a revolution in terms of how it overcomes the catch-22 of conventional windsurf design, which was always that your setup could either be maneuverable or powerful but not both. (In this way hydrofoil windsurfing gains some of the advantages of kiteboarding.) ALSO, foiling above the water is just a very cool, different feeling from planing atop the water- it's super smooth and quiet.

My windfoil setup, which is a Slingshot Fwind 2019 hydrofoil mounted in an old "formula" style windsurfing board, can get going in about 8 knots of wind. That is similar to the planing threshold of the formula board when equipped with a conventional fin. The foiling setup can go upwind and downwind at angles similar to what the conventional formula setup can do. The amazing thing is that the windfoil does this with an 8 meters squared sail, whereas the conventional formula setup would need a much heavier and more awkward 11 meters squared sail to perform in 8 knots of wind. And whereas the conventional formula windsurf setup maneuvers like school bus, when levitating on a hydrofoil the same formula board maneuvers like a sports car. In full disclosure, the one remaining area where the hydrofoil, or at least my hydrofoil, doesn't match the conventional windsurf setup is in pure speed. I might close the gap as I get more experienced, but right now it's hard for me to get the foil going over 15 knots, whereas it's pretty easy to get to 20+ knots when powered up on a conventional windsurfing shortboard. That's OK with me though.

Anyway, as with my past explorations of new (to me) branches on the water sports tree, there have been fun/scary challenges and skill-acquisition milestones in my windfoiling journey. Just getting up on the foil for the first time was one. That was mainly a fear thing- once I tried it the board popped right up. The next milestone was being able to stay on the foil indefinitely without touching down. Then there were some minor things like being able to get going efficiently, use different sail sizes, use the footstraps and harness effectively, sail upwind and downwind in control, etc. Actually, learning to sail the foil deep downwind was a significant milestone, because you have to confidently carve through a scary "power zone" when going from upwind to downwind.

Definitely the hardest thing I've attempted on the windfoil so far, though, is the foiling jibe. The planing jibe on a regular windsurfing board is hard enough, but on a foil board it's harder still, because the board is so sensitive to where your weight is distributed when you're up on the foil. It's not that hard to carve the foil board when you're securely in the footstraps, but to carve it smoothly as you're stepping across it to the other side and flipping the sail around is tough. My first few dozen attempts all ended in me either touching down on the water or breaching out of the water (and then crashing down). But during a great foil session in smooth water on Thursday night, I finally made it around once or twice without touching (or with just barely touching) the water. Woo hoo! I still have a very long way to go get my foiling jibe completion rate from 1% to 100%, but this is a start. The good jibes are towards the end of this video:)


Marc said...
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Unknown said...

Hi James, thanks for sharing your experiences with foiling. I´m looking for a chance to try it but at the same time a little bit wary if all the hassle is worth. Hearing it from you (I follow you blog as I also sail -Kona and shortboard- and SUP) helps believing the hype around foiling.

CdnGuy said...

Yup, same setup for me and really enjoying the foil. I'm still feeling that getting a full foiling jibe is going to take a while, but might not be impossible.