Wing Foiling - The New Craze in Watersports!
Liam winging at Littlehampton back in April
Blog written by Oscar McCall, LOOP's Head Instructor
So...What is Wing Foiling?
Winging, wing-foiling and wing-surfing are all terms that have been used as a name for this new and high in demand sport. We like the phrase ‘Winging’ as it is a little less of a mouth-full. Winging is a combination of windsurfing and kiting. Starting in Hawaii (as most water sports are!), winging uses a handheld inflatable wing to power up a foil. If you’ve been to any beach at the moment you’ve most likely seen someone out on the water, as the sport has completely blown up in the last two years since it was born. If you’ve been down to us at LOOP you would’ve also seen people out whenever there’s a breath of wind! It’s such an amazing light wind option!
Why the craze?
With people looking to spend as much time on the water as possible, foiling has really taken over the water sports industry in in the last decade. Here are some of the reasons why foiling is a go to choice;
You don’t have long booms, masts or big boards like windsurfing, so easy it’s to transport!
It opens doors that kiting couldn’t unlock, like being able to go out in areas where kiting is banned (harbours, lakes and places with limited launching spots) due to the lines of a kite meaning you have to have at least 50m space to kite in.
Those days with that horrible gusty wind (usually a northerly) that no one wants to kite in, doesn’t really affect the wing. This is due to the instant de-power and power up of the wing
Freedom! The sport really allows you to feel like your connected to the water.
Safety. That instant depower again when letting go. Also, you don’t have lines to worry about.
It also doesn’t take ages to set up. Mount your foil to your board, pump up the wing and away you go.
I’m by no means telling you to give up kiting/windsurfing but how many times have you gone down to the beach and known that its foiling weather! Now, I wing up to 20 knots and then if its stronger I’ll rig my kite up and enjoy that. Kiting is why I fell in love with watersports and I don’t think winging is a “kite killer” as there will never be a sport that allows you to boost as high than kiting.
What wind strength do I need for winging?
15-25kns is that golden window of wind for beginners to get out there. Unlike other sports, such as kiting and windsurfing, more wind is good for starting off the first flights in foiling. The most annoying thing about staring off winging is not having enough power to get up on the foil! As you get more advanced that window increases to lighter winds (good pumping technique needed!) and stronger winds (smaller wing and good control needed).
At Littlehampton, sea breezes are stronger than other certain spots as the South Downs behind the club increase this breeze. When 10 knots is forecasted at the beach on a sunny and hot day you can be almost certain that the wind will be strong enough to foil in the afternoon. Sea breezes are vital in the UK but aren’t forecasted so be sure to keep an eye on both the wind and sun! they tend to kick in once the land heats up meaning you can get on the water for the afternoons…If you want more water time then this is the sport.
Oscar Wing Foiling in a Local Harbour
What wind direction should I be looking for?
At Littlehampton the South Westerly wind is the prevailing wind and is cross onshore at LOOP. This wind direction is perfect for all wingers. From beginners to advanced riders this direction is great and if anything goes wrong, you’ll get blown back to shore. When the wind picks up a bit at high tide the swell increases, leaving nice rolling waves to cruise back in on.
Westerly and Easterly winds also work well but can be gusty and you have to be careful around the tide.
Northerly winds are also gusty and dead off-shore meaning it is really only suitable for advanced riders. Alternatively, if you can find a lake or harbour you can actually have a brilliant session! With any watersport on a northerly wind you want to make sure there’s safety cover just in case.
Should you be looking at the tides?
Winging can work at all tide states at Littlehampton. High tide is epic for rolling waves, you also don’t have far to walk with your kit. Low tide requires a tad more walking but you get the butterfat water as now the water is protected by the rock spit sticking out during a South-Westerly. With shallower water you want to be careful of the sea bed and not to get your foil jammed in or bashed around the sand/rocks. Foils aren’t cheap so make sure you get to a depth where it’s not touching the floor!
What equipment do I need and how can I get it?
Lets firstly discuss the board. To start off with you want a board with lots of volume so it is nice and stable to get on the foil, it also means balancing on it becomes easier. The board that we start the foiling out on has been nicknamed the “Big Bertha” due to the 7’0, 151 litre beast! The larger size also helps to get foiling quicker in lighter conditions.
Once you’ve had your first flights and got that all important ‘money shot’ you can look at going smaller. Our next board down in the school is a 5’10 110 litre F-One. A great board with still enough volume but not massive that it feels like you’re riding a door!
As your technique gets better and your ability to get on the foil improves you can go even smaller. The rule of thumb is 10-20 litres added to you weight. For example, if you are 85kg rider you could get 95L board and be cruising. In winging Volume is King as you could get a smaller board too soon and really struggle. It’s a progressive sport and you don’t want to run before you can walk. We have a few boards that sit around the 90-100 litre mark.
Our new 95 Litre Naish Wing Board... An intermediate to advanced Board.
The optimal size of front wing to foil with is around 1600 - 2200 mm2, the larger the front wing the more the lift you get. Brands put together great packages for foil set ups and if you’re looking for advice with what to go for, we can defiantly help you!
The most common size of wing is 5m… that’s the sweet spot. This size is best for riders around the 70-90kg weight area and in 15-25kns. If your smaller/lighter it would be worth getting a smaller wing (and visa versa). Remember, such as in windsurfing and kiting, the larger the wing the more power you will have. Once you got that technique dialled in, you can expand your quiver of wings to a 4m and a 6m as well.
At LOOP we’ve got various sizes from different brands which is fantastic. You can see what works for you and what you prefer! Because it’s a new sport there’s so much development going into these products and it’s great to see!
If you are someone who thinks it as looking a bit gimmicky or you feel like you would look like a Kook (we felt the same at the start), there’s no excuses to not give it a go. Once you get that first foil flight or hit that first rolling bit of swell you WILL catch the winging bug.
The new F-One CWC Wing at LOOP
How do I learn?
Before jumping straight on the foil it's essential that you cover the basic skills needed to make getting on the foil easier, this is known as the ‘WingTro’ (Introduction to winging). In this session you'll cover;
Introduction to the equipment and environment.
Flying ashore: Wing handling, moving with the wing, turning and power control.
Part 1 on the water: Self rescue techniques, winging across the wind (kneeling & Standing), basic steering.
Part 2 on the water: Steering & heading upwind, increasing speed, developing tacks & gybes.
One of our WingTro sessions taking place on a Sunday morning
The aim is to safely experience your first foil rides across the wind, to be able to come back to your starting point. This is known as the ‘WingGo’. This session includes;
Introduction to the foil and environment: How a foil works, assembling the foil and securing kit ashore.
Riding the foil board: Standing & basic foil stance, trim and steering, launching & recovery.
First flights: Generating speed and getting on the foil, maintaining flight, pumping techniques.
Sustained flights: Controlling speed on the foil, steering on the foil, up and downwind, basic turns off the foil.
With us we’ll teach this session from our JetSki. We’d recommend actually going behind the ski without the wing and only the foil board. Spend a session getting the grips with those first flights. The great thing about this option is we don’t need to worry about the wind with the ski. Once you’ve teased yourself without the wing you can come back on a windy day and nail it!
When are we running sessions?
We run our WingTro sessions every Sunday around Low Tide. If you can’t make a Sunday then please do let u know and we’ll do our best to accommodate. You also have the option to choose a private lesson but the WingTro is a great first step into the sport. Once you’ve completed the WingTro you can look at booking those jet ski and foil sessions in individually. With these sessions we can discuss a time and date that suits you and go for it!
Jump on the hype!
So, there we have it! Hopefully this little short read gives you a better insight into the world of winging and why this new watersport is taking over the industry! We’ve loved seeing those who have started the learning process really enjoy the sessions and want to crack it this summer! We’ve got everything needed to get you winging this summer so if you’re on the fence whether to try it or not we really do highly recommend it!
Oscar turning around on the foil
For our tuition dates for the WingTro you can follow this link: https://eola.co/w/1314/activities/wingtro
For another interesting read about Winging check out this recent article in the Financial Times: https://www.ft.com/content/87e259cc-36b0-4583-b3b4-dfea0883eb41
For any questions please do contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
See you all on the water!
LOOP Centre Manager