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  • James Van

Looking Back: My First Foil Session

Snap of my setup before my very first foil adventure

Fascinated by seeing videos of athletes like Kai Lenny cruising around effortlessly on various foil setups, I decided to take the plunge into the foiling world. In June 2017, the opportunity to buy two Go Foils was too enticing to pass up. A week later, the FedEx delivery guy showed up with two large boxes. I knew exactly what they were, and I had a hard time containing my excitement.

I opened up the boxes, removed some of the packing, and pulled out a mushroom shaped bag. Inside the bag was a carefully packaged foil set...mast, two wings, and appropriate hardware. Go Foils (like some other foils), require a Tuttle box to install.

What started as a quick mental inventory turned into a scramble, as I realized I did not have a single board with a deep tuttle box. I reached out to people I knew, "Hey, I'm looking for a board with a deep tuttle box, do you..."

"Yeah, you and everyone else in the world right now, haha." was the response.

Faced with the reality that I may not be able to use my new toys, I racked my brain for more ideas..."where can I find a board with a deep tuttle box?"

Suddenly, it came to me.

Like a lot of other windsurfers (I suspect)I have a few graveyard boards that are not worth any money, yet cannot muster the strength to throw or give away. I have a few boards in my backyard that are weathered, and have permanent dirt stains--a 1998 Kinetic Wave 8'6", a 2004 RRD Twin Tip Freestyle board that was beat to all hell, an 8'4" glass Pearson Arrow (that I actually keep in a bag in my garage as that board is kinda rad).....AND a 1991 SeaTrend 8'10 Slalom board.

I ran out to the side yard, pulled the board down off the fence...sure enough the board had the correct tuttle box! Never mind the fact that the board was super slippery. Never mind that the board was super narrow and long, compared to boards today. It was water-tight, had the right box, and the straps were still usable--bingo!

I rolled up to Coyote Point, vintage board and all. I got there early to take advantage of the calmer, earlier winds, but there were others already there to get a good spot and rig up. People took notice of the relic that I pulled off the top of my car and placed on the gravel in front of the water. Others watched as I fiddled with bolts to secure the foil to the board.

In preparation for my maiden "flight", I had read that rigging a smaller sail is helpful. Foils are more efficient, and I was likely to overpower sooner than normal windsurfing. The question became, "what size do I rig?" I talked to a couple local guys that were also pulling out foiling gear to see what they knew. I was advised to rig a 4.7 or maybe 5.0. The wind looked really light, barely sending the telltale ripples along the water. The next foiler I talked to was rigging a 5.3.

I finally settled on a 5.0...seemed like a safe bet. 4.7 felt too small, and 5.3 might be too much.

I was so eager to suit up and get out on the water, that I had forgotten to tie my uphaul to my boom. "Screw it," I thought to myself, I can waterstart.

I clumsily walked my rig down to the water's edge, stepped on my slippery board, and was off.

I could immediately tell there was a much bigger "fin" attached to the board, as the board moved differently in the small chop--it felt slightly more anchored. I hit the wind line, and I braced for more speed...and frankly, who knows what else.

As I picked up speed, I felt the board start to detach from the water--I wasn't "flying" yet, but I was close. I must have hit a critical speed, as the board rose out of the water, and I was riding on just the foil! I picked up more speed, and as I balanced my weight on the needle-like board, I also noticed the lack of noise. The normal slapping sounds a planing board makes disappeared. There was a slight whistle of the wind through the booms, and a trickling noise of the foil's mast slicing through the water.

It felt like I was floating on the water, "flying" as it may be. I was too scared to hook in, but it was easier to hold onto the sail anyways. The foil eventually lifted out of the water and the board came crashing back down to the water. The board picked up speed again, and soon I was flying again.

That first day I crashed several times, none of them hurt. They were all fun crashes, as I realized this new sport presented a brand new, steep learning curve. I was tired after about 45 minutes, but I had done several runs, and felt like I had gotten a good feeling for the sensation.

I tried this setup a couple more times before I bought a race board (made this century) with a deep tuttle box. The width and shorter length made a huge difference in my ability to steer, maintain balance, and gybe. I was eventually able to secure an F4 foil that is made specifically for windsurfing, which raised my foil game (and speed) quite a bit.

Getting a good setup that matches your usage and needs is critical, I will write about that more in a future post.

Until then, I look forward to my next session, wherever that may be. Keep the stoke, and feel free to ask me any questions. I don't know everything about foiling, but I am learning pretty quickly...and isn't that half the fun? :)



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