I've been frothing to try the new Slingshot products (I have boards and foils available for demo) since they arrived. Last Sunday, I started to drive out to the coast, but the small wave forecast along with the unstable winds, scared me into turning back around. I decided to load up the van and hit the bay for a foiling session. Taking the strong and gusty winds into account, I threw my 3.7 into the van.
I pulled up to see a few people out on the water, someone out on a 3.7 and foil, and another sailor on 4.0 doing some freestyle. After talking to Dan on the beach, I opted for my 4.2. Encouraged by the strong winds, I pulled out the Slingshot Wizard 105 and the higher wind foil. The Wizard is a super short foil specific board: 5'10" long!
I rigged up, put the foil together and mounted on the board. I grabbed the gear and walked to the low water line (low tide), and waded out to the water that was deep enough to launch. Unfortunately, the wind had died down considerably since I finished rigging, and I (and the others on the water) found myself bobbing around in a low wind slog. This was actually okay, as it gave me some time to get used to balancing on this short board.
The wind picked up and i stepped into the footsteps, bracing for flight. The rig popped out of the water, and unfortunately, I lost my balance and the rig and I went flying. I water started quickly and was up on the board again. The sail filled with wind and I got the board to pop up again, and I was able to manage a short flight this time before the foil breached and I plopped back down onto the water. The board/foil combination felt squirrelly to me, but I persisted. After
I was able to get a flight for about 10 seconds or so, i went back to the beach to make some adjustments. I had set the mast track all the way forward initially, but I moved it back slightly aft of center. This proved to be a good move, as I was able to control the flight much better. Unfortunately, the winds had picked up more, the sun was getting lower, and I could see the ranger on land with his lights on, signaling that we needed to come in and get exit the park before sundown.
It was pretty wold foiling on a 4.2 on the board under 6' long in winds gusting to 40mph. Here are a few takeaways from yesterday:
1. Foiling is wildly fun! Despite the challenges Sunday, I left with a big smile on my face. I learned quite a bit, and had a few successful flights in strong winds, which is something I strive to do. If I were not so overpowered, I would have been able to go off the wind with more confidence. There is nothing like that acceleration off the wind on a foil. And that acceleration is addicting, as it is super smooth...it feels as if you are not inhibited by choppy water conditions. This was more apparent yesterday in stronger winds and bigger chop. I cannot wait to dial my setup so that I can play in the rolling swells in the bay off 3rd ave!
2. I'm still learning! For the most part, this is fun, as my learning curve is steeper than it is for windsurfing. It can sometimes be challenging thought. Strong, gusty winds are challenging, even on a high wind foil setup. Ultimately, i was overpowered, and should have rigged my 3.7.
3. I need to remember to balance better on the foil. My muscle memory for foiling is not quite there yet. When overpowered, my windsurfing instincts took over, and I leaned back to compensate for the strong pull of the sail. From my experience foiling thus far, an upright, balanced stance works best. It almost feels like I am leaning forward when compared to my normal windsurfing stance. But when I do this, good things happen on the foil. I am able to sustain longer flights, and I don't bob & weave nearly as much.
4. I'm still learning to re-calibrate what sail to rig. Sunday was probably not the best example, as the wind was shifty and very gusty. Yet, it was a reminder that most people rig smaller for foiling. Right now my rule of thumb is to rig a sail 1.5-2.0 sizes smaller than I normally might rig. I reserve the right to change this formula, haha!
5. Footstrap position on the board is very important, as this has a very real impact on the balance and leverage you have of the foil. Having the straps off the rail fees easier to balance and start flight. Yet, having the straps on rail (or closer to the rail) feels easier to control the board once powered up. This is an observation of mine, and I am still testing this out. I may have something of a conclusion once I have experimented more. If you have thoughts, or opinions on this matter, I would love to hear about your experience!