When I talk to people about foiling, most of the conversation focuses on how foiling can be a great thing to do when conditions are not great..."the wind sucks, so I will go foiling" or "the waves are mushy, so I will foil today". I think there is some truth to these statements...that's actually how and why I got into foiling. But...what is cool about foiling is that it forces you to daydream again--daydream about possibilities, pushing limits, trying new things, experimenting, learning, crashing, and experiencing breakthroughs. I've learned that experimenting is something with foiling is exciting to me. As I daydream more, I think of pushing foiling out of it's current bubble.
As some of you may know, I have wondered how windfoiling might be in high winds, and also in waves! I have installed a deep tuttle box in a Simmer Freegal 100 wave board. The board is pretty short, just a bit over 7 feet long, and it is a little wider at 61cm, which seemed like a good start for the mission. I installed the deep tuttle box 20" off the tail. I decided on 20", as this seemed to be where a lot of people were installing deep turtles for SUP and surf boards (exception: super short 3' surf foil boards). Installing a deep tuttle will allow for foil flexibility--I can use a GoFoil, an F4 surf foil, a slingshot foil, or an MFC surf foil. (see pics)
I was able to get out to 3rd this past Monday after work to continue my experiment with foiling in high wind. I figure that I would like to see how this rig works in higher wind, get it dialed in before I head out to the waves. The wind was increasing, most were rigging 4.7 - 5.3. I opted to rig my 2018 4.7 Simmer Blacktip. The wind was ramping up, and I was a little nervous that I rigged too big. Oh well!
I went out and immediately encountered problems. The board would lift out of the water and do this twisting wheelie that was almost impossible to control. My initial thoughts were that I installed the tuttle box too far forward for this board....which was discouraging. I tried moving the mast track forward and back, but nothing solved the issue. I gave up trying to ride in the straps and headed back to the beach.
I placed my back foot between the straps, and the front foot right behind the mast base, which for me is standard shlogging stance. As I picked up speed, the board popped up. As luck would have it, but weight was right where I needed it to be to control the board. I was able to take flight with my feet out of the straps! It felt a little uncomfortable not having my feet in the straps at first, but I slowly got used to it. I was able to control the speed, height, and direction pretty well after a few runs. I headed out to the channel to really test my new rig. The wind was strong enough that I could have sailed the 4.7 as a regular windsurfing setup. My confidence grew and I was able to play around with weight transfer and turning. The wind had a lot of West in it, which means that you head almost straight into the chop. On a normal windsurfer, the ride can become jarring, as you repeatedly hit chop straight on. I, of course, was floating over all of it.
There was a level of freedom to be out of the straps. I felt more connected to the board, and forced me to have more of my weight over the board, opposed to hanging over the water more. This allowed my to "ride" the board more and use the board to really maneuver, and the sail as purely an engine to move me forward. My stance was almost vertical (or at least felt that way), and I used my back hand as the sail throttle.
By accident, I learned that I could mimic wave riding on the bay, by doing mellow backside turns on chop on the foil. I could drop the board a bit in the trough, load up the foil, and let the board rise a bit as I turned off the top of chop, then let the board lower a bit on the way down. The ride was super smooth, and the upright stance really allowed me to cradle the board in doing my turns.
A couple things that I learned a couple days ago:
1. Need To Move My Foot Straps: My straps were waaayyyy too far back for this setup. If I was to install straps, I would need to move the set up at least 6, maybe 8 inches forward. This would allow my rear foot to be directly over (or slightly in front of) the foil mast. It would place my front foot somewhere near the mast base. I might entertain the idea of installing straps there, as to give me more control for higher wind situations, and jumping! :)
2. Liberating Out Of The Straps: Windfoiling (on a smaller board with a surf foil) felt liberating when I did so out of the footstraps. I felt more connected to the board and felt like I could "surf" the board more. Clearly, I will need to experiment with straps in the new location to compare, but I have a feeling there is a scenario in which I would want to stay out of the straps.
3. Can't Wait To Experiment More: There is so much promise to get wind foiling in high winds and in surf. Clearly I will ease into higher wind situations, and I may get more experience under my belt before I venture out into small surf. But I certainly look forward to experimenting in small waves with lighter winds! I think this could be so cool!
I will continue to post my progress with this project and others. I continue to learn how to SUP and SURF foil better. I may document more sessions. I am not the expert when it comes to foiling, there are those that are more advanced than I am. But I am gaining more experience and context as I experiment more. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have questions, or would like to try out any of my setups. I have foil options from GoFoil, SLightshot, F4, and MFC. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions or if you'd like to try them out!