Edgar and I hit the West-side of Michigan for what was supposed to be a high-wind, fun wave day. We arrived to find light wind and tiny waves. We drove South to visit our friends at MacKiteBoarding. We got our hands on a bunch of light wind gear to demo including a Liquid Force Foil Fish. I haven’t tried foiling in over 7 years, when Jason Slezak, Sam Bell and I demoed the Carafino Foil.
The LF foil was much easier to learn on. Before I hit the water, I watched the Liquid Force Foil Intro videos, which proved extremely helpful. The LF wing was much more forgiving than the Carafino. The breaking waves made it challenging at first, so the conditions were a little rough to learn, but we made it work. There was a steep learning curve but by the end of the session I felt like I was starting to get the hang of it.
The first thing you notice is the overall size of the board and the wing. It can be a lot to manage when getting it in and out of the water. It can also be a bit scary in shore break. But don’t let that freak you out, it’s well worth it. I had Edgar carry the board to the water’s edge for me. I then took a surfboard out to test various points of depth so I had a good idea of how far I needed to body drag out as to not hit the foil on the bottom of the Lake. I came back for the foil and made it through the shorebreak. Once I felt I was far enough out from the shallows and the breaking waves, I used the footstrap to angle the board towards me as if I were starting to wakeboard behind a boat.
I started off trying to ride by keeping the board on the water trying to ride back and forth, very slowly, as I would with a surfboard. It felt like there was a slight drag on my surfboard, like seaweed that gets stuck on a fin. As you increase the speed, you start feeling the tracking of the wing in the water. This let my body get use to the wing under the water. I did this for 1/3 – 1/2 the session.
I then started to increase the speed and the height of the board out of the water. It’s truly a different feeling. It was really fun! It’s pretty crazy when you hit a certain speed the board just goes silent and you start flying. I found I had the best rides the less I thought of trying to control the board and squared off by shoulders to the direction I wanted to go. It is also hard to train your brain to tell your body to add more front foot weight when you start wheeling. This typically leads to a bucking bronco type roller coaster ride, and finishes off with a spectacular crash. So keep weight on that front foot!
Along with the speed came a few scary moments too. The foil can be hazardous. I had 3 really close calls with the foil. As recommended by many, as soon as you start to think your going to bite it, get away from the foil. Especially, when you are out of the water with the foil, the wing acts like a fulcrum and when you crash, the wing can hit you faster than you would expect.
The board I demoed had only one front strap and loved that setup. I found that by moving my backfoot forward and back I could control the lift and decent of the wing (not sure if that’s the right way to do it). The front strap was great to body drag with the board, handling the board in the water and getting up and going. I would one day love to try riding it strapless, but for starting out it was great.
By the end of the session, I was able to ride both directions, completed a couple toe-side and heel-side transitions and rode toe-side in one direction. The next day, you may find your hamstrings took a beating, but I bet that smile will still be on your face. All in all, it was a terrific time I would highly recommend it.
Thanks to Edgar for the photos.