The concept of foiling kiteboards is not something new with early editions reaching back a decade or more. Early models were cumbersome and involved ski boot s attached to wakeboard and one piece foils which limited the rider in many ways. The weight slowed the process of foiling. Stuck in boots, the rider was stuck in a single position, leaving the options to toe-side vs backside sailing, and if god forbid you crashed, you had the equivalent of a ball and chain holding you back, while you struggled to swing the board foil combo into position, meanwhile wrestling with your kite. The penalty for blowing a tack or gybe was painful in more ways than one.
Peter Trow, one of the pioneers of the Kite Foil movement has some insight from the Central California Coast:
‘I've been riding this board for the last eight years or so. It's a Rush foil for tow surfing, got it with the extra-long shaft, I think it's 41 inches. It's the second Rush foil I've owned, I picked it up on a trip to Maui.
It works well for basic riding and gliding in on swells. It's has a fairly large foil so it goes really well in super light winds, however because of the foil size it has a top speed limit.
I used to ride it with boots but now have it set up with straps and it's working well like that. Much easier to get in and out of the water and has opened up new areas for me to foil.
I've always thought that foils would be awesome in course racing due to their upwind ability, however until recently, they have been slow off the wind. When I raced it in SF I would go from being the first around the upwind mark to the last around the downwind mark. Now that there is a new focus on kite foil designs that’s all changing and the benefits of foil racing are increasing in all directions.
I've been taking it in the surf lately and having a great time with it. We have a few reefs and points here on the central coast where the foil works really well. Also some of the wave guys like Ian Alldredge and his dad Earl have been riding their foils in the surf so it's definitely beginning to grow in that area. In good surf and light winds they are awesome. I think over the next year we should see some great advances in foil wave kiting as well. It's going to be fun and interesting.’
In recent years, the concept has been refined, especially in Europe, and recent models have emerged, producing gear that is by passing conventional Foumula Kiteboards in speed not only in straight line sailing, but up to 20% faster around the entire course. Manufacturers have begun creating a more standardize system, utilizing a one meter stem or mast, a fuselage or body, and interchangeable wings which are attached to the fuselage.
With the progress of design, which has been much the same of the progression with other foiling crafts, from Moths, to AC 72's and everything in between, the key to success is to find the right balance point for the conditions and craft and the ability to carry the foiling through maneuvers like a tack and gybe, and not give back all the gains made from the foils smaller resistance. For the kites, that time has arrived.
According to Robbie Dean, Race officer at the St Francis YC, 'The top dogs currently sailing in the Formula Class of the Kiteboard Course racing Circuit have been following the developments in the European Kiters and gear, and realized that critical mass had been reached, and it was time to jump on the foiling rocket ship'
The first of the pack, was Bryon Lake. A Sherman Island resident who's interest in the newer designs led him to take the plunge, scrapping up enough cash to get a foil kit and strap it to one of his skim boards:
Not the most desirable setup, but Bryon rocks the skimboards yet still trashed quite a few of his boards in the process, he got the hang of things and in the process of doing so, caught the eye of fellow Sherman Island sailor, Adam Koch, and Adam tell us about his stoke for the foils:
It wasn't long before Johnny Heineken also took the plunge, and Johnny being Johnny he also jumped in, and mastered the basic skill sets in just weeks, we got a chance to talk to Johnny about his take on how to ride the foilers:
The bottom line, Foiling Kiteboards are here to stay .Still in their infancy as far as development of the gear and the next generation of riders. Traditionalists such As John Gomes, who assisted in getting Kite Course Racing on the map and assisted in getting the respect of ISAF utilizing the standardized Formula 70's recently made the plunge. 'My formula board needed some repairs, and while it was in the repair shop, I made it a point to sail my Lyft foiler, and nothing else. It's a steep curve and I got 9-10 days in before this event, but it's hard to imagine doing anything else now'
Alex Aguera has been windsurfing and surfing on Maui for some 30 years. A retiree of the PWA, he assisted his shapers and designers with the wave boards he was riding, and eventually began building his waveboards and surfboards. His formula boards are well used in course racing circuit and have set speed records. In the past couple months, the shift has become almost primarily the foiling variety. Alex indicates with the summers flatter conditions, the focus has been primarily building and testing course foilers and boards but as winters swell arrive, wave riding foilers become more the target.
You can expect to pay about 20% more for a course foiler board with wings, mast and board than you would pay for a more traditional formula board, with fins but with a 20% improvement in performance the ends justify the means. A $3, 000.00 price tag more or less san kite. The added benefit is with the reduced drag, you can sail with about 20% less sail area.
The St Francis has already put in a bid with the International Kiteboarding Association in hopes to host the inaugural World Championships, and if they win the bidding process you will have until July or so of next year to get up to speed.
For more from Erik Simonson and foiling kiteboards see www.pressure-drop.us