Please select your home edition

Windfoiling: The best option for Olympic windsurfing?

by Michael Brown, Yachting New Zealand 20 Mar 2019 21:09 PDT 21 March 2019
`Once the board leaves the water, you literally are surfing in the air,` Aaron McIntosh - Olympic medalist and triple world champion © Windfoil New Zealand

Once a month, a bunch of America's Cup sailors, ocean racers and former Olympic medallists gather alongside some young and others not so young at a lake on Auckland's North Shore.

It's a group that has grown in size over time and among them are a bevvy of well-known sailors who have well and truly caught the bug.

The foiling revolution has hit windsurfing and it's fair to say foiling has helped lift the sport to new levels, both literally and figuratively.

As many as 20 gather at Lake Pupuke for Foiling Fridays but it's a scene being played out at other venues around the country. Some clubs are now offering racing on a regular basis, last month a decent-sized fleet of windfoilers, as foiling windsurfing is known, took part in foiling week in the Bay of Islands and this weekend most will back it up at the windfoiling national championships at the Manly Sailing Club, which will also incorporate the Moth and Waszp nationals.

Alan 'Madloop' McIntosh has played a leading hand in popularising windfoiling in this country and admits foiling has reinvigorated windsurfing.

He has taught windsurfing on Lake Pupuke since 1994. He started with a couple of boards that lived on the roof of his Fiat Uno and slowly added enough equipment to need a trailer. These days McIntosh has 50 boards and a growing number come with foils.

The sight of windfoilers buzzing around the lake or out off the beach is the best marketing but many newcomers are surprised to discover the sport is reasonably affordable - an entry level setup costs about $2000 - and also relatively easy to pick up.

"The big difference now is that the skill required to go windfoiling is minimal," says McIntosh, who first learned to windsurf on Lake Rotorua in 1979. "Eli Liefting [who is a 29er sailor] had done three hours of windsurfing and I sent him out on a normal board and 20 knots of wind and got him foiling after three hours. Normally you need about 10 hours on a windsurfer to get going.

"Originally when this started, I wasn’t that keen on the idea because I thought it would be dangerous – out-of-control people flying around the lake and crashing into things – but when the thing starts lifting up, it’s actually really intuitive.

"I think [windfoiling] is having a major impact. It’s attracting people who went from windsurfing to kites and now they’re coming back; it’s attracting people who have never windsurfed and think it looks cool; it's attracting people who used to windsurf and don’t really do anything any more and it's attracting sailors who just want something really cool as a cross-training sport."

Aaron McIntosh is one who has caught the windfoiling bug and is a regular at Foiling Fridays. He's convinced Olympic windsurfing needs to go down the foiling path to keep it relevant, despite coaching the world's best two RS:X sailors in 2018, and he's not alone in this view.

Windfoiling has the potential to turn Olympic windsurfing into something very, very special,” Aaron McIntosh said recently. “It performs in 6-25 knots quite comfortably, is fast and spectacular. It’s removed the physical element, so the pumping is not in there. What I think it’s done is rejuvenated the windsurfing spirit in New Zealand.

I think the key is to really inspire a new generation. Sailing has evolved and windsurfing has evolved, too. Everyone is foiling these days. You can capture the imagination of the young generation. Sailing four knots upwind is not really acceptable any more. We are doing 17-18 knots upwind in 12 knots of breeze. That’s phenomenal.”

At this stage, the RS:X has been chosen for the 2024 Paris Games but it is subject to equipment re-evaluation.

Lake Pupuke is a long way from the Olympics and Alan McIntosh's main aim is for people to fall in love with the sport in the way he did.

"Once the board leaves the water, you literally are surfing in the air," he enthuses. "Even on really bad days, you look down at the rough water passing underneath [on a windfoiler]. You can go over a ferry wake without getting touched. It's super-efficient.

"It's been amazing. Every walk of life are getting into it and are just kind of hanging out and enjoying the buzz."

For more news from Yachting New Zealand click here

Related Articles

Strong interest in Mud House Women's Regatta
The fourth edition of the Mud House Women's Regatta is expected to feature more than 20 boats. It's an event that attracts world and Olympic champions through to absolute beginners and September's fourth edition of the Mud House Women's Regatta is expected to feature more than 20 boats. Posted on 1 Jul
Yachting NZ podcast: New episodes now online
Broad Reach Radio, the YNZ podcast features long form interviews with top NZ sailors. The podcast will feature a range of topics from interviews with top sailors of today and yesteryear to chats with people in the sailing and boating industries. Posted on 1 Jul
Situations vacant: marine industry jobs available
Lots of positions are available around the country for those with marine industry experience. If you're in the market for a new job and have got some skills and experience in the marine industry, take a look at the listings below for lots of exciting career opportunities that are available right now all over New Zealand. Posted on 1 Jul
Blakey knows where loyalties lie in eSailing champ
Matt Blakey grew up in NZ but will be representing Australia in Sunday's Zhik eSailing Champs. Matt Blakey doesn't think he has any split loyalties, even though he was born and raised in New Zealand but will be representing Australia in Sunday night's Zhik Trans-Tasman eSailing Championships. Posted on 8 Jun
Zhik Trans Tasman eSailing Champs: Meet the racers
12 competitors from NZ and Aus will be online to compete for the first eSailing Champ Coming up this Sunday June 7th, Zhik's Trans-Tasman eSailing Championships kicks off. Over the next few days, we will introduce you to the six sailors from New Zealand and six from Australia who will compete. Posted on 4 Jun
Kiwis Team Racing does a three-peat
NZNational Teams racing decided after nearly 90 flights of competition at kerikeri At the end of nearly 90 flights of competition, the Kiwis Team Racing team of Frankie Dair, Maeve White, Dylan Whichman, Emilie Jones, Reuben Corbett and Sean Herbert won their third consecutive New Zealand Open Teams Racing National Championships title Posted on 2 Jun
Team Racers take on Olympic and Cup Champions
Blair Tuke will head back to his roots when he sails at this weekend's New Zealand Open Teams Racing Blair Tuke will head back to his roots when he sails at this weekend's New Zealand Open Teams Racing National Championships in Kerikeri but fully expects to get "dusted up" by some of this country's best young talent. Posted on 30 May
Andre hopes to be giant among eSailors
Andre Van Dam to be on the online start-line for the Zhik New Zealand eSailing Challenge. Most pre-regatta checks don't normally include investigating the WiFi but that will be top of the list for Andre Van Dam ahead of Sunday's final of the Zhik New Zealand eSailing Challenge. Posted on 30 May
Flexibility added to Level 3 restrictions
Some sectors of the marine industry have been given permission to restart some on-water operations Certain sectors of the marine industry have been given permission to restart some on-water operations under alert level 3. Posted on 2 May
Enter the Zhik New Zealand eSailing Challenge
Sign up to compete for a spot in the NZL eSailing team to compete across the virtual ditch. We might not be able to get on the water right now, but it doesn't mean we can't go sailing. Posted on 2 May
Melges 14 2019 FooterVaikobi 2019AUG - Footer 1Upffront 2020 Foredeck Club SW FOOTER