Please select your home edition
Festival of Sails 2020 GIF - LEADERBOARD

Windfoiling: The best option for Olympic windsurfing?

by Michael Brown, Yachting New Zealand 20 Mar 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

Yachting NZ joins 50 other sports on new channel
Former America's Cup sailor heads up new TV initiative on Youtube and Free to Air Yachting New Zealand have joined more than 50 sports in a ground-breaking grassroots sport initiative launched today by Sky and Olympian and former America's Cup sailor Rob Waddell. Posted on 15 Nov
Dan Slater is NZ Sailor of the Year
Double World Champion named NZ Sailor of the Year at Volvo Yachting Excellence Awards Former Olympian Dan Slater was the big winner at the annual Volvo Yachting Excellence Awards after scooping the Sailor of the Year trophy on Friday night. Posted on 8 Nov
Top Kiwi windsurfers involved in Olympic trials
Yachting New Zealand reports on the trials for the Olympic Windsurfing Equipment The future of Olympic windsurfing is likely to be decided next month and it is appropriate that at the forefront of discussions are options put forward by a couple of Kiwis who once ruled the sport. Posted on 8 Oct
NZL Sailing Team: Kiwi sailors get heat treatment
Olympic bronze medalist Sam Meech is one of NZ's top athletes who have been using the heat chamber Olympic bronze medalist sam Meech is one of a number of New Zealand's top athletes who have been using the heat chamber at High Performance Sport New Zealand's base at the Millennium Institute. Posted on 8 Oct
Hal Wagstaff dies aged 88
Hal Wagstaff passed away recently aged 88 after a short stay in North Shore Hospital. There will be something, or more accurately someone, missing from this weekend's Yachting New Zealand annual general meeting and it won't feel the same. Hal Wagstaff passed away recently aged 88 after a short stay in North Shore Hospital. Posted on 8 Oct
Yachting NZ CEO pays tribute to Finn friend
International Finn Association executive board member Corinne McKenzie is stepping down after 19yrs Yachting New Zealand chief executive David Abercrombie paid tribute to retiring International Finn Association executive board member Corinne McKenzie, who is stepping down after 19 years in the role. Posted on 7 Oct
Olympic boatbuilder has a 30 medal haul
Mackay Boats have won 30 Olympic medals since the 2004 in Athens and 114 world championships The 2016 Rio Olympics were hugely successful for New Zealand's sailors but even more so for a Kiwi boat building company. In all, Mackay boats have won 30 Olympic medals since the 2004 Athens Games and 114 world championships medals. Posted on 15 Sep
Sailing World Cup: Kiwis exit Enoshima on a high
New Zealand crews in action today at the Hempel World Cup Series regatta in Enoshima excelled Paul Snow-Hansen and Dan Willcox led from start to finish to win the men's 470 top-10, double points shootout to climb to seventh overall and Susannah Pyatt and Brianna Reynolds-Smith were third in the women's 470 race to also finish seventh. Posted on 1 Sep
Sailing World Cup: Kiwi 49erFX wins Silver medal
Alex Maloney and Molly Meech achieved a race win and a silver medal Alex Maloney and Molly Meech achieved more than a race win and a silver medal today at the World Cup Series regatta in Enoshima, they also enjoyed "redemption" after narrowly missing out on the medals the previous week. Posted on 31 Aug
Sailing World Cup: Meech returns to form in Laser
Sam Meech returned to form on Day 4 of the Enoshima Sailing World Cup Sam Meech decided he'd had enough of being beaten up so returned to the sort of form on Day 4 of the World Cup Series regatta in Enoshima that has made him one of the world's best Laser sailors. Posted on 30 Aug
Vaikobi 2019AUG - Footer 3Zhik ATR Aroshell SW FOOTERMelges 14 2019 Footer