New innovations continually pop up in most sports as they evolve. In paddleboarding we’ve had some pretty crazy ones including motorized boards and boards powered by built-in stair steppers. But recently, an old contraption has found it’s way to the paddleboard scene- the foil.
We first saw foils for paddleboard foilboards a few years ago in Florida at Surf Expo. But hydrofoils have been around for a very long time in a variety water sports. This year, a few paddleboard companies have come out with foils for all around use including surfing, downwinding, racing, and maybe even general cruising.
So what is a foilboard and what does it do? They work under the basic principle that gets an aircraft off the ground- lift. There are basically two wings mounted to a post (mast) that is attached to the bottom of the board. They are shaped similarly to airplane wings, so that water travels faster over the top and slower over the bottom. This creates a low pressure area over the wing pushing it up off the surface. The result is the paddleboard riding a foot or two off the surface of the water.
I have never ridden a hydrofoil watercraft, though I have seen them in action back in my windsurfing days when they were around. They have been popular with kiteboarders as well.
From what I understand, it takes a lot of balance skill to get them going. You have to work up to it since regular paddleboarding skills are not directly transferrable to foilboarding. You are balancing and turning off a very small area that is only stabilized by how fast you are going, so room for error is minimal.
There have been reports of people getting dinged up a bit in the learning process. But it should be worth it for those of us looking to go a lot faster and get a whole new experience on the water. Just the feeling of zipping along ABOVE the waves and bumps must be super exhilarating! The amount of friction and drag that is lost supposedly translates into a ton more speed without the thumping!
Paddleboard foilboards have begun to show up more prevalently on the radar lately. Big time pros like Kai Lenny and Connor Baxter have put out promotional videos showing what it’s like ripping around on a foilboard. A few major paddleboard manufacturers are working to get products to the market soon. The prototypes are out there and being tested so we hope to see some foil models out this year.
While paddleboards with foils won’t overtake the industry, it’s very likely that you will see them from time to time in the near future. If the industry can increase the stability and make them work better at lower speeds, you will probably see more of them. It’s definitely a quiver board since the Naish board that Kai was riding did not have regular fin box, so it is only for foilboarding. It would be nice to have a paddleboard with a removable foil so you could pick and choose your days to use it without needing two or more boards.
I’m pretty excited to try one out. So keep your eyes out for standups hovering over the water!