The first time I saw a foil board was about 15 years ago. I was on a surf trip down in Costa Rica and the TV at the bar was looping surf videos. Who was riding it?? Who else… Laird Hamilton. There he was, effortlessly gliding above the water, strapped to the board with snowboarding boots and a jet ski towing him in. I thought it was amazing but highly impractical for the average surfer. It could only used by obviously the most experienced surfers and even then it required a jet ski to pull you in to the wave. Not something that most of us keep around. It was great to see the evolution of the sport and the limits being pushed but I never thought it would be something that I would see passed what it was right then and there. Basically, I thought only people of Laird Hamilton’s mythical waterman status could pull off such a fete.
That was until recently watching a video of Kai Lenny hydrofoil surfing in open water, no boots, no jet ski. Just paddled into what could barely even be considered a wave, hopped up and floated above the swell with ease. Instead of requiring a jet ski he just paddled and then pumped the board to get around. Now were talkin’!!
Here’s how hydrofoiling actually works. It uses the same principles as an airplane. In fact, the foil underneath the board is shaped just like one. The foil has curved wings which create lift by making the water on top of the foil travel faster than the water underneath it. It was originally designed as a hydrofoil chair developed to be used by water skiers and wake boarders. Leave it to Hamilton to make the adaptation to surfing.
Now that it can be done without the need of a jet ski and the rider being physically strapped to the board, I think it is safe to say that there will be more and more sightings of foil boards. There are already several different models out by various companies such as Slingshot and Liquid Force where the foil board has been making it's way into kiteboarding as well. The price for the foil alone is around $600 and the complete set attached to the board can be between $1000 and $2000.
To fully appreciate the evolution of the hydrofoil watch both of these videos posted below. The same video that I watched 15 years ago in Costa Rica also showed Hamilton standup paddleboarding, something unheard of to the rest of the world at the time and I think we can all see how that turned out. I can’t wait to see where this will take the sport next.