Wingsurfing is simply the use of a handheld wing to propel a board on the water. Using wings on surfboards and windsurf boards has been around since the mid 1980’s – something called the ‘Wind Weapon’ designed by Tom Magruder. While innovative for the time and offering a more freeing experience than windsurfing it never really caught on. Looking back, we think it mainly because of the surge in windsurfing at the time as well as some short comings in the Wind Weapon such as not floating.
The wing was then revisited by some kitesurfing brands like Slingshot in early 2012 but as passion projects by designers and nothing more. This did however see wings advance as they now used the same construction methods as a kitesurfing kite with the introduction of an inflatable leading edge and struts.
Then along comes foiling and it has an impact on every water-based board sport… SUP foiling, surf foiling either prone or with a paddle, windsurf foiling, kite foiling plus even foiling sail boats, foiling motorboats… everything seems to have a foil on it nowadays! It wasn’t long before people started to revisit the use of handheld wings to propel themselves. The efficiency gains that come from using a foil and make it perfect for the use of a relatively small handheld wing.
What is crazy is that the first truly commercially available wings were only mid-2019. In such a short space of time the sport of wingsurfing has truly exploded and gain massive traction with a huge range of people from a variety of backgrounds – experienced windsurf looking for a new challenge, paddleboarder wanting to experience foiling, downwind foilers wanting to be able to get back upwind with ease or simply a water sports novice – it does not matter… everyone can and does take part.
The sensation of using a wingsurfer is like nothing else before; it is just such a free experience, nothing is attached to the board, there are no lines to tangle, set up is simple, transport as well as storage is easy. Once set up it all just feels so intuitive, you can pick it up and use it regardless of your experience or the board you are on as you do not need to be foiling to use a wingsurfer (albeit nothing compares with the sensation of flying above the water’s surface).
Like any wind powered sport the more wind the better but you do not need much to get going. If you are taking your first steps light winds on a stable paddleboard, make for a great starting point. While if foiling you and can pump yourself on to the foil then wingsurfing in as little as 5 knots of breeze on a 6-metre wing with a 1750 front wing is achievable by many.
The windier it gets though the better… for many the sweet spot is 15 – 25 knots. And as we have seen the sport progress jumping on foils feels better with 25 knots +. Over 25 knots is certainly doable as wings just get smaller and everything gets much faster.
We've seen everything used for wingsurfing; SUP’s, kiteboards, surfboards, windsurf boards, foil setups of every type – everything has its place depending on wind strength, location and your ability. For many, particularly those not crossing over from a wind powered sport the easiest route of entry is on a Stand Up Paddleboard. Stable, easy and leaving you to only worry about handling the wing as you being to propel yourself forwards and invariably down wind (then the walk of shame back upwind that will always follow). This is because making a paddleboard go upwind due to the lack of underwater appendages such as a dagger-board is nigh on impossible. To go upwind you need some form of resistance underneath that in turn generates ‘lift’ in order for you to go upwind.We now see more than ever people harnessing their skills with a wing and stand-up paddle board before going to the foil. The Starboard wingboard 10ft4 4 in 1 is a great example of a board that covers all grounds, from paddle board to wind/wingsurfing. To make a paddle board beat upwind it will need a centre fin or drift stopper. Boards like the Starboard wingboard, Red Paddle Co Windsurf and SIC Tao Air glide wind all have a centre fin box allowing tracking upwind. You can also retro fit you inflatable or composite SUP with a drift stoper which allows you to use a wing with almost any SUP. The Arrows drift stopper and Slingshot SUP Winder are two different ways to transform your SUP into a wingsurfing board. If you would like to learn more about Wingsurfing you can find out more here.
If your goal is to foil with a wing in hand, then the choice of boards and development is moving forwards at an enormous pace. A SUP Foiling Board certainly works but often lacks foot strap inserts, so shorter lower volume boards with straps inserts on the rise with boards from Fanatic and Starboard really leading the way. A Specialised Wingboard can and does make wingsurfing easier as they encourage earlier flight and have added volume to carry you through the gusts. Look for boards that have hard rails in the back area and less rocker.
One area of board development that is about to see rapid growth is the available of Inflatable Foil Boards. This is something we are extremely excited to see as it will mean that the portability of wingsurfing see’s a massive leap… wingsurfing is about to become a ‘one bag’ sport meaning easier travel and easier storage.
The size and type of foil you ride changes based on a few factors, like ability, rider weight, conditions, and goals. Beginners to foiling will want a low aspect (low speed lift) hydrofoil. As you progress with foiling and want to go faster a high aspect foil is ideal. The selection and choice of foils is growing rapidly as the development in this area is huge. This growth and learning do not seem to be plateauing anytime soon particularly with the likes of the development of foiling racing boats for the America’s Cup and all their learning yet to filter down through the water sports world. Much like Formula 1 impacting the cars we drive today and in the future, America’s Cup foil design will effect what we all ride in the future.
We have a large Range of Foils in store, many available for demo so why not give us a call or come and visit us.
To start a board and an inflatable wing – that’s pretty much it. Preferably a wing that has low end "grunt" to get you planning quicker and one of between 4 – 5 metres in size. Any larger than this and you will spend too much time with it above your head trying to avoid catching the wing tips in the water. You will always have a wing this size even as you develop and perhaps add another larger wing to your quiver. You’ll need a board with sufficient volume. If the board volume is too low for your weight it will slow down your progress as you will struggle to water start the board. A board and wrist leash are a good idea to avoid losing your kit and a pump for your wing.
At The SUP Company we have made getting set up for the first time easy. We have a range of wingfoiling packages which include everything you’ll need to get going and at a great price.
For us it is the sheer simplicity of wingsurfing. It is an uncluttered freeing experience that is a simple as it is intuitive. This makes it lots of fun once you master the basics as you progress quickly onto all this new sport has to offer.
The best thing with Wingfoiling is that you don’t need any prior experience, and anyone can give it a go. Like many things when getting stared we recommend taking a few lessons to set yourself up with the foundations. Initial skills include learning to fly the wing and move across the wind. You will soon progress and be able to wing upwind and tack and gybe. There are also lots of helpful resources online to help you along. We highly recommend the Duotone Wingfoiling academy app. With over 70 great videos from Setup and wing basic to freestyle, jumps and more. Best of all it’s free! Watch this video to learn more.