Wingsurfing is simply the use of a hand held wing in order 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 that 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 really 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 hand held wing.
What is crazy is that the first truly commercially available wings was 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 foiler wanting to be able to get back upwind with ease or simply a watersports 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 and 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 waters 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 paddeboard make for a great starting point. While if foiling you and can pump yourself on to the foil then wingsurfing in as little as 8 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. A few brands recognize this and are making their paddleboard multi sport covering of SUP, surf and wingsurfing with the addition of removable daggerboards for upwind performance. While items like the SUPwinder from Slingshot (a huge removable fin in mounted in an adhesive fin box) can also be added to composite SUP’s when wingsurfing providing more upwind performance.
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. The selection and choice of foils is growing rapidly as the development in this area is huge. This growth and learning does 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 watersports 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 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 to much time with it above your head trying to avoid catching the wing tips in the water. You also always have a wing this size even as you develop and perhaps add another larger wing to your quiver.
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.