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Learning to SUP foil, first impressions...

This is for anyone thinking about foiling. I hope my experience helps you make the decision to bolt a hydro foil on to your paddle board...

SUP foil set up

First, I will admit I was not an early adopter in the SUP foil movement even though a number of my friends were in deep. I think part of my hesitancy was the fact that my first experience with a foil was the air chair behind a boat. It never clicked for me and I didn’t like the seated position. That all changed hearing Dave Kalama and the Go Foil crew speak at Surf Expo in September earlier this year.

My interest was sparked when I heard them talking about how the foil enables you to surf waves that aren’t surfable on a traditional board. After watching videos of Dave foil surfing unbroken, thigh to waist high waves I realized my home break was the perfect foiling location especially at high tide. And so, the process of learning to surf foil began. I set out to fly like pelican.

I called the crew at NAISH to inquire into the best set up for my size (6’2” 195 lbs.) and surfing conditions. Here in north Florida we consistently get thigh to stomach, choppy, mushy to hollow, short period beach break. They recommended the NAISH Hover 135 dedicated SUP foil board (7’6” x 28.5” and 135 L). The nose of the paddle board is painted an apropos spaceship silver. For the foil they suggested the Thrust Surf Foil XL with a 55 cm mast and Abracadabra quick plate. For a leash I chose to go with the SKLTN Coiled SUP leash instead of a straight leash. Knowing one day I would be flying high over the water I went with a longer cut version of my SKLTN Surf 3.0 wave paddle.

Sean Poynter on a perfect foil wave

Once I received the paddle board and foil I couldn’t wait to assemble it. The only adjustable component was the rear wing which I set to the factory setting as recommended by the guys at NAISH. Assembly was straight forward. That said I strongly recommend you use a little anti-seize lubricant on the screws. Otherwise you will likely have one seize up and end up stripping the #3 Phillips head. I speak from experience. I also recommend checking the screws regularly as they do come loose. Based on input from our local pro I positioned the foil dead center in the box to start.

First impressions…

Carrying the board into the water is awkward. I stood in front of the mast with one hand on the fuselage and used the other hand to hold the paddle and board. Wading into the surf with this apparatus was a bit unnerving.

Once on the water I found the board was very stable. I regularly paddle board on boards this length or shorter and volumes between 115 L to 120 L. At 28.5” wide I was expecting the board to be a little tippy. My sense is the foil adds stability. Paddling out, on the other hand, felt like I was dragging an anchor.

Mentally, I was more nervous about being hit with the foil than anything. The only instruction I was given was bail early (don’t try and save it) and keep the front foot weighted. I brought a helmet and life jacket but for some reason didn’t wear either. For the first time in a while (since learning to kite surf) I was scared.

My first attempt to paddle into a wave was surprisingly easy. Concentrating on my front foot the paddle board never left the water. I also found myself letting the set waves (bigger, steeper) go and instead chose smaller, mushier waves. At the slightest hint of losing it I would bail. I was also concerned about the foil hitting the bottom so I would bail early to prevent this from happening as well.

Overall my first few sessions were exhilarating even though my board probably never left the water. I concluded the source of my exhilaration was probably my fear of being hit by the foil. Either way I thoroughly enjoyed it.

More to come.

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