For next handful of SUP foil sessions, I would catch waves and every now and then the paddle board would lift. Sometimes it would lift dramatically (i.e., foil breach - see pic below) and I would over react by slamming the nose back down to the water. Oddly, instead of pearling and crashing the nose would barely break the surface of the water and bounce back up. Being that high off the water was foreign and I clearly didn’t know how to handle it. I felt more like a clumsy porpoise than a foil surfer.
At this point, I struggled to get the feel of flight. I felt like a pilot who couldn’t tell when the plane left the ground until the nose was vertical. Realizing this I would then abruptly put the plane into a nose dive.
Every now and then I would get lift and somehow hold it for a few seconds. From here I began trying to create lift by weighting my back foot. This didn’t seem to work. I thought about trying to pump the paddle board but it never felt right. Pumping when the board is on the water seemed counter intuitive to me. The more waves I caught the more I learned the subtleties of flight. That said, as soon as I would think I had it dialed the next few waves would be flightless.
The one thing that was clear to me at this point was the importance of speed. Without speed there is no flight. As a result I was more patient. I would wait for the plane to get a good ways down the runway before trying to takeoff. I also got less conservative and would ride the wave further into shore. Instead of mushy small waves I attempted to catch bigger waves. I paid the price a few times coming in contact with the foil a couple times. In one crash the foil came at me pretty quick. Luckily my paddle took the brunt. On another occasion the foil somehow hit me in the back. By this point I was wearing a wetsuit so the damage was minor. With each session my fear of being hit by the foil diminished but I remained cautious.
Then I caught a bigger wave and the speed of the drop was mind blowing. It literally caught me off guard. I held on for dear life, my feet and body position frozen until everything slowed back down. Then, from behind, the wave I had just screamed ahead of caught up to me and launched me off the back of the board. Once I realized what had happened the true potential of surf foiling became clear to me. Foiling is a completely unique sensation.
Enlightened I began paddling for bigger waves more often. In doing so I was able to scream across the face of waves with sections that normally (i.e., SUP surfing) are closeouts. It was interesting to me how the foil held the line even on hollow waves. I began to see my home break from a different perspective.
After riding more and more waves and getting way out on the shoulder turning seemed like a good idea. Being regular foot made going right easy. Turning right also felt natural. Turning left on the other hand was less intuitive. I found that to turn left I had to use my entire body. I remember purposely not turning my head too much to look left to make the turn. To complete the maneuver required discipline (i.e., maintaining body position) and patience. My first successful turn left seemed to take an eternity. Eight or so sessions in I had maybe made 3 left turns. Coming back right was easy.
And then it happened again. I caught a wave and was able to link two subsequent waves. Most of the ride was on green, unbroken wave. The board just seemed to go effortlessly. I was blown away. The potential for foil surfing continued to exceed my expectations and to fuel my desire to get proficient. The down side of such long rides was the paddle back. As I mentioned before, paddling with a foil is like dragging an anchor and on this particular day I had a headwind.
By now I was hooked on foil surfing. I would foil even on days where the conditions were better for SUP surfing. It was only matter of time, I thought, that it would all come together. Then I had the chance to SUP foil behind a boat.
More to come.
Pics courtesy of Val Stapanchuk