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There is a lot to learn when first getting into foiling.  We like to start by asking what discipline you are looking to get into: prone surf, SUP, wing, downwind, kite, windsurf, wake, or tow.  The board and foil are typically very different based on the discipline as well as expected conditions.  

The right gear, the right conditions, and some qualified guidance will definitely shorten the learning curve, as will a foil lesson or two behind a boat or on an electric foilboard (e-foil).  Then each discipline often requires a new humbling effort of ‘putting in the time’ in order to start feeling comfortable.  

How to Ride a Hydrofoil

For a beginner, the key to foiling is not only balancing front and back foot pressure, but also balancing side to side.  The goal is not to be all front foot, but balanced front and back as well as heel/toe pressure, otherwise your legs will get tired.  At first, you should focus on keeping the board as flat and level as possible side-to-side.  Your pivot point or fulcrum is over the front foil wing (not the mast), because that is what’s providing lift.  Foiling requires subtle movements and corrections, with little to no leaning or board healing, especially compared to surfing or wakeboarding, it’s definitely more about finesse than power.  

Highly recommend spending some time in no waves or chop behind a boat, unstrapped, practicing pop up and getting comfortable riding for a minute or more on foil.  Isolate the variables down to just feeling the foil, so you don’t have to worry about big sets coming in or how fast you need to go.  Once you can start to do heel/toe steering and riding through the wake and chop, then you’re ready for some small mushy waves.  

How Easy is it to Learn BLANK?

Learning the different disciplines is really dependent on your experience.  If you have windsurf or kitesurf experience, wing foiling, will be easier to learn than SUP or prone.  If you don’t have experience with wind sports, the hand held wing will be difficult to understand at first.  If you have a great surfing pop up, prone foil surfing would probably be a bit easier.  If you are already great on a SUP in waves, SUP foiling might be the easiest to learn.  If you have no experience with board sports, that might be a good thing too, because you are not bringing any habits over from the other sports.   Being on foil is completely different than any other sport.  

Wing Foiling Skills and Gear 

This article give a good introduction to winging – skills needed and recommended gear.   Wing Foiling Intro.  Basically, if you’re looking to get into it, get a wing and start practicing on a skateboard.  

High Aspect versus Medium Aspect Foil Wings

The aspect ratio of a foil wing is that ratio of its span (measuring wing tip to wing tip) to its average chord (front to back distance).  A low aspect wing would be similar fighter aircraft (designed for maneuverability) and a high aspect wing would be similar to a glider, designed to stay aloft.  

Every foil size and shape has a slightly different stall speed or lift speed, just like an airplane wing.  Short thick foils have a lift speed around 8mph or lower.  Wide and thin wings (high aspect) have a higher lift speed, so you will need more board speed to pop up on foil.  

For foiling, high aspect wings have great glide and are more efficient at pumping, they are harder to turn and recover from a turn.  Because high aspect wings are typically thinner than medium aspect wings (and a shorter chord), they have a higher top-end speed, but also have a higher low end stall speed or lift speed. 

Medium aspect wings have better turning and recovery, but less glide and require more force to pump.  Medium aspect wings are generally thicker giving lift at slower speeds (a longer chord helps too), but have a lower high-end speed than high aspect.  Medium aspect wing are much easier to learn on than high aspect, and are the best blend of attributes to get started.  

Low aspect wings are mostly first generation wings and are not recommended.  

high aspect ration foil wing vs medium aspect oahu kauai maui hawaii wing
High aspect ratio wings (top - faster, more efficient pump and glide) versus medium aspect wings (bottom - better turn and recovery, better low-end speed)