Learning to kite foil and safety

If you’re into kiting, ride a twin tip but looking for a bit of zing, foiling may be it. For sure it will hit the spot and open a whole new dimension of riding and flying to your experience on the water.

Once you’re up and going the sensation really needs to be experienced. It’s weird, incredible, unbelievable, truly amazing-it’s more like hang gliding than paragliding.

The buzz is being suspended from a kite, a foot above the water, weightless, doing 50km/hr in less than 15kts of wind, racing the peak hour traffic on St Kilda boulevard.

Thankfully the learning curve for foiling is steep. There’s no question the start is frustrating and the initial 10 hours is humbling, even for talented experienced kiters. But with a bit of persistence, a kilogram of patience and a sprinkle of madness you’ll soon be out on the Bay, wind in your hair, cruising with the yachts.

The Do’s
Firstly, wear a helmet, always. A buoyancy vest or impact vest is also a good idea.
1. Start in light wind, 10-15kts, at a beach location where the wind is cross-onshore and deep enough to clear the length of the foil.
2. Introduce foiling to your normal kite sessions, mixing it in and committing to one hour of foiling each session.
3. Keep your front foot in the strap, the rear strap in the beginning isn’t as crucial. Bar out, kite up high and pull bar in as kite slowly passes 12 o’clock to lift you up onto the board.
4. Ride the board flat on the water, like a surf board but with less heel edge pressure. Do this lots, up and down wind. Get a feel of the foil and how it controls the board, how your back foot position effects the lift. This may take 2- 4 sessions.
5. Once you can ride at faster speeds, slow down its now time to begin to foil. It helps to think of the foil as a seesaw with the centre of balance between front and back feet. Start by experimenting with increasing the weight on the back foot.
6. This is the tricky part, balancing the pressure of back verses front foot pressure- like balancing on a seesaw plank. There’s 10-20 hrs of challenge to be had here.
7. Down wind requires greater balance. You can always drop the board onto the water and ride it flat downwind if necessary.
8. Take your time. Go slow. Keep your speed down.
9. When changing direction, doing turns, simply drop into the water, off the board.
10. Once you’re up and going turns are the next challenge. Upwind (tacks) and gybes( downwind) require tuition and are beyond this introductory article and this is where you can injure yourself.

The Dont’s.
Do not attempt foiling unless you’re competent on a twin tip, surfboard or race board. You need kite control and kite skills.
1. Do not foil without a helmet. A PFD or impact vest is a good idea also.
2. When getting up on the board from the water, take your time, don’t send the kite too fast and especially edging the board like a twin tip. This can cause the powered kite to pull you over the board onto the foil wings- you don’t want that! Be patient , especially in the first 10- 20 hrs.
3. Don’t start on a beach where the wind direction is direct onshore. You will keep getting nailed back onto the sand bar.
4. Avoid pushing off the board when falling, the foil will bounce back like a spring at you.  Be careful with turns- tacks and gybes, this is where you need a helmet.
5. Try to avoid falling off going down wind, it hurts, it’s a whip lash type injury. Keeping the board as low as possible at all times, especially downwind, is key to less painful stacks.
6. Don’t foil too far from shore, especially by yourself. If you stack, the foil rides small chop without you very well, it can easily end up away from you while you focus to relaunch kite,  grab the board ASAP. A buoyancy vest can be a life safer here.

If you’re into kiting, dig cruising the Bay or like the thrill of speed then you’re going to love foiling.
When it comes to buying a foil the cheaper foils will get you going and provide a mountain of fun.

More advanced foils have tapered wings and are engineered to be responsive. They are a buzz to ride. If you intend to foil with others you’ll need a better foil to keep up. There’s a marked difference in speed, agility, up/ downwind angles. In a 40km loop advanced foils may see you 10-15km in front of less engineered foils.

It all depends on your mojo, horses for courses and foils for all types.