Learning to Wing Foil
It was during the 2017-2018 winter that good friends and legendary surfers Paige Alms and Sean Ordonez were seriously getting into surf-foiling. I would paddle out on a long board to watch them attempt to levitate above the water figuring out how to use this new contraption and sometimes borrow their equipment for a wave or two to give it a try. That winter we had a long period of almost two months of rain and onshore wind on Maui (aka crappy weather) there was nothing to do but learn to foil! At first I was able to borrow gear from friends and I was having so much fun! We were learning to fly in the rain and stormy winds wearing warm wetsuits. From the outside we may have looked miserable but it was actually such a blast, we were like kids having fun with their new toys!
From there I got to try windsurf-foiling and then wing-foiling. I love downwind wing-foil sessions from Maliko Gulch to Kanaha on Maui. The view of the Maui coast from the ocean is gorgeous and it feels like the playground is endless since any wind swell can be turned into a fun ride! This sport has opened up new possibilities when windsurfing or surfing conditions aren’t optimal. I can play in the waves on outside reefs with small swells that we would have never even looked at before. Through my wing-foiling journey, I’ve also learned some helpful tips for anyone looking to get into this new sport.
Use the Right Equipment
Like I mentioned, I started by playing around with friend's equipment. My first wing-foil session I definitely had the wrong equipment for my size and ability. I felt out of control even though I was technically ‘doing it’. Once I found the right equipment for my size, it started to get crazy fun. I felt free, like I was flying!
When I was still learning, I chose a larger 70 Liters board. Now I use a 27 Liters board that is 3'11" in length and custom shaped by Sean Ordonez of SOS Shapes. Keep in mind that I’m small person (115pds/52kilos). To learn, it is best to use at least 20 liters more than your weight in kilos to really be able to stabilize and get the feel for the wing in your hands, then start to focus on pumping the board. Little by little go for a smaller board but know that the ‘in between’ volumes do not work:either you can really float and be stable or you can sink the board to water start. So go big or go small. To water start with a smaller board, know that it is technical to learn this skill. Push through the learning stage, there is a process figuring out your equipment and technique but it is worth it!
As wing foiling gets more and more popular, equipment also evolves and becomes more accessible. I love trying out all the new wings as they are released by different brands in the water sport industry. This is a new sport, so new concepts are constantly being developed, as is new equipment which is fun to try. Look for used equipment to get started.
Start Where You’re At
If you already know a water sport such as stand up paddling or windsurfing, transition using your existing sport. If not you can learn to foil by getting towed behind a boat or jet ski. This is by far the best way to learn the sensation of foiling. In parallel you can use a wing on a big stand up paddle board with no foil under the board at first. Become comfortable with the foil by itself, and the wing by itself then put them together.
Take small steps with the right equipment to make learning a new sport a FUN journey. This is, after all, why we do it! To play!
Prepare Yourself to Avoid Injury
I use my shoulders A LOT. SUP, wing-foiling, windsurfing, surf-foiling... As a professional athlete doing all these sports, I needed to come up with a program to manage this overuse. I was able to combine techniques from mobility training to stay injury free. As a personal trainer and a water sports lover I decided to create an online program called Solid Shoulders to share my knowledge with people.
Hyper Focusing on Shoulders and Upper Back
Here on Maui, I have many clients who ask to be conditioned for foiling. Specifically in this sport, we want to build endurance in the lower body but for the upper body what is most needed is mobility. It is this mobility that will allow for our arms to be held overhead without straining the shoulders. I train using the Solid Shoulders program to increase my clients range of motion so they can be comfortable holding the wing for long periods without hurting themselves.
The NC6 Training Solid Shoulders program is super easy and quick. It is designed to be added to your regular routine without too much time or effort.
Foiling opens up the ocean playground to more people and new possibilities. A new sport in the ocean can be daunting, but that means we are all trying to figure it out together. We are all learning and discovering this fresh sport. Now we can access new breaks and get excited about new weather conditions. Remember to be safe and careful on the water, consider wearing a helmet and always go out with a partner and a way of contacting rescue if needed, especially in open ocean.