Tech Talk: big wave tow in foil surfing


Welcome back to another Appletree Surfboards Tech Talk video! We’re back in Cape Town, with Dylan Wichmann. We want to follow up on our earlier conversation about how to get into surf foiling.

Big wave tow in foil surfing vs normal tow in foil surfing

So, Dylan, you explained already how you actually got into normal foiling by tow foiling behind the boat. How different is that compared to the tow foiling you do now? Yeah, so I’ve done quite a lot of tow-in foil surfing. Unfortunately, I haven’t got quite yet to the size waves that I’ve wanted to get up to. That has not so much to do with the board, but more to do with the foils. Most foils are made for that two to three foot range waves.

Foils for big wave tow in foil surfing

To tow anything 10 to 15 foot plus, we need a completely different foil set up. First of all is the longer mast. When I do go in bigger surf, I’ll always be on a 950 mast so that I can keep the foil deeper in the water. So I don’t go flying when I hit one of the bumps. We are currently busy developing a lot more big wave foils. Hopefully I’ll be able to get out to Dungeons and Sunset and all the big waves around Cape town.

And how are they different? The foils? Well, it almost looks like the front wings are the same size as the tail wings you currently would be riding. So I think the range would be, say, 500 to 700 square centimeter. And sort of similar stabilizers just because a lot of the time that’s what we used to, so it’s pointless changing too much up. Otherwise, you need to do a whole bunch of testing just to dial in that one foil.

Small boards for big wave tow in foil surfing

We also move on to a lot smaller boards. One thing is that you will simply have less wind resistance, compared to riding on a bigger board. You’re moving 50 to 60 kilometers down the face of the wave, you’re going at incredible speeds. And the main thing that you actually do is just putting all your weight on your front foot. Just to keep the foil from from breaching.

Holding on

It’s not really a fun ride. It’s more just holding on. Wieger: I have the same experience where I was actually riding really big waves in Portugal with offshore. Especially when the wave wasn’t breaking yet, we had to really tuck down just to get less wind resistance. Because if you stood up, you just stalled and you wouldn’t stay on the wave. You just got to get all that speed in and then boom, just go down.

You don’t need a lot of board volume

Big wave tow in foil boards can be really small. You don’t really need the volume to paddle. As you can see here, this is Dylan’s surf foil board and then a tow in board. It’s roughly the same shape. It’s just way, way smaller.

This whole bottom is actually designed for if you do touch down on the water that it deflects back up. Because I think that’s another problem that if you do touch down at the high speed, the board immediately sucks water and it slows you down so much that you actually go over the handlebars.

Tow in foiling, wake foiling, kite foiling and dock start

This board, the Apple Skipper Short, is designed for tow in surfing, wake foiling, kite foiling and dock start. Just so if you have a touchdown that the water sheds off the board and it bounces back up without losing too much speed. Because I guess that’s a pretty important one if you don’t want to get smashed by a big wave.


Jets ski or boat for tow in?

Do you use a jet ski, a boat or both? Dylan: I think jet ski is always the way you want to go when you’re towing. Just because you have the manoeuvrability of the jet ski. If you fall and you need to be picked up from the impact zone, or just in general, if there’s a big set out the back.

I’ve had it with my friends when we were tow foiling at Witsands. They towed me into a wave and then behind that they saw another six foot wave coming. Luckily enough they were fast enough to run all the way into the beach. And they had to do about a two kilometer loop to go all around to the channel and come back out. So you do want to be on a jet ski in those situations.

The best way to progress your foiling

If you just going in general on flat water, then a boat is super cool. Because then you can do wake style, foiling. Which I actually think is one of the most fun and best ways to progress on the foil.

The nice thing about tow in foiling is that you can actually do it on pretty small waves. You can actually tow in on boat wakes. You can find spots where it’s not so scary. A jet ski of course is better, but if you don’t have a jet ski, you can stay pretty far away from the baking zone and still tow people into the wave.

Big lumpy waves

It actually opens up more possibilities. We’ve been tow in foiling in the Netherlands where there is no tow in surfing, but there is sometimes big lumpy waves out back that are actually fun to tow into, but they’re not nearly steep enough for surfing.

We’ll leave it at that for now. Thanks Dylan for this information about tow in surfing and we’ll see you next time!

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