Tech talk: Getting into foil surfing


What’s up guys? Welcome back to Cape Town. Welcome back to another series of our tech talk videos. Today I’m here with Dylan Wichmann, one of our team riders. He’s local to Cape Town area. And today we’re gonna discuss a few points concerning foil surfing.

We’re getting a lot of questions by our viewers about getting into foil surfing. So we wanted to talk a little bit about how you got into foil surfing from normal surfing. Dylan, I know that you actually surfed on quite a high level as well. Can you sort of describe how that went?

How is the learning curve of surf foiling different than normal surfing?

When I learned to foil surf, I was actually just lucky enough that when I used to work at a surf school up the east coast, one of the kids’ dads who I was coaching, he had a jet ski. He had a foil and he had never foiled before. He offered to take us so we could all learn together. It took us about two or three sessions and then we all started to progress pretty quick. What I figured out with the foiling specifically is that when you start to learn, so your first two or three sessions are much harder than surfing. If you surf and you go with a surf coach, you’ll be up and riding within half an hour of your first session. But then from there, the progression is rarely slow.

The progression in surf foiling is exponential

So in surfing, if you surf for two years, you might barely be doing your first turn. Where with foiling, maybe your first six months you can barely get a proper ride. But once you get that first proper ride and you start to understand how the foil works, your progression is exponentially more than surfing. So what I’ve seen is a lot of the grums, specifically within two years of learning to foil, that are at the top of the pack were surfing you have to surf for at least 15 years to be in the mix with the runoff.

Would you advice to start surf foiling behind a boat or a jet ski?

Yes I think it’s essential to go behind some sort of powered up craft, whether it be on a e foil or behind a boat. Just so you can feel how the foil actually moves. Because even when you do go into the surf from being behind a jet ski. That’s probably the hardest part of your whole foiling. Because as soon as the wave hits you, the foil instantly creates lift.

Getting into foil surfing
Dylan rocking the new Apple Skipper Prone

What’s the best way to get up on your board?

So you have two options. You can can either jump with both your feet up as quick as you can. Most of the time they’re gonna be in the wrong spot and you just go flying. Or what you can do is when you’re paddling in. You put your hands on your rail. You put your back foot on the board and you can actually use that as sort of like a tripod because your hands battling side to side your feet and your hands balance you up and down. Then you can bring your front foot forward. But even that, you need to understand how the foil is gonna lift to even control it while you’re in that tripod position. So spend as much time as you can on the foil behind the boat and then you can start to experiment in the wave.

Whats your number one tip for getting into surf foiling?

What I find when foil surfing, that it really helps to do everything a bit slower. So like with normal surfing, you just want to be up your feet quick. And with foiling it’s more like wait for the foil to slightly engage and then get up and then sort of slow movements gets it done easier. Because if you get up and start to go straight away like you do with a shortboard, you’re just gonna go flying all around. That also kind of comes into the type of waves that you do catch when you are surf foiling. Because if you take off straight on a foamy, it’s gonna knock you so far from behind that you’re gonna lift.

What are the best waves to catch?

And then what also happens is, what I call the seesaw effect, is the wave hits you, the foil goes ahead of the wave, then the foil starts to drop while the wave’s coming back to hit you again. So you want to look for a wave while it’s fading, that’s also breaking to a certain direction. Paddle into the wave while you still lying down, turn the board sideways and then you have a lot more runway.

What are the benefits of surf foiling?

Surf foiling opens up a whole range of waves that you would normally not even look at and all those days that are mushy and shit, you can still go and surf foil. So I think it opens up quite a lot of new opportunities for people.

What sort of foil set up would you advice to start with?

Well, so the one thing specifically, is the gear you’re going to learn on is not the gear you eventually wanna buy. What I’d suggest in that case is rather go for lessons for the first couple months, get onto the hundred liter boards, the big foils, learn how to get up from there. Then when you kind of have an idea of what level you want to get, do buy that, the foil set up for what you wanna eventually do.

I’d say for someone that’s like in the 70 to 80 kg range, you once say a 40 liter board because you can surf foil it, eventually once you’re good enough you can wing on it, it’s gonna sink while you wing, but it’s just enough to get you up. And then with the foil you can kind of get, not the smallest or the biggest one, one in the middle. And then you should be able to use that in 90% of the condition. On the other days, those are your rest days.

Getting into foil surfing
Dylan on the Pro Foil V2 by Miriam Joanna

How does your foil board compare to your normal surfboard?

I’m riding a 4’6″ – 29 liter foil surf board. That is pretty much exactly the same volume what I’d ride in a normal shortboard, but not in a 4’6″. But pretty much the same liters because that’s what you’re gonna be able to paddle. Also, what does happen with the surfer board, you can ride lets say two or three liters less than your normal surf board if you want to. Because when you are paddling, once you get up to a certain speed, the foil actually gives you that forward projection.

What are the benefits of a smaller foil board?

So I could probably get away with riding like say a 25 liter board, but I wouldn’t do that just because I like to have something bigger and catch waves a lot easier. But the advantage of having a smaller board is that when you are up, it just pumps so nicely when it’s short and doesn’t have that swing weight. It’s super stiff and it just keeps you going, that’s easier to ride once you’re up.

Do you usually ride with straps when prone surfing?

I ride straps 95% of the time. The only instance I wouldn’t ride straps, if the waves are probably smaller then knee high and I’m going for a purely strapless session. Or as well when I’m doing dock starts, I mean sometimes I will do dock starts with straps as well just to mess around. But the other reason why I like to use straps and I would suggest that most people use straps is, it does actually make the foiling quite a lot safer mainly for yourself.

Why do you choose straps over strapless in foil surfing?

When you’re riding strapless, what often happens is the foil starts to turn a certain direction and naturally, specifically if you are a surfer or have that surfing background, you try compensate. So the foil will turn one way, your body turns the other way and then the foil flips up and does what we call a tucker where you fall straight on top of your foil. When you are using straps, when the foil starts to turn, your feet are locked into the board and you fall off in the same direction as the board. So the odds of you hitting the foil while you are using straps or probably one in a million.

Can you still paddle with straps on your board?

Yes, you have to lay down on the straps. But you get these super soft straps so you can actually sort of lay down on them but they still flip up so you can shove your feet in it. The super soft straps definitely do make paddling a lot more comfortable. It’s actually also nice to paddle with straps I find, because on a normal surfboard you’re having to arch your back so much to paddle and that creates back pain. Where with the strap it kind of lifts your chest just a little bit. So when you are paddling, you also don’t have to arch your back. I haven’t had upper back pain since I’ve switched from normal surfing to surf foiling just because I’ll lie on the straps.


How do you get your feet in your straps?

I use the back foot, front foot technique. I mean I’ve seen guys like say Kai Lenny that will jump up, get their front foot into the strap, get their back foot just ahead of the back strap and then while they’re pumping, kind of slip their back foot in. But that also requires quite a lot of balance. So what I do, is when I’m getting up, I put my hands on the rail. Slide my back foot slowly into the back strap. And again, being in that tripod position. You have the time to get your back foot in. Then while you’re in that position, you might even be up on the foil, but you’re able to balance it then and bring my front foot in. So then again you have say 10 seconds to get up into your straps as opposed to doing it in one jump up.

What’s the biggest advantage over normal surfing?

With surf foiling you do everything a bit slower and you’ve got that time, because normally with surfing you want to get up and have that first turn in the first like two seconds. With surf foiling it’s way more like getting up, make sure you’re solid in your straps and then you start. Because then after you’ve got the addition of the pumpability of a foil so you can pump it out to the next wave. And when foil surfing, that’s I think still the biggest advantage over normal surfing, the second wave is usually more fun than the first one. Because you just get out, you just get up on the first one, you pump back out and then you go past the lineup. You take the nicest set of the nicest wave of the set and then turn around and come back and surf that one.

Normal surfing after foil surfing can feel a bit twitchy

I have a lot of trouble when I go back to normal surfing after foiling quite a lot, that the normal surfboards just feels so twitchy. It was actually quite weird that in the beginning of foiling when I first had my first surf session after foiling for say a year without surfing. I had one of the best surf sessions of my life, but then afterwards it just went completely backwards. Took me about half an hour to actually catch my first wave after that because the board just doesn’t have that stability of the momentum of the foil while paddling. It does come back quick. You just need to have two or three sessions.

Take it slow when it comes to learn to surf foil

I think for people who are interested in getting into foiling from normal surfing, just do it. Save up some money and get some gear, do some lessons. Like Dylan said, I think it’s very important to start behind a boat or borrow someone’s wing board that’s super stable so you can learn how the foil sort of feels before you get onto a board. Because I’ve seen people who thought they were gonna be super good at it and then just start flying, get hit by the foil and then give up after two sessions. So take it slow, but once you get it, foiling is the future for me at least. Especially in the shitty conditions which we all have to deal with, I guess.

Well this was is it for this week. Thanks Dylan, this was a very informative session hope you guys enjoyed it. Don’t forget to subscribe on our channel for new tech talks and other updates.


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