SUP Foil: a Beginner’s Story by Eric Terrien
By Eric Terrien, BIC SUP
I have been asked a lot of questions since I have started playing with SUP Foil.
Here is a summary of my experience so far. This is, of course, a beginner’s point of view, since I have done at this stage only 15 SUP foil sessions.
My choice of SUP foil board
I chose to keep a fairly long board in order to be able to surf softer bumps. So I have a 10’4 × 23. I have not yet had the opportunity to try the foil on a SUP Surf board though. While in Oregon, I saw various riders in action in the Gorge and they were going faster than me (I was on a 14′) on their SUP surf board and foil. However these were perfect conditions there and then, with an extremely strong wind and a lot of clean and vertical bumps (when you missed one, there was another one right behind).
At home in France it’s a different story. You usually have a much softer take-off. I would love all the same to mount a SUP surf board with a foil for days with extreme conditions like in the Gorge. With my 10’4, the main advantage is that if the wind is very weak during a downwind, I still have the board length to be able to paddle between 2 take-offs.
My choice of foil
My foil is from the make Kerfoils, and it is 70cm deep. In open seas, the depth of the foil doesn’t matter much, but in small waves and close to shore, I would rather use a foil that this is not too deep. 70cm is already a pretty good size though! I also use it in windsurfing. It mounts perfectly on my Bic Techno 133. For the SUP board I used a Deep Tuttle box on my board.
VIDEO: Taming the beast in Windfoil mode
First steps with a SUP foil
I had tamed the beast with a Windfoil, through 20-ish sessions, and I thought that the transfer to SUP would be easy. Wrong. My first session was horrible. I didn’t take off at all and scared myself as I fell as the board was flipping upside down. I didn’t stay long in the water that one time.
I did my first take offs in the second session. The key for me was to be patient. I left out all attempts at “pumping”. I managed to slowly take off while remaining in front of the board, leaving it time to build up speed and only once I was sliding that I would step back and let the foil come up gently out of the water.
I found this is a much softer and more effective method than the previous one where I had to manage feet position, take off, speed etc. all at the same time. In fact, the difficulty of the whole enterprise is that once the foil begins to work, if the feet are not in the right place, you’re in trouble. And it can really hurt. I must also say that the conditions were perfect then, with little soft waves that do not break, deep water and nobody around me.
One major problem I find is that in surfing or SUP surfing, we tend to put the weight on the back when we are a bit scared. With SUP foil you simply must do the opposite. You really have to engage forward into the slope. For now though I am avoiding too vertical waves.
VIDEO: SUP foil take-off a small bump
The following sessions
From there, I started to experiment in all types of conditions. Sharper waves, flat, small downwinds etc … And every time I noticed a good amount of natural progress. Now I have good marks for my feet and I can feel when I can gently pump or give it a paddle stroke to pass a bump. I have also begun to master the transfer to the front leg which allows to control the board’s height. It’s amazing how, once up in the air, your board can totally connect bumps almost improbably.
I am still a little apprehensive with more vertical take-offs. When that is the case, I try to keep the board in contact with the water until I am perfectly sure I can do a controlled and safe launch.
Also, I learned to fall far away from the foil when possible, or on the contrary, remain in contact with the board. The experience of SUP Race trainings in waves seems to play a big role here. I also learned to take angle trajectories that maximize speed. On small slow waves going straight is not just fast enough to lift the foil, but take a small angle and the acceleration is limitless!
VIDEO: Flying high!
There is plenty of homework left to do. It’s fun to think that SUP is both one of the most accessible sports in terms of ease of use, but with SUP foil, it is, in my opinion, the most technical and demanding one (among all the sports that I have practiced anyway!). I have been Stand Up Paddling for 10 years and I always said that the growth potential in this sport is endless. But this is even an other level!
Personally, I can’t see myself SUP racing faster with a SUP Foil than on a 12’6 or 14′ just yet. But I imagine it will come and some are already capable of such feats in very specific conditions.
Meanwhile, I am going back to practice!