Dodging foiling risks with Starboard Team Rider Ben Pye

The SUP, surf and paddling communities in the UK have been hit hard by current lockdown but also showed remarkable solidarity by stopping all water based activity to reduce the risk to the lifesaving crews and other emergency services being exposed to COVID-19, and the pressure on their time. TotalSUP caught up with Ben Pye, Starboard Team Rider and one of the most talented pro SUP athletes in the UK, to chat about his recent foiling trip to the Canaries and how to avoid foil risks in your local lineup.

Hi Ben, how are you holding up under lockdown?

Really missing the ocean right now but doing the right thing and staying away. Sticking to my one form of daily exercise which is mostly cycling at the moment, doing some gym workouts in my garden which I’m super lucky to have that space and hoping we are out of this soon, missing my foil like crazy right now.


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How was foiling in Canary Islands?

My foiling experience in the Canary Islands really was incredible. I scored way more foil time than I originally thought I would, and used this more than any other equipment I took out there. It shows how versatile the foil is when it comes to different spots and conditions. I had it on downwind runs, reef breaks and beach breaks.


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What are your favourite places in Canary Islands?

I really love the town of El Medano on Tenerife, it really is an incredible town for watersports and anyone who has been there knows it’s a Mecca for windsurfing, kiting and now SUP! It gets a lot of wind so perfect for downwind paddling. I love surfing the beach break here. I also spent some time on the island of Fuerteventura back in October and had real fun SUP Surfing Rocky Point there in Correlejo.

Could you share some tips for paddlers travelling to Canary Islands and looking to SUP and foil local spots?

The Canary Islands really is a hidden gem when it comes to foiling. I really believe there are a lot of unexplored spots all over the island that have probably not been ridden before due to the nature of the spot but now due to SUP’s and foils it is rideable. I’d recommend hiring a car as a lot of spots there is no public transport and transport doesn’t always allow foils. Also a few things to watch out for foiling is always the water depth, the longer the mast on your foil the deeper it needs to be, which is not an issue downwinding in open ocean but surf foiling beach breaks is a big risk factor. The Canaries have lots of rocky breaks due to the nature of the islands so submerged rocks are also ones to watch for that you might not see at first but could easily ruin your trip!


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What is the foil culture in the UK like at the moment?

Foil culture seems to be pretty good in the UK right now, everyone is super supportive on social media and everyone seems to be super encouraging when people are learning and progressing. It’s still a small community but I feel like it’s growing quickly and I couldn’t be more stoked to be a part of it.

What to look out for when you learn to foil?

A few major things to look out for at all times foiling but especially learning. The first is location, make sure you are being responsible and remember you are on a very dangerous piece of equipment, it can be daunting for other surfers and water users seeing this nearby so make sure you aren’t using it nearby other people.

Stay on your own and away from crowds and busy beaches. Also hazards to your equipment or you in the water, make sure you know the beach and I always like to check my foil spots at low tide too (if possible) before the session if I don’t already know them to make sure I know there aren’t any large rocks or boulders which could be just under the water surface.


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I would recommend learning to foil behind a boat if you can, it’s the easiest way to get the hang of ‘coming up’ on the foil and finding your balance.

Wing foiling…Could you tell us a little bit more about this latest hype?

Wing foiling is pretty much blowing up on the watersports scene right now with a lot of stand-up paddlers, surfers who don’t have prior wind knowledge, learning to harness the wind and fly. Also a lot of windsurfers and kite surfers (like me) are transferring and falling in love with the wind all over again. However I have found that not everyone is a lover, and I will happily admit I wasn’t 100% sure when I first saw it and some people still aren’t converted but it really is a simple easy windsport which is a lot of fun.


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What are the challenges?

Wing foiling is different on all water states. Flat water wing foiling is great fun, some real fast flights and I find myself channeling my inner slalom windsurfing mindset, trying to go as fast as I can and ride as smoothly as I can. Foiling of all forms still blows my mind how silent it is even at top speeds. Wing foiling on sea is a completely different game. I find myself chasing bumps, looking for waves to jump, and it really takes a lot more concentration keeping the foil in the water in between the bumps.


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What’s your Starboard quiver of choice?

The Starboard Hyperfoil range is my favourite for foiling and wing foiling, running the 1700cm Starboard foil with the new quicklock system. But for windsurf foiling also a great board to cover the whole quiver I really like the 4 in 1 Hypernut foil board which I’ve been using loads recently. Works really well covering a one board set up for all disciplines of foiling.


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Thank you for your time Ben and fingers crossed for a quick return on the water!

To find out more about Starboard innovation and check out the 2020 board range, visit

About the Author

Mathieu Astier

Mathieu is the hyper-active founder of TotalSUP and a multilingual online marketing veteran with more than 20 years of experience working for top international internet companies. His love-at-first-sight for Stand Up Paddling in 2013 led him to build one of the leading online media dedicated to SUP in English and French and to turn his family lifestyle towards the ocean.

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