Cracking the downwind SUP foil code: Dylan Henry heads off to the SIC Gorge Paddle Challenge

If there’s one more thing that can be said about the SIC Gorge Paddle Challenge, one of the most compelling SUP races in our sport held on the 21-23 July 2023 in Hood River, Oregon, is that it transforms SUP athletes. Sooner rather than later they will come back and compete as foilers.

Photo credit by @lezzboss (Instagram)

In the run up to this momentous event celebrating the life of its legendary Founder Steve Gates, TotalSUP caught up with Dylan Henry, Aussie frequent flyer, Coach and GoFoil Owner, who had just finished foiling the M2M 45km (Molokai Holokai) Challenge. And as he heads off to the SIC Gorge Paddle Challenge, we chat about the event, Blackfish Paddles (*Andaman used during the M2M & to be used on Hood River) and his downwind SUP foil hacks.

Hi Dylan, welcome to TotalSUP! Could you tell us more about your watersport background and how did you get into the sport of stand-up paddleboarding and foiling?

Thanks for having me TotalSUP! I’ll keep it short and sweet but pretty much back in 2007 my dad saw someone standing on a board paddling so we pretty much made our own paddles and used old modified sailboards to get started. This led to a passion and I started competing in local events which then led to sponsorship with C4 Waterman in the early days and pretty much snowballed from there into my own business – SUP Newcastle – that I’ve been running for the last 13 years.

From there I’ve represented other brands in the industry and I was lucky enough to compete, work and live in Florida and travel the country doing what I love. That’s where I met the GoFoil crew and naturally progressed to foiling. From there it kinda fell in my lap and I became the Australian importer for Gofoil for the past four years and KALAMA Performance for the past two. So pretty much it’s my whole life and I love it. Sure some days are hard with it being a business but still beats the 9-5 office job!

Frequent flyer, Coach, Entrepreneur – Could you tell us more about GoFoil Australia?

Yeah for sure, it all started small and snowballed into what it is now. I coach foiling and SUP for beginners to intermediate. I love sharing the stoke and getting more people into the sport we all love and enjoy so much. The business side of things, honestly just learning as I go. I have some really good people around me that I turn to for advice and that really helps too. Importing is something I’ve never done but it’s epic when you go somewhere in Oz and see a GoFoil  and know it came from me.

Photo credit by @lezzboss (Instagram)

We’re “losing” a lot of SUP paddlers to foiling… What’s your take on the foiling phenomenon?

Ha ha, we only just had this conversation this week with Alex Aguera. I guess as a foiler we have to thank Alex for reinventing the foil into the surf foil that gives so much stoke to so many people. It’s definitely the future and it’s opened up so many possibilities and opportunities for a lot of crews to enjoy.

“Cracking the code” of downwind SUP Foiling (as James Casey phrased that ) but not only in Maui…What are the key factors to progress in the sport?

If you have a background in SUP surfing then that’s a bonus. But if not definitely start on a recreational or surf SUP. Get some paddle tips from the likes of Jeremy Riggs or James Casey. Then start on a big foil and big board in slow moving lake or bay type bumps to get started.

Would also suggest that you can surf foil and link waves first as a great transition. For learning to downwind I would 100% recommend the KALAMA E3 downwind boards for bay bumps and surf then Barracuda for ocean with GoFoil GT1770, 2200 or 2600 with the bigger 17” FTL or 20” tails this will give you the best shot.

Key factors are staying positive and motivated. It’s hard enough as it is so make it easy for yourself and leave your ego behind.

We’re catching up ahead of the iconic SIC Gorge Paddle Challenge… What’s special to you about the event?

For me I guess is driving from Florida in 2018 to get to the event. Then arriving and it’s super incredible how that place works, the hiking and mountains around. Then the downwind is epic. Can’t wait to get my bearings when I arrive there. I remember racing SUP and seeing the foils thinking I gotta do that and now I am!

Blackfish Paddles – How did you come about this Canadian brand and could you share your experience with Blackfish Paddles?

A few mates in Oz have them and I wanted something similar to my once favourite paddle I had with C4 so I got the Blackfish Viento. The lightest paddle I’ve used. I love it so much I have three of them and even Aleisha, my beautiful partner, she uses one too as she’s been dabbling into the SUP surfing after the Bali event we went to. I also use the Andaman paddle as I find it’s a great in between shape to the Viento and Nootka.

Blackfish Nootka Surf Kevlar – What do you think?

To be honest I don’t use it that much anymore as prefer the other paddles. But I do tend to use this one when doing flat water pop up due to the shape of the blade provides a lot of power. I know many people like the larger blade but at the end of the day it’s personal preference.

What’s in the pipeline?

For me, just keep doing what I’m doing. Enjoying the moments and living life to the best of my ability, sharing stoke and passion with others.

Keep flying high Dylan and good luck in Hood River!

Follow Dylan Henry on Instagram and check out SUP Newcastle and GoFoil Australia 

Follow SIC Gorge Paddle on Instagram and Facebook 

To find out more about Blackfish Paddles and their progressive, refined, handcrafted designs, visit

Explore Blackfish new fin range here 

About the Author

Anna Nadolna

Anna is the Founder of SUPer Whale, a Cambridge(UK!)-based emerging watersports brand and a stand-up paddleboarding community. She is a certified SUP Flat Water Instructor accredited by International Surfing Association (ISA). Anna is also a digital marketing, storytelling aficionado and a growth hacking enthusiast.

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