Last weekends Kelt Ocean Race saw Amandine Chazot, Marius Auber and Joseph Gueguen (prone paddleboard) give three huge performances. But it is one particular performance that stole the show, and perhaps in years to come we may see this as a landmark event. For the first time in France a SUP foil finished ahead of SUP racers in a downwind event, it was no coincidence that this page was turned by SIC/ BIC racer Eric Terrien, a pioneer in the SUP paddling world. Such a performance by Eric will open the door to foil progression, development and organisation, especially in SUP races and the SUP industry in general. TotalSUP talks to Eric about his epic achievement. In this fresh interview, Eric, relives his race and gives us tips for your next SUP foil downwind race!
Hi Eric, impressive win last weekend, how do you feel?
Yeah, it is quite interesting that I arrived in 1st place, finishing before SUP racers on a complete downwind course. Referring to the young story of SUP foil,indeed it is a French first! At the global level, 2 years ago in Hawaii, Finn Spencer had already arrived in 1st position at the port entrance, but then was caught up on the flat. In South Africa, Nathan Van Duren had already won in front of surfski racers, but there they race on downwind formats where they go into the bumps and end in the bumps, there is never any flat or surfing to negotiate. But, the world premiere was Kai Lenny at the M20! This race was not really SUP foil friendly and had a big starting area to clear. This proves that even when the conditions are not ideal but there are a large portion of good bumps, the foil still goes. If the course had been exclusively in the bumps, there would have been no match. Interestingly I am not so far ahead especially if the competition with the SUPs carries on varied race conditions (flat and downwind in the same race)
Video 2/3 TotalSUP livestream- Eric Terrien overtakes Marius Auber à 1:02:30
Can you review you race?
At the beginning of the race I started in the same conditions as the other SUP paddlers. This meant that I had to start by walking in waist deep until there was enough water to foil. For the next 4 to 5 KM I had to paddle in varied sea conditions, that meant I could not take off that easily. Then I took off, and then at the finish the breaking waves meant that had to finish wadding in the water. I am proud of my result especially in lieu of the difficult paddle conditions, but that was part of the challenge. This race was a bit like the Molokai 2 Oahu 2018, which is also another reference in the history of SUP downwind foil. It ended with Kai Lenny being the out right winner. At the Molokai we did the exactly same course as the others. At the Molokai, they even made us move back as we had drifted 300 M in front of the others before the start. For the first 5 kilometres it’s hell, I averaged 100 M takeoffs, I was burnt, and so far behind every one else. When I reached about 4/5 kilometres and I still could not take off, I thought it was dead. But then the bumps arrived, I took off and stopped falling. I took half of the time to do the next 5 KM, and the other half to do 12 KM.
How was the finish?
I had quite a bit wipe out at the finish. I had my biggest drop in foil, it was 2 meters. And suddenly, and this is another interesting race element, I may have taken 2/3 minutes to do the last 100 meters. I pulled out of a big wave and in pulling out of it I fell. I then went on a huge wave, I had never taken such big waves on a foil and even less with a foil downwind. With a downwind foil, it’s impossible to go back into the foam. The foil was touching and I had to finish on walking!
How do you envisage the development of races in SUP foil?
In my humble opinion, we must continue to work to compromise between races for SUP and SUP foil offering sections for flying! Though you can’t force it, sometimes it’s going to happen and sometimes not. Doing this will progress the support technically and increase accessibility of the sport to general public. We need to continue to work on the annoying parts.
In France we are not lucky enough to have 100% downwind races, unless we set up the start and finish at sea. It is not that it won’t happen one day but this is just my opinion. By offering everything on a tray to SUP foilers right now, it may mean that foilers become too demanding and stop turning up the races. For sport and equipment to develop, it is necessary to continue to integrate with the SUP racers and not expect that foil SUPs will win every time. It takes bumps for sure, but from my point of view it should not be a limiting factor.
Tell us about your choice of your foil?
The choice of gear is still crucial. But I do not want to discourage those future SUP foilers who have only only one mast and one wing. Because in truth my race would have been as successful with any foil but it is thanks to this choice of configuration that I could win in this style. So to reassure everyone, on a perfect downwind any foil works! But the fact I knew I was starting on the flat meant that I had to think deeply about the foil configuration. If there was only flat, I would have taken a shorter mast and a longer wing. It was necessary to find a compromise to be able to cover the flat part and the oceanic part. So I chose a downwind wing of 92 cm and 90 cm mast. The mast was high enough to pass the cross chop. My choice of foil was based on rigidity. At high speed, rigidity is key.
From your point of view, should SUP foil rankings be included in the SUP rankings?
I think the SUPfoil is a stand-alone sport, to be classified in its own category, just as we distinguish the UL of the 14 ‘.
What board did you ride on?
I had a custom SIC 5.8 x 24 board. SIC Maui plans to do series of foil boards very soon and we are actually testing a lot of boards at the moment. My boards is also the board that I take when going SUP surfing. I worked the hull to be hyper tolerant in the touch, which allows me to go lower, especially necessary in the complicated portions, it allows me to go into contact with the water. I can do slight touches while keeping speed and this allows me to feel control on the foil. There must be no conflict between the board and the foil, all control must be on the foil. The feel of the board is very progressive and the board rails do not hang, this board is a very compact board with a lot of volume, because you still have to float in flat portions.
Foil is often presented as accidental practice, what can you tell us about it and what advice would you give a beginner?
The wings are still much more “safe” than the first wings. A surf fin is still sharper and a surfboard nose more dangerous than the leading edge of the foil wing.The best is to start with tow-in, ie start behind a boat. That saves you 10 galley sessions to understand how the foil works. Then I recommend to go in soft waves of 50 cm, far from the crowd, and there you can take your first steps. The key before embarking on a downwind is to take off on the flat. If you know how to take off on the flat, then you can do a downwind. Then downwind to take-offs you have to be patient, know what type of bumps you need to look for. Each attempt to start is tiring, and you have to recover for 2/3 minutes. It is therefore necessary to take the time to identify the bump and once you are gone, you must make sure not to plant every 50 meters.For a beginner downwind the average speed 5 KM/h on your first downwind.
Is foiling full on cardio work out?
At the Kelt Ocean Race, I had 120 beats per minute in the flight phase. If you fly well it’s just concentration. But be careful, physically you jump very quickly from 0 to 100. Especially, if you handle a bump badly, you lose speed, have to paddle, or if you have to make a Monster effort. Basically if you do a perfect downwind, you do not even have to be physically fit. But it’s never perfect!
Two more SUP foilers were at the start, what can you tell us about them?
Yann Quilfen: Yann broke his paddle. When we downwind we tend to hit the paddle against the foil mat and it can break quite easily. I’m not sure if it happened like that but it is likely that this is the case.
François Gabart: I find his participation very interesting, because it will reach new audiences. Sincerely, if it had not been the ultra-capable sailor that everyone knows, I think he may not have been entered. Someone who has never done a downwind and has never been seen at work is still risky. But we know the physical form of François and we know he has a very good level SUP foil in the waves, where he has been practising for two years. That said we saw that it was very hard for him. On arrival he said he had done some good flights, had fun and I hope we will see him again.
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