How James Casey became a foil powerhouse with his own SUNOVA signature range

James Casey has been pushing the limits of what is possible on the foil in waves and in downwind conditions for a while now, embracing the #fullpower mindset behind  SUNOVA, one of the most innovative and disruptive SUP, foil and surf board brands.

Right on the eve of his biggest adventure to date (!), TotalSUP caught up with James to talk about his SUNOVA signature SUP and foil range and Casey. venture that has developed into an online learning platform – Coach Casey Club– with in-depth SUP and Foil modules and training plans for specific races and goals.

Photo: Sam Brisby

Hi James, how have you been holding up through the recent wave of COVID-19 pandemic?

It was a bit different for us as we haven’t really had many lockdowns like the rest of the world. Life is normal, if you’re sick, stay at home if you’re not continue as you are. My wife is pregnant so we’re isolating a fair bit and not socialising as much because we don’t want to get it before little baby Casey comes along. But I’ve still managed to get out on the water and have plenty of fun!

Congratulations on the news!

Photo: Sam Brisby

Foil SUPing has exploded and more SUP riders are getting involved, competing and setting up some record-breaking foil challenges including your remarkable achievements in the foil space (you downwind foiled over 100km to raise money following the devastating bush fires in 2020). What’s the appeal and are we witnessing a “cultural” shift towards foil sports in general?

Yeah, foiling is so much fun and the advantages of foiling compared to SUP, I guess it’s just that it’s more efficient – you’re on a smaller board, you can go faster. We’re going faster than SurfSki, faster than any other craft with a paddle. So it’s pretty cool. In terms of the cultural shift toward foil sports, I think a lot of the SUP crew are pretty open-minded people and they’re sort of open to experiencing and trying out new sports, which is why we got into stand-up paddleboarding in the first place.


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A post shared by James Casey | Ocean Athlete (@james__casey)

The shift towards foiling has definitely been big… A lot of my mates who did SUP are now foiling a lot and not paddling as much. But I think it will all sort of come around… I think SUP and foiling complement each other. You know, foiling is very anaerobic and SUP is a great way to build an aerobic base so just going for a flat water paddle every now and then on your 14-footer is a really good way to complement your fitness. But the shift towards foiling is real and I think we’ll see more multidisciplinary crew and less just SUP paddlers.

How did you get into foiling?

I got into foiling when I was over in Maui for an APP SUP racing event at Hookipa. I met Alex Aguerra on that trip and he lent me a Kai Foil and a SUP for a while and we basically between Vinnie, Jake Jensen and myself, we just sort of frothing on the foil for the week. It wasn’t the best training for the Maui event. But we got there and it was super fun.

My favourite type of foiling is definitely the downwind foiling. There’s so many untapped waves to be had and energy. There’s no shortage of bumps or waves to be ridden out there. And that’s where I see it really growing and becoming more and more of a thing. But you can’t discount prone foiling just in the surf it is super fun it just makes shitty waves amazingly fun. Wing foiling is exploding and for me the wave riding aspect of that is unreal. It is basically towing yourself in when it is a little bit windy.

Photo: Ian Bird

Could you tell us more about your collaboration with SUNOVA?

My collaboration with Sunova started five years ago, sort of similar to when I started foiling. And it started, just like, you know, your standard sponsorship with a brand. But it’s developed into this sort of partnership where the boards that I really want to be using and performing on have become a range on its own. And obviously, I’ve worked a lot with Marcus Tardrew.

He’s a good mate of mine and probably my favourite shaper, obviously. I basically have developed the range so it’s performance boards that can be scaled bigger or smaller. We’ve got the Surf SUP Revolution, which is probably my favourite one-board quiver and if I was to ride one board for the rest of my life it would probably be that. It’s a performance longboard SUP and I ride it in one foot to 10 foot, it’s epic. And you can nose ride, I can surf off the tail and it kind of does it all.

Image source: SUNOVA

And then there’s the Flow, which is sort of more of a performance competition board and the Throttle, which is a step up. It’s what I’ve used at Sunset Beach at APP World Tour.

Image source: SUNOVA

And then there is the foil range. There’s the Pilot which is a prone foil board. There’s a Wing Aviator, which is a wing foil board, the SUP Aviator, sort of an all-round foil board, and then we’re developing our downwind Aviator so specifically for downwind paddling – long and skinny – plenty of glide to get up and going so once you’re up – Don’t worry about it. So yeah, I’m really lucky to work with a company like SUNOVA and it’s really been a pleasure.

Image source: SUNOVA

What’s your SUNOVA nova gear of choice?

The board that I have been using the most from SUNOVA lately has been the Revolution which I mentioned before, the 10-foot Revolution, longboard SUP I love that board. Also downwind Aviator, I’ve been doing plenty of downwind foiling. There’s plenty of wind in Sydney and swell and just getting out there on the bumpy days has been unreal. If I were to use just one SUP surf board and one foil board, it definitely would be those. They’re super versatile and they perform well for me in small and large conditions.

Photo: Ian Bird

Could you tell us more about Casey. and your journey of building a watersport brand?

Casey. it was sort of more of an idea that became an online course, coaching and boards which I’m super stoked to have got to where I am with it. Really, it’s my own little work, business, sole trader set up where the stuff that I’m doing, whether it’d be coaching crew to paddle fast in the flat or getting them into ocean sports like downwind paddling or even wave riding… Yeah, that’s developed into the online course. So the online course has become a learning, education site. For me it’s been a really cool way to meet a lot of people around the world, educate them, get them up to speed with what I’m doing and get them to be upping their skills and doing the same thing.

Image source: casey.

SUP racing, downwind foiling and more… Could you tell us more about your coaching programme and Coach Casey Club?

Yeah, the Coach Casey Club has been something I’ve developed I guess, during COVID. And basically, I just had all my ideas in my head, and you know, lessons I do and one on one coaching, and I just wanted to get that information down in written form, online, so people all over the world could view it, go through it and learn.

So just basically scaling my business but also opening my communication avenues with more people. Basically, the Coach Casey Club is for SUP racing, it’s for downwind foiling, it’s for surf foiling and I’m working on a wing foil module course now. I also want to include SUP surfing. So it’s basically just all the stuff I’ve learned over the years, and trying to put down on paper and educate people and get them enjoying the ocean like I do.

The Coach Casey Club is just like a membership – Imagine going to a gym, and you pay, 20 bucks a month or 50 bucks a month, whatever it is, and you get access to classes. The Coach Casey Club is like that, but for water sports. There are online training plans for SUP racing, there’s how-to’s for downwind foiling, how-to’s from the beginner all the way to advanced for surf foiling, and many more things. And I think the best thing apart from the courses is that I do a weekly talk back to you.

Image source: casey.

So it’s basically just a group coaching call and we get everyone on a Zoom call and we have an hour and we just go through all the questions, all the videos that people have taken and we learn from everyone’s experiences.

It’s a really cool way to do things. And obviously the Facebook group, everyone loads the stuff up on there and everyone comments and makes up for downwind foils or surf foils or SUP racing training. And it’s just a really cool way to get people to join together and learn from each other’s mistakes and share the breakthroughs that everyone had. We also have Friday Wins when we basically post what we want to achieve for the week ahead, but also what we’ve achieved in the week gone. So it’s just a bit of goal setting and trying to keep ourselves improving and bettering ourselves and our skills. The Coach Casey Club has been a real passion project for me and I’m stoked that it’s become what it is. Still plenty more to go but I’m pretty happy with what it’s at the moment.

Your top 3 tips for kicking off the foil adventure and progressing?

Yeah, top three tips for kicking off the foil adventure and progressing… Look, foiling is not easy. And you’ve got to be willing to put in a bit of time, but also putting a bit of time and effort with someone who knows what they’re talking about.


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A post shared by James Casey | Ocean Athlete (@james__casey)

So obviously, that’s why I’ve created Coach Casey Club. But there are foil professionals and people coaching foiling all over the world. And I definitely recommend the first lesson to be done with someone either behind the boat with an e-foil or with a foil drive. And that way you can learn all the basics, learn the dangers of what it is and, go from there. But yeah, top tips, learn from a pro. Go with a buddy so you can bounce off each other. You’ve got to spend time on it and you want to be having fun with someone. So definitely go with a buddy.

And the third thing is… write down goals. What do you want to achieve this week? How do I get there? Talk to friends, talk to like-minded foilers… The foiling community is super friendly so speak to them and they’re going to help out. So definitely start from the beginning with a pro or a good friend who’s a good foiler who will take you behind a boat and learn the basics. Then go with a buddy, learn with a buddy and get him to sort of help or someone who’s learning with you bounce off each other. And another thing is…ask questions and be open to learning and changing up what you’re doing.

Photo: Ian Bird

What’s next? What’s in your 2022 SUP and foil pipeline?

We’re having our first child in March. So that’s the main goal is just becoming a dad and you know, adapting to that. I’ve got a few individual goals too but that’s the main one, just settling into, I guess, raising a child, which is a bit scary when you say it like that but super exciting. And that that’s the main goal.

The second thing is just ticking off a few goals at home. I want to do a long foil. I’m running a few events, I want to do the Hawkesbury Classic which is 100 kilometre race just outside of Sydney. And then just enjoying the ocean, making the most of the conditions getting out on some big waves, foil big waves, downwind foiling, just having fun and, and keeping it local for now and maybe in 2023 I get back into the international scene and a bit more paddling.

On top of that, look, if Molokai to Oahu was to run this year, I’d definitely love to get over there and do that. I think I’d probably foil it but if there was the option of foiling and doing the unlimited SUP, I’d definitely do both. If it was all on the same weekend, so fingers crossed, they give us the option of doing both for Molokai 2022. But, look, it’s all about having fun and I’m gonna have the most fun on the foil at the moment. So yeah, that’s what my 2022 is going to look like.

Photo: Ian Bird

Thank you for your time James and best wishes to you and your growing family!

To find out more about SUNOVA, visit

To find out more about The Coach Casey Club, visit

Follow James Casey on Instagram

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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