Hydrofoil SUP – Kai Lenny’s Board Explained

A couple of days ago, Kay Lenny released a video of himself riding a 12’6 Naish Malolo SUP Race board cut in half and mounted with a hydrofoil which led to a lot of people wondering how a foil works. We asked Cyril Garbous, owner of the FreeRide Attitude shop in the south of France and a pioneer in the foil segment to answer a few questions for us.

naish malolo hydrofoil foil kai lenny

stand up paddle board foilHello Cyril, could you remind us what a hydrofoil is? In which other sports can one find such gear?

Cyril Garbous: The most famous one is probably the Hydroptère, the French experimental hydrofoil trimaran which broke a lot of speed records. There is also the Moth foil which made the hydrofoil popular on a large scale. Hydrofoils have also been used in water sports such as kiteboarding and windsurfing.

There are different types of foils: T-foils, V-foils, S-foils…

Ask google if you want more information because I’m definitely not a scientist !

The first video featuring Kai Lenny on Hydrofoil SUP:

Can you tell us more about Kai Lenny’s video?

In the video, Kai Lenny is riding the Naish Malolo board and the foil has been placed approximately 40cm behind the handle. I think the board he uses is 3 or 3.20 meters long. The hydrofoil at the back seems to be pretty long, almost 80cm…

On the video, we can see that Kai moves back and forth, he pumps to launch or relaunch the foil and to stabilize it. You should know that when you lean on your back leg, the hydrofoil comes up and when you lean on your front leg, it goes down. To find stability you need to move your legs and to relax!

In all cases it looks really fun!

What new sensations do you get from using a hydrofoil? 

Using a hydrofoil feels pretty much like flying above the water. The board doesn’t make any noise any more and the feeling of speed is increased. In kiteboarding, foils were introduced primarily with the aim to ride with very little wind. As the technology around hydrofoils evolved, everybody understood that you could go at full speed in any kind of weather! In Stand Up Paddle, it should allow you to reach amazing speeds and get new sensations especially in downwind conditions.

kai lenny naish hydrofoil malolo 2016

Is foil accessible to everyone?

It is a bit early to say but I think foil SUP is accessible to everyone with a good level of SUP already. The only probable drawback is that it will need several hours of training. Everybody will be a beginner again.

There’s no doubt that stability will also depend on the foil’s quality.

Do you think that SUP foil will pick up on a large scale? 

It took 7 years to adopt foil both in kitesurfing and windsurfing and some brands are still struggling promoting it… I think Stand Up Paddle will benefit from all that R&D and the market is opening now but it will take a few more years to make it mainstream. Developing a specific foil is difficult, time-consuming and expensive…


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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