“The goal is to keep flying”: Indiana Rider Robert von Roll demonstrates the versatility of pump foiling

Based in Solothurn, Switzerland, Robert von Roll, 17-year Indiana Paddle & Surf Co. Rider, has learnt to turn every waterway into his pump foiling playground demonstrating the versatility of the sport. Building on the accounts of other Indiana pump foilers, Zeno Davatz, Sarah Spalinger and Léonard Berner to name just few, Robert’s story is another one affirming the fact that Switzerland is a real hotbed for pump foiling with a potential of becoming a national sport. It’s also a story about generational stoke – Robert’s whole family is involved in the sport – where flying high is the goal!

Photo by Lalo / Instagram @lal_o12332

Hi Robert, welcome to TotalSUP! Massive congratulations on the King of the Lake Pumpfoil Competition which you dominated with your brother Mathéo! Could you tell us more about your watersport background?

Thank you! I started pump foiling two years ago and as soon as I was able to do some pumps it became my favourite sport fast. Gradually most of my family took up pump foiling. When we went to our first competition the King of the Lake Pumpfoil Competition in 2022 we discovered that we were already at a rather high level – I got the first place.

Since then, I’ve been exploring many lakes to go pump foiling with friends or during competitions and have discovered many new aspects of foiling. It’s crazy how many people you meet considering how young this sport is. You can easily connect with new pump foilers. In Switzerland we have the Pump Foiling Community or Foilmania Youth or the Swiss Pumpfoiltour and many other events where pump foilers can meet.

Photo by Lalo / Instagram @lal_o12332

Your whole family is actively involved in watersports and the foiling scene, and you’re all a part of the Indiana Paddle & Surf squad. Could you tell us more about it
and how you inspire each other?

Yes, three of my four siblings and my dad do pump foiling too. I got into doing tricks really quick while the others were still working on pumping. But after a while I was able to learn them new tricks, especially my younger brother Mathéo. At this point I’m even starting to have a hard time doing some of his tricks.

We often talk about doing some new crazy tricks we’ve been thinking about, then we laugh but eventually we both end up trying them and just like this we sometimes end up with a new trick that nobody has ever done before. King of the Lake is one of the only competitions where you can  score points with tricks so this year Mathéo and I were just in our element.

Robert and Mathéo von Roll on the podium at the 2023 King of the Lake Pumpfoil Competition

How did you get into foiling?

We only have a river in our hometown. Sadly, it is not allowed to do any kind of wind sports  because it could scare the wildlife. But my uncle got himself a pump foil which we could use. At first, we only had our thin surf wetsuits so sometimes we even wore like three wetsuits on top of each other to keep us warm. Now we have better foils and wetsuits, which makes it easier to pump through the cold season.


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Why pump foiling? It looks like the discipline is really “taking off” now (literally😉).

Not being able to use big waves or wind at our local spot, pump foiling is the perfect sport to do and keep ourselves entertained you all year round. The better I got pump foiling the more I started to see the potential of it. First off you don’t depend on wind and waves, you can pump anywhere you want, any time whether you have a dock, a rock, a tree stump or whatever else you find.

We went to Sardinia in October and I actually dock started off a stand-up paddleboard that was stabilized by my dad. Using this technique, I was able to foil the wave with my fastest pump foil set up, which was an awesome and new thing for me, coming from my local spot on a river.

Seeing a pump foiler on the river is very eye catching in Solothurn, many people stop and watch us. There is even a local tourist boat that began to accelerate to create a perfect wave when they see me. They include my surf foil performance behind their boat into their city sightseeing tour.

Photo by Lalo / Instagram @lal_o12332

Because of that I already got some practise in foiling waves. Switzerland is called the Water Castle of Europe with many many lakes and rivers but no ocean to go surfing. Some foilers I met believe pump foiling will be the new Swiss national sport in the future. And with all these new technologies, the foils are getting better and better. With the right foil, some people can pump up to 2.5 hours. Maybe in the future we’ll be foiling long distances which you usually do by hiking.

What are the most difficult aspects of pump foiling?

In general, the goal is to keep flying, but there are many ways you can fall and need to paddle back to your dock. You can get too high on your foil, which causes air to get sucked underneath and you fall. If you get too close to the water surface, you can nosedive and fall. You get too slow – you fall,  you have your feet in the wrong position – you fall, you’re not balanced enough – you fall, and so on. Even just getting on the foil, the very first step when you dock start, can makes surf foilers or SUP foilers, struggle. But that’s all part of pump foiling and when you master it you get to start playing with what’s possible.

Photo by Lalo / Instagram @lal_o12332

What’s your advice to riders just starting to pump foil?

Take your time, find a beginner friendly foil and dock nearby to start off. Get some advice from experienced foilers to find out which foil to begin with. Higher docks are a bit easier at the beginning because you already gain speed through the drop. But it’s possible to start from nearly any dock that’s not too high. It’s even possible to start from a beach without a dock. Now just take all the time you need and eventually you will master it.

Photo by Michael Näf | Instagram @rawham.mcl

Could you tell us about your collaboration with Indiana?

A while back I heard that Indiana had a demo day where you could test their foils, so of course I took the train and went foiling at their headquarters. I instantly felt at ease and welcome amongst the Indiana Team. Nowadays I get to ride as part of the Indiana Team at competitions, test their newest foils and have a discount.

Photo by Michael Näf | Instagram @rawham.mcl

What’s your Indiana pump foiling set up?

I really enjoy Indiana boards and foils. My favourite board is the 90 Kite/Pumpfoil board because it’s really small and light. I also like it, because it’s wide enough to do many tricks and it has an amazing touchdown recovery with its progressive rocker.

The new foils from the Indiana High Performance Hydrofoil system combine maximum efficiency with best durability and are my choice to go. As mast and fuse I use the HP 72 cm LD Carbonmast and the HP 575 Carbonfuse and as a stabilizer I’ve got the HP 336 stabilizer.

One of the most important parts is the front wing. My favourite front wing is the HP 1320 x-AR, called “true high Aspect Front Wing”. It’s a front wing made for fast and effortless pumping. I use it often and it is my go to choice for competitions.

Photo by Lalo / Instagram @lal_o12332

What are your competitive foiling plans?

I really enjoy pump foil competitions. I like how you can show your skills and compete against each other, although the most important part for me is to meet interesting people and to share the stoke of flying above the water.

Every time I go foiling, I practice tricks as well as my overall fitness, which includes being able to pump foil fast and far. This way I have no problem to foil the necessary distance to get to all the waves or spots I want to ride. This may be a boat wave in the middle of the lake or a perfect wave far away from a beach. This is what it has looked so far, without elaborate training plans.

I actually think that this is the advantage of a young sport like pump foiling. The addicts and pioneers will set the standards and push the limits of your imagination without organised training. It is playful and like one big, friendly competition.

I am lucky and proud to be part of this community and I am sure that this sport will have a great future. It is spectacular and full of potential. What’s interesting too, is that pump foiling competitions are very attractive for the spectators. Unlike other water sports, they can compete close to the shore and even take place in the middle of a city. So if there’s a pump foiling competition or event in Switzerland, there’s a chance you’ll find me there.

Thank you so much Robert. And what can we say, keep flying high!

Thank you for having me and thanks to my sponsor Indiana Paddle & Surf, especially Maurus Strobel who got me into the team. Keep on flying and share the stoke!

Photo by Michael Näf | Instagram @rawham.mcl

To find out more about Indiana Paddle & Surf, visit Indiana Paddle & Surf

Explore the 2023 Look Book here and follow Indiana on Facebook and Instagram

Follow Robert von Roll on Instagram

*Images courtesy of Robert von Roll 

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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