What is Wingfoiling?

Wingfoiling has recently taken the wind and water worlds by storm. But what is this relatively new sport? We’re here to break down what wingfoiling is, its history, and even how you can take a crack at it.

An Introduction

Wingfoiling is a little bit surfing (where you stand on a board and ride waves) a little bit windsurfing (similar to surfing but with a sail attached to your board) and a little bit kitesurfing (where you stand on a board and are pulled by a kite).

Combine those three sports, trim off the excess, and you have wingfoiling.

Grab your Equipment

The two must-haves for wingfoiling are a hydrofoil board and a handheld wing.

The hydrofoil board rises out of the water, allowing for greater speed and maneuverability. 

The hydrofoil board is like a surfboard with a small airplane attached to the bottom. It shoots a couple feet off the bottom of the board, and when you gain speed in the water, the foil helps raise the board up out of the water.

By rising up, friction with the water is reduced, so faster speeds are achievable. Turning is also easier and you can make sharper and quicker turns than you can without a hydrofoil.

The wing can be moved in any way the rider chooses to best utilize the wind. 

The handheld wing isn’t too dissimilar from the inflatable kite used in kiteboarding.

Most wings take their shape and rigidity once fully inflated, but some wings have a boom to increase stiffness. The rider stands on a board and uses the wing to catch the wind, which in turn, powers them along. Where this sport differs from any other wind-powered water sport is that the wing is handheld and not attached to the rider by a harness nor the board. This makes it an extremely free-flowing sport and is part of the reason so many people love it.

History of Wingfoiling

“Wingfoiling began with Laird Hamilton,” said Tim Blanchard, who will be wingfoiling 50 kilometres from Cedar Beach, near Kingsville, to Pelee Island and then back to the mainland, for the Lake Erie Challenge. “He started using the foil in Hawaii in the early 2000s. He actually rigged up snowboard bindings to the foil. So he would be clamped in and then towed into the waves with a jetski.”

Laird Hamilton, once labelled ‘the world’s most complete surfer’ by Surf Magazine, wasn’t afraid to take on a new challenge. He is known for guiding the crossover of board sports and is largely considered the primary influence behind many surfing innovations, including tow-in surfing, stand-up paddleboarding and hydrofoil boarding.

But Laird’s early renditions of wingfoiling weren’t ready to take to the air and water quite yet.

“It kind of caught on for a while, but it was really difficult,” Tim continued. “You were attached directly to the board so if you wiped out, you were stuck upside down under the water. Only the true professionals were experimenting with it. They were the only ones with the skill level to play around with it. There weren’t many general population people getting into it.”

But windsport enthusiasts aren’t known for giving up easily. Various renditions of the hydrofoil board came and went, and the research began to pay off. The design improved, and by 2010, it was common to see hydrofoil boards being used during kiting sessions, due to the greater amount of speed, movement and flexibility they provided.

So the boards were ready, but the wings were not.

The first iteration of the wingfoiling wing appeared in the windsport world in the 1980s and 1990s. Windsport enthusiasts would use what was known as a ‘wind weapon’ - a kiteboard-type set up with a boom that hinged and allowed the windsurfing board to fly.

“It didn’t really take off either,” laughed Tim. “Those early wings didn’t really work with the non-hydrofoil board.”

“It was only when the hydrofoil and handwing came together that the sport came to life and was really able to develop over the past couple of years.”

Getting out There

If you’re ready to get out there and give wingfoiling a try in the Great Lakes area, Tim knows all the best spots to visit.

Tim Blanchard of Surf Culture Canada prepares to head into the water with his hydrofoil and wing.

As the head instructor and owner of Surf Culture Canada, he has over 20 years of teaching experience, not to mention an impressive array of awards and titles, including the King of the Great Lakes Big Air Champion and an impressive second place win overall at the 2001 IIes de la Madeleine World Cup. 

To learn more about Tim and the lessons he offers, head over to Surf Culture Canada, or come out and watch him at the Lake Erie Challenge on August 28th!


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