We've be dabbling in the dark art of hydro-foiling, with an ideal venue for dockstart foiling right in front of our shop, it seems to make lots of sense. In this blog post we cover our initial experiences and consider the wider appeal of this relatively new water sport. How hard is it? Will it be the next big thing?
A Focus on Foiling - The New Watersport in Town
Anyone who keeps an eye on what's happening in the watersports world will probably have seen a picture or film clip of someone flying along on a board which seems to be hovering above the surface of the water. The first time you noticed it you probably had to double-check to see that your eyes weren't playing tricks on you. This is hydrofoiling, basically riding a board that has a mast and a wing fitted to its underneath. When the board moves forward fast enough the wing, which is submerged in the water lifts the board up and clears the water surface. There is a range of ways to move the board forward, some people use a kite or a wing to harness the wind, and others use surf waves then paddle in SUP style or prone surf style. Another way to get the board moving fast enough is to take a running jump, (while pushing the board along) from a pontoon, dock or ladder. This is known as dockstart foiling or pump foiling.
Hydrofoiling at Llyn Padarn, Llanberis, Wales
We're fortunate enough to have a great location at Llyn Padarn right next to our shop that has a large pontoon running out into deep water. While it takes quite a long time to learn and lots of falling in, once the technique is dialled in there is no need to rely on wind or waves if you want to go foiling. Anywhere a launch can be made a foil can be ridden, this means flat water and the sea are both legitimate venues on windy, wavy days as well as days when conditions are still and flat calm.
As a safe learning venue, it's pretty much spot-on as long as consideration is given to other lake users. Over the past few months, the pontoon has seen a good handful of people throwing themselves off the end with a small hydrofoil board in their hand. More often than not the result is a big splash and a short swim back to the pontoon but every now and again the stars align and someone manages to pump out for a few metres while the spectators all cheer. Most of the staff at Snowdonia Watersports have had a go, some with more success than others but everyone who has tried seems to have had a great laugh.
Will Hydrofoiling Catch On?
So, will it catch on? There are a few hurdles which need to be cleared before it will really take off. The list below gives you an idea.
For a new board and foil you wouldn't get much change from £1500. This doesn't include a handheld wing if wing foiling is the style you're considering. There is however a growing secondhand market where bargains can be found.
It takes lots of time and dedication to learn how to get a hydrofoil working. If you're expecting to master it in a couple of hours you'll likely end up disappointed unless you are some kind of natural-born foiler. The learning journey is all part of the experience and needs to be embraced. Once results start to happen the foiling addiction starts to take hold.
Having quick and easy access to a safe and suitable venue will make a massive difference to the speed of learning.
The Different Kinds of Hydrofoiling
It's fair to say certain foiling disciplines are probably easier to learn than others.
Pump foiling is probably the most physically demanding foil discipline as all the momentum needs to be generated by the rider.
Foiling with wind and/or waves has the potential to be more dangerous because of the locations and conditions you are likely to be needing so finding a qualified coach or school would make a lot of sense.
For these reasons, it is unlikely that foiling is going to become as popular as sports like kayaking, wild swimming and paddleboarding. For folks who have the ability to overcome the initial hurdles, a percentage will stick at it and get hooked and bore anyone who will listen about how great the whole foiling experience is.
At Snowdonia Watersports...
As a shop we are keeping an eye on the growth of foiling. We have access to suppliers who distribute foiling equipment so we could potentially hold stock in the shop if we felt there was a market for it. As things currently stand we consider it a fun challenge for staff development and we are not planning to add any foiling equipment to our kit hire option.