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One year ago, foilboarding was a pretty obscure part of our sport but for 2015, there are at least 10 brands racing to bring their first production or next generation foils to market. Kite-specific hydrofoils are offering riders a new feeling and opening the sport up to a much larger range of conditions, especially in the light wind arena. Founder and designer of Lift, Nick Leason, says it’s like kiteboarding meets deep powder snowboarding, riding in complete silence as your board lifts off the water and you fly. Nick tells us about where he thinks foilboarding is headed and what Lift’s plans are for the New year.
Lift has been building custom foils and boards for a couple of years now. How did you guys get your start? We started about five years ago when we were introduced to the sport. There was a lack of equipment on the market and we set out to build our own and believed that there would be a business possibility at the end of the road. Lots of hard work and designs later, here we are and it seems that the sport is just starting to take off.
What are the design highlights of the current foil and board you offer off the rack? Our product is designed to reach out to the everyday rider and satisfy the needs of the general market. Our standard setups aim to allow the rider to have versatility in all foil conditions and progress with the product. You can learn to foil on our standard set and continue to progress in any direction. The product is well built, smooth through the water and well balanced. It will be a design that people will enjoy and come back to for years.
Is there a difference between a custom and production foilboard product and how does Lift fit into the mix? Most of the product that we sell on the hydrofoil side of the business is production and repeat construction. We do a fair amount of custom boards for riders that have specific requests and we also do limited production runs for specific designs such as race. But for the general market, our production parts suit a wide variety of people.
Are there certain design or construction characteristics in foil design that riders should look out for? Conversely, any red flags they should be concerned about? Certainly! Construction and design is absolutely huge in the world of foils; any detail that is off will affect the ride in a negative way. It has taken us years to discover the small details and create what we have today. Proper materials, drag reduction and balance between components are key to allow the rider to have a great time. Carbon fiber is really the material of choice for these parts and if it doesn’t look very smooth, it is probably not smooth in the water. The smallest details can bring you down.
Foiling technology is changing relatively quickly. How do you manage this innovation and include it into your products? It has been changing, but not as much as you would think. Our product has seen incremental changes to fine tune small details, all aimed at improving the ride. At Lift, we understand what is going on and have been fine tuning the balance for people’s enjoyment (and our own!) for awhile. Now we are building in a way that we can incorporate incremental changes in the gear (people can upgrade just a wing instead of the whole system) and using a design that allows people to fine tune their settings and dial in the product just the way they like it. We are always here to answer questions so that our customers can understand how our product works and can dial in their equipment to their specific needs.
What recommendations do you have for someone interested in learning how to foilboard from the purchase of gear to their first couple rides? Go slow and try to ride the board on the water. Don’t overpower your kite and show yourself a bad time. The slower you go at first, the faster you will get a feel for the foil under your feet. You already have the balance, it’s just a little different and you have to learn where to place your foot pressure.
What do you feel sets Lift apart from your competitors? For the last several years, I have heard it all, insisting that the sport would never take off or that it is just not fun. We kept at it because we love it and we believe in it. That gave us a few years head start. Now it seems that the rest of the industry is trying to catch up and realizing that it is more challenging than it seems to create a nice product that flies well. Not to mention that most brands outsource everything to Asia, but it has not yet been manufactured in those factories so it may be a tough start for some of the existing brands. We build everything in house. We design it, we cut our molds, we manufacture, we test, we race, we laugh with it and we cry when we smash up against the reef. It’s a closed loop system that allows us to pay attention to the fine details and make sure that the product that leaves the shop is 100% awesome. If we want to improve it, we walk to the shop and do it! I have always believed in full control of our product and building something with soul. If we make something great, people will appreciate it.
What is your prediction for the growth of foil boarding in the next year in terms of design and users? The sport is going to grow in all directions. Nobody ever gets off the foil and says, “I just didn’t enjoy that flying sensation.” Its amazing and people are spreading the good word to their friends. The biggest class that will grow will most certainly be the average person that wants to go out and cruise with their friends. It’s just like flying. The design is there. We are putting out a great ride that people will love. Our focus is to get people going and create small add-on tools to improve the learning process, to allow them to maximize their experience with a single purchase. We will also be testing the limits of the foil as well in speed, surf and opening the way that the foil gets used. One way or another, it’s going to be a lot of fun!