Smart people learn from their mistakes; even smarter people learn from the mistakes of others. We’re strong believers of that concept when it comes to learning the basics of foilboarding. Some things you just have to learn for yourself, like muscle memory, balance and weight distribution and how the foil feels and behaves as it flies through the water. Other lessons you’d be a lot better off learning from the mistakes of others; like the guy who spent a week of his vacation failing to foil because his stabilizer wing was upside down, or those who suffered through the extra punishment of learning with a full-size mast instead of a short one. We’ve put together a list of five mistakes we see people make regularly when learning to kite foil. Learn from others, avoid these mistakes and you’ll be on your way to becoming a proficient foiler before you know it.
1. Improper Foil Assembly and Maintenance – It may seem obvious, but if you don’t put your foil together properly, it’s just not going to work. This means making sure all hardware is fully tightened, all components are oriented correctly and the foil is mounted in the proper position on the board’s track (all the way back for beginners). In addition, maintenance of your foil, especially if you’re in salt water, cannot be understated. Rinse it well after each use, and disassemble, lube or Teflon the hardware and connection points regularly—nothing like packing the night before your flight to an exotic location, only to find that your bolts are cemented in, the bolt heads are now stripped and the only way to bring your foil with you is to buy an extra seat on the plane for your half-assembled hydrofoil (good luck with TSA).
2. Not Enough Wind – Don’t get suckered into foiling in super light wind until you know you’re ready. It’s easy to get in trouble in light wind; although other foilers might have plenty of power when they’re moving, if there’s barely enough wind to keep the kite in the air it’s not the ideal conditions for you to learn in. You want your kite to be responsive and deliver steady power when needed—threshold conditions will prove extra challenging.
3. Not Enough Front Foot Pressure – This is probably the most common cause of crashing and frustration. In regular kiteboarding, the stance is typically back foot heavy. You pop up, lean back and dig that heel edge rail in to carve upwind. When it comes to foiling you must retrain your muscle memory. Too much back foot/heel edge pressure and you’ll rocket out of the water and crash. You want to waterstart by standing flat on the board, keep steady front foot pressure and slowly ease back when you’re ready to rise out of the water. As you build speed and generate lift, proper front foot pressure is essential to keeping the wing underneath the water and maintaining proper height.
4. Starting with a Full-Size Mast – The short mast (or the multi-mast package) is the single most effective learning tool in foiling. It allows you to start small, get the hang of the foil with an easily manageable mast and progress in length as your skills evolve. The difference between starting with a 15” mast and a full size 35” mast is like night and day.
5. Improperly Tuned Footstraps – Footstraps can be super helpful in learning to foil, but they can also be a major hazard. If you get your feet stuck and crash at an awkward angle, you run a much higher risk of injury. If you’re going to foil with straps, don’t wedge your feet all the way into the straps and keep them moderately tensioned. Too loose and your foot will hook deep inside and may not release in a lightning quick crash. Make your straps too tight and your foot may not release when you need it. You’re much better off with just the tips of your toes in the straps so you can kick free from the board when you crash. To reduce this risk, some choose to use only a front strap, some use half straps (also called foot hooks) and some learn strapless.
This article is featured in Tkb’s Foil Instructional Guide along with tons more tips and tricks to help speed up your foilboarding progression. Grab a digital copy here: https://www.thekiteboarder.com/product/tkb-foil-instructional-guide/