What goes on behind the design? The guys at Duotone flew over to Maui to catch up with Foil Wing designer, Ken Winner, to get all the insights into the development of his latest project.
Ken, how did the idea for the Foil Wing come about?
Back in 2011, I tried an inflatable wing for use with SUPs. It didn’t excite us enough to develop further, so we shelved it. A few years later, Ralf Grösel took on the idea to design an inflatable sail for windsurfing that became the successful product you know as the iRig.
Then in the spring of 2018, I saw Flash Austin out on the water riding a SUP hydrofoil board powered by a home-made hand-held wing he had built from fibrerglass spars and canopy material. It got me thinking, I bet I can make something like that, but as an inflatable wing.
That’s where the design process began. Starting mid- 2018, Sky and I tested 20 or 30 prototypes and refined the idea from a silly novelty item — early protos had handles, no windows, a floppy inflatable strut, too small leading edge and no battens — to a performance-oriented piece of sporting equipment.
So, you just decided to try it? No consulting with colleagues, no budget approvals?
Yes. A great thing about Boards & More / Duotone / Fanatic, something I’ve always enjoyed, is that our designers have great freedom to chase fun ideas. We don’t need to have a big meeting or a conference call or approval from a board of directors before we go and experiment with new product ideas. I blew quite a few thousand dollars and a lot of my time on Foil Wing prototypes and testing before we ever decided we were going to turn the Foil Wing into a product.
Of course, we do this because even if we don’t come up with something good right away, something that other people will want to use, we always learn a lot from the process and that always helps with the other products we’re working on.
How was the development process and what design iterations did you go through? At what stage did you bring in the boom and battens and did you try inflatable struts?
The first proto had segmentation similar to the Neo, profile similar to the Neo, no windows, an inflatable strut with sewn-on grab handles and not nearly big enough leading edge diameter. However, we quickly moved on. The next proto had fewer segments — because the Foil Wing has way less leading edge curve than a kite, so it needs way fewer segments in the geometry. And we quickly adapted a rigid boom to the next proto because the handles were, frankly, Mickey Mouse. Simple, yes, but zero performance.
Every rider, whether trying to learn the basics or trying to learn tack-jibe-tack-jibe circles, can benefit from the rigid connection to the wing that a boom provides. It’s also really nice to be able to slide a hand along the boom to exactly the right spot or being able to extend or shorten the boom for more or less power. The boom is, simply, a no-brainer.
I was reluctant to bring the battens into the design as I feared the added weight, but with battens the gain in performance was overwhelming.