You may have seen my name getting around the place here at Foil Drive™ but I'm generally working away in the background! My name's Caitlyn and I'm the Brand Manager, in charge of all things graphics and media. I'll start off with some background info about how I ended up here and get started on my journey learning to Foil! This isn't intended to be a "How to Foil", we're always learning so I don't have all the answers and I probably could have tackled my journey a little different, but I hope I can offer some insight to make your journey learning to foil a little easier.
I started with the boys (Ben and Paul) at Foil Drive back in September 2021.
To start off with I was a ring-in, if you haven't connected the dots, I'm Ben's partner and, having a Graphic Design background, was able to help out with branding. I grew up on the river in South Australia so am familiar with being behind a boat, but in a much different manner. I've always wanted to surf but up until recently, didn't have enough salt water in my blood to dive in! Fast forward a few years and you'll find me at the beach just about every day.
Foil Drive™ took off and I found myself learning about
this strange sport as the product developed.
THE FIRST RIDE
Having never stepped foot on a foil, I was handed the controller to a Foil Drive prototype and the biggest board I've ever seen and jumped into the calm waters of a local river on a Starboard Hyper Nut 8'0 133L SUP with an Axis 75cm 19mm Mast and Axis S Series 1020 Front Wing + 440 Tail and no paddle - I'm 75kgs for reference too. I'll say now looking back, what an interesting board selection and man... I'm stoked at how fast the options have progressed!
I started off trying to get up on foil while kneeling and managed to nail zooming around on my knees and stayed this way for the next 2 sessions. With no surfing background at all, I think it was almost easier to understand at first as I had no built up muscle memory, or prior expectations a to how this thing might react in the water!
If I were to be in that same position again, I'd recommend starting off on your knees, but only until you understand the power of the Foil Drive™ and work out where your weight needs to be. After a few short runs on your knees, jump straight to your feet. Being on my knees added a bit of security, not so far to fall, totally removed the need for side to side balance and in a way hindered my progression. Add a life jacket or impact vest to your set up and jump to your feet, the vest will make the fall a little softer, and if you happen to collide with a wing or mast, less likely to leave with bruises! I also recommend running your motor halfway, this means you can still get on foil, but won't be miles above the water when you do fall! Key points to take to your first session:
- Talk to a local board shop and select gear that's not too big, but has enough volume to keep you above the water, this will make getting started 1000x easier! Look for something that has room to grow into, if you're anything like me... I was ready for a smaller board 2 sessions in! I'd suggest borrowing or hiring a board until you're comfortable on a particular size. You'll want a front wing with a fair amount of lift to get you going too.
- Ditch the paddle! While a paddle can be super useful for SUP foiling later on. I found it was just another thing to focus on. Opt for the controller in your preferred hand, just don't forget the wrist floatie!
- Invest in a Life Jacket or Impact Vest, I still wear mine as it adds a lot of padding to soften a fall, and protects you if you happen to hit the wings or mast. Some foilers choose to wear a helmet as well, this is totally up to you.
- Start on your knees! But not for too long... Just get the hang of how reactive everything is then jump to your feet. You'll need to be towards the nose of the board and work on lifting your bum up and down off your heels to adjust your balance.
- It's a SUP, but be careful with your footing. Every board will have a different balance point and you'll work this out as you go. Think Marvels Silver Surfer, you're going to want your back foot over or just forward of where the mast is. Your front foot needs to be further towards the front of the board.
- Not sure which foot should be front or back? Stand with your feet together and get someone to push you gently in the middle of your back. Your body will naturally put your strongest foot forward and this foot will need to be at the back (Over the mast).
Left foot forward is Regular - Right foot forward is Goofy.
- A little speed (15% throttle ) will help your get your balance and footing right before taking off. Try standing both stationary and with some throttle, you'll see what I mean!
- "Lean forward! More Speed!" If it doesn't feel right, listen to these words. You feel like you're going so fast and couldn't possibly have your feet further apart, but trust me... speed is your friend! If the front of the board is constantly lifting, you need to shuffle forward and lean more, trying sliding your back foot forward and move your body weight forwards by leaning from torso up!
- Small throttle movements... Slowly build up and decrease speed. Think like a plane, you need a runway to get going, don't try boost straight onto foil!
- Try not to slap down.. When the nose tries to rise up, natural instinct is to take off the throttle instantly. This will result in a mighty thud on the water & will fling you off & destroy your knees! Instead, slowly release the throttle, jump away from the board if you need to.
- Consider a medium pod position on your mast. This allows enough room to get on foil, but wont allow you to get too high, limiting the risk of a bad fall.
After one session on the Starboard I quickly moved on to the Suns 6'6 131L with an Axis 75cm 19mm Mast and Axis S Series 1020 Front Wing + 440 Tail. Sill, a very large board but a much better size to learn on.
I spent another couple of sessions down at the beach, flat water foiling and getting use to moving my weight around, eventually gaining confidence on my feet! I then started to head out with our local crew to a reef break. This meant that I could sit off the the side of the surf watching and practicing my take-off timing, still flat water foiling. Just 6 sessions in and I caught my first wave! It wasn't glamorous, and didn't last long but I was up and moving! Once you're on a wave, be sure to push the nose down the wave, otherwise you'll go flying off the face of it! From here on, I have had the luxury of being able to chop and change wings quite often as there are 6 of us here at Foil Drive, all riding Axis and all at different technical levels. My progression may not have been in the perfect order, but it did help me understand how a wing can change your ride so much! * I moved to an Assist PLUS instead of a prototype at this time too *
After that first wave, I was totally hooked! I kept my pod down low and continued to play around on the small lumps allowing me to slowly work out where I need my feet, and when to shift my weight.
My first two rides were on the prototype Foil Drive - image right is one of my early waves with the Assist, I'm generally behind the camera so that's a rare shot!
Tips for moving into swell and small rolling waves:
- Be confident with your flat water foiling and have your safe dismount down pat. Fall with the board, away from the mast region! Don't try and save it, just take the safe spill and try again.
- Find some mates to head out with, they don't have to be foilers, it just makes it more fun. (but they probably will be soon) If not, get chatting to some of the crew at your local line up. Most people are more than happy to give you some tips and have a chat!
- Slip, slop, slap! For you non Aussies... sunscreen, always (Watch this)! Unless you're one of those crazies trying to avoid icebergs when you're out foiling!
- Stick to a setup you're confident on and don't change it up too soon or too often.
- Start by sitting off to the side of the surf or out the back and watch the swell and where it breaks, if you're around other foilers, take note of when and where they take off and how they shift their weight once on the wave.
- Slowly start to take off on the small lumps that form to the side of the larger waves (reef break) or the small rollers in between sets.
- Be respectful of other surfers, but don't be put off. Familiarise yourself with surf etiquette (there's so much content on this online but check this out) but also understand you're out there to learn. For a while I felt like I was "wasting waves" or getting in the way when it was my turn. Just because you might not be utilising the full wave, if it's your turn, jump in there! Others won't mind and most people are stoked to see you giving it a go!
- Watch out for your board! When you feel uncomfortable or unstable, jump away from your board (ideally on the opposite side to the mast). I always place my hands on my head and turn into a small ball. This protects your head and chest from any impact that may occur. It's a great idea to catch waves by yourself when you're starting out, that way when you fall, there's no change of your board flying and hitting someone nearby (Even with a leggy on, these things FLY!)
- If you fall, head to the sides. You don't want to be caught out in the white water so jump on your belly and boost to the side. If you do get caught, don't stress about your board, the leg rope will take care of that, just make sure you dive into the oncoming wave before your board so it doesn't come flying at you!
- Practice turning, you'll soon work out if you're more comfortable turning toe side or heel side.
- Initially I found it easiest to efoil around, then peel onto a wave at the right time rather than standing still and working out when the right time to take off was.
TIME TO UPGRADE
So our local surf spot has a very, very long steep hill from the carpark to the beach. There's not really a good way to carry a foil board so by my 7th session I'd downsized to the board I'm now on all the time with the Assist PLUS, the Quatro Wing Drifter 6'0 130L with an Axis 75cm 19mm Mast + Axis BSC 1120 Front Wing (Not attached to mast - Image below) + 440 Tail. The lighter board was so much easier to carry and made me more excited to head out for a foil, it's still a mission getting back to the car, but worth it at least! I found the smaller board so much easier to turn on and control, making catching a wave much easier. I progressed to the Axis S 1000 Front Wing and this has become my go to for now. I really appreciate having quite a thick nose, I find the extra volume at the front helps with stability.
When catching that first wave, you learn pretty quick that if you don't adjust your weight... you'll go flying! As you feel the wave start to take you, push down on the nose a little more and ride across the wave. If you're going too fast and outrunning the wave, turn left or right and it'll catch up again. With the Foil Drive motor down low, you'll find it easier to have it engaged the whole time you're on foil. If you disengage there will be a fair bit of drag to get used to, having it engaged may cause you to go too fast though. You'll work it out!
Once you've made it to the end of your wave if you're able to efoil with your gear you can peel off and flat water foil back to the line up or pump back out there!
Tips for riding waves
- Try foiling around then peeling into the wave rather than timing your take off.
- Nose down once you're on the wave!
- Turn left or right if you're going to fast and leaving the wave behind.
- Ease off the throttle at the end of your ride, don't suddenly stop.
- When you think you're at a comfortable height above the water, try go a little higher. It'll feel strange but more than likely, what feels like a mile above the water is only a few cm's.
A HOPEFUL BEGINNER
By all means, I'm still a beginner... however, I do feel I'm no longer learning the ropes and have them firmly in my hands. I don't feel as though I need someone holding my hand anymore, I still do appreciate and love the feedback from the crew and will always be learning.
I'm really confident on my board now and and starting to consider a slightly smaller board. I'd love to prone one day as I'm still dreading having a paddle in hand!
I've experimented with a few different wings like the Axis PNG 1150 (Image Left) and Axis HPS 1050 (Image Centre), I didn't notice a huge amount of change with these two when flat water foiling so have stuck with the Axis S 1000 (Image Right).
Over summer we've spent a bit of time testing the Assist PLUS and I've had the opportunity to try some other boards. Ben rides the smaller Quatro Wing Drifter 5'4 90L. I took it for a test run with an Axis 75cm 19mm Mast â„¢Axis HPS 1050 Front Wing + 440 Tail and managed to get up and going, but certainly noticed the smaller size and had to focus more on my take off technique to keep the box above the water for reception! I won't picture this one as it looks the same as the Quatro board above, just shorter.
Efoiling around with the Assist PLUS on some different setups.
I've also had a run with Paul's Konrad Sup Glidr 6'0 118L. Again flat water foiling with an Axis 75cm 19mm Mast and Axis ART 999 Front Wing + 400 Progressive Tail (Image Below). Now, in no way is the Art 999 a good choice for learning... but, after working out how much speed it needs, had a lot of fun trying to twisting and turn on flatware. As for the board, I found it much less stable side to side. The Konrad has a more rounded profile compared to the Quatro, so you notice every slight movement a lot more. I also found it harder to get going after the board makes any contact with the water but really is something I could now progress into if I wanted. This whole setup, I probably would never have tried this early on without a Foil Drive in hand. Being able to test the waters with a wing that's quite progressive makes me excited about what I may be able to do in the future, just watch out for those sharp edges!
Tips for testing your skills
- Give it a go! If you have the opportunity to learn, why not! You may surprise yourself and be more ready than you think you are.
- What's right for me, may not be right for you. We all really love Axis gear here at Foil Drive and we all favour different boards. There's so many amazing foil brands out there so get chatting to a Foiling community (Our Foil Drive Owners Group is pretty great ;) ) and enjoy the process of progression!
MOVING THE MOTOR UP THE MAST
As I write this blog, I'm still coming off the high of foiling with my motor out of the water for the first time last weekend! I'd heard all about the pure feeling of foiling and now that I've experienced it... I won't be dropping my pod back down anytime soon!
I kind of had a feeling when I knew I was ready to move out of "learner mode" and bump up my motor. A few sessions in a row, I kept out running waves and wanting to turn my motor off but not being able to because of it's positioning. I decided to commit the next session to being in the water 90% of the time, and to my surprise, it wasn't any harder! It took a minute to get use to the lack of motor sound and the extra speed the wave adds when the motor is out of the water, but it was great! I've since jumped into some bigger surf again and it didn't go so well and that's totally ok! It's and up and down journey (literally) and every session offers new things to learn.
Tips for moving your motor
- Don't go half way. I was contemplating moving my motor up just a tad and a mate of ours who also rides an Assist PLUS, and has foiled for years, advised to go straight to the top. He was so right, I went about 25cm's from the board, down my mast (a little lower than you usually would for most uses) and found the motor popped out the water at the perfect time with no thought about it. If the pod were to be mid way, I think you'd struggle to know when to pop the motor and when to apply power.
- You'll need to account for more speed when the wave picks you up as the motor is no longer in the water and point your nose down the face of the wave, I learnt that one the hard way!
- Expect to fall instantly the first few times purely because of the lack of sound. It kind of shocks you and you get so distracted by the lack of sound you'll ride right off the top of the wave!
- Do it with a smile and you'll always be winning!
I started foiling for the first time in September 2021, that's just 6 months ago, and we've been incredibly busy here so I've had about a dozen session in total! With no prior knowledge, some tips here and there from the crew and a keen heart, I'm really proud of my progress so far.
I'm not in a position yet to recommend boards or wings as I'm still wrapping my head around it all, but I hope my story so far might be encouraging for you and maybe even a little helpful. As a team, we'll be writing a separate blog explaining what different type of wings offer and how to select wing combos for different purposes. I'm looking forward to more waves, more often and, maybe, even adding a paddle to my setup... baby steps!
I'd love to hear your journey of learning to foil, so please share in the comments and if you have any tips and tricks yourself, add them below!
Caitlyn March 2022