Foil surfing: safety tips, reminders and warnings

April 26, 2019 | Surfing
Foil surfing: exciting and moderately dangerous | Photo: Mann/Red Bull

Foil surfing is an exciting water sports discipline that opened new ways of enjoying the ocean. However, it also poses challenges and dangers.

Whether you're using hydrofoils to go surfing, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), windsurfing or kitesurfing, you should always take a few precautions.

Kite and wind foils are larger and more than dangerous than, for example, surf and SUP foils. They also have longer masts, they're sharp on the trailing edge and feature pointy wings.

But both are dangerous and harmful.

If a hydrofoil easily cuts a marine animal in half, it may also be lethal to swimmers, divers, and other fellow water sports enthusiasts.

A hydrofoil is a fin with wings made from aluminum and fiberglass. It displays a sharp fuselage, even though some models feature round edges and smooth curves.

The foil will not necessarily fly out of the water if you wipe out.

Many times, the board will sink and get stuck down underwater, like an anchor that keeps it below the surface. But a hydrofoil will always be more aggressive than a standard surfboard fin.

Pay attention to the following messages. They will dramatically increase safety levels when riding a foil at your favorite spots.

Hydrofoils: made from aluminum and fiberglass | Photo: Shutterstock

Ask For Advice Before You Get Into It

If you're about to go foil boarding for the first time, talk to someone who has several hours of experience. Foil surfing has a relatively steep learning curve. Remember that a hydrofoil adds instability to the ride. You'll feel like you're riding a board with a pendulum underneath. That's why it will take time before you build muscle memory.

Protect Yourself

Wear a helmet and a full-length wetsuit and put on a pair of booties.

Always Wear a Leash

For the safety of others, make sure your board stays with and near your in case something goes wrong. Ideally, wear a coil leg rope or roll your long leash, put some velcro around it so it can still extend if needed.

Use a Board You're Comfortable With

If you're used to surfing and paddling a 7' funboard, that's the size that you should use when trying foiling for the first time. If you're on a smaller board all year round, then adapt it or buy an identical model.

Start Small and Be Conservative

Be careful. Start in flat, open bodies of water - lakes, rivers, pools or calm seas - and make sure you've got a friend or relative nearby in case of an emergency or injury. You should only try foiling in the waves when you feel comfortable and acquainted with the behavior of the wing under your feet.

Foiling: stay in deep water and always wear a leash | Photo: Red Bull

Never Use Foils in Crowded Line-Ups

Once it takes off, a foilboard does not behave like a regular board. With a hydrofoil, you have full three-dimension control - roll, pitch, and yaw - over the board. So, a hydrofoil can potentially become a dangerous, deadly weapon. Keep a distance and stay away from everyone else. Because the foil lets you take off on the shoulder of waves, you can take any wave you want without putting the health of others at risk.

Respect the Beach Flags

Foil boarding has already been banned from several beaches around the world. Respect all beach flags and warning signs, and don't give foiling a bad reputation.

Stay in Deep Water

Remember that you're riding with a long underneath your board. As a result, you can easily hit rocks, reef or sand bars. Every time you slow down, your hydrofoil will sink and could be stuck in underwater obstacles. Depth is your friend, so stay away from shallow waters.

Maintain Your Foil

Always rinse your hydrofoil after a surf, and make sure all components are fully tightened before your next session. Saltwater and changes in temperature may lead to malfunction and disasters.

Never Lend Your Foil

Lending a weapon is not a wise thing to do. You never know how he or she will use them. So, avoid letting your friends ride your foil unless they're highly experienced and take full responsibility for their actions.

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