What is a foil, or hydrofoil, surfboard, and how does it work?
This crazy-looking piece of water sporting tech has been around for decades but only recently have surfers started to take notice.
Much harder than typical surfing, and a great way for pros and steady surfers to test their mettle, foil boards are popping up on more and more beaches as people get more interested in challenging themselves with this fun and exhilarating pastime.
What Is It?
A foil board is a surfboard that has a hydrofoil, or fin with wings, attached to the bottom of the board that extends into the water.
The design means that the rider and board lift out of the water, balancing on the hydrofoil, standing a few feet in the air.
Perfected by Laird Hamilton, and other surfers over the decades, this experimental board was originally for athletes and those who wanted to challenge themselves.
It has since become more mainstream and you can find hydrofoil boards in most water sporting goods shops across the world.
The board design has since been adapted to surfing, windsurfing, wakeboarding, and kiteboarding, among others, and is a great way to push yourself and unlock your full potential on the water!
How Does It Work?
Hydrofoils were first invented in the 1930s by American engineer George Greenough, who patented his invention in 1935. He used them to help boats travel faster through the water.
The idea was later taken up by another inventor named John Fitch, who also patented his version of the technology in 1939.
Fitch’s patent was designed to create an aircraft-like effect when using a boat. His fins would be placed under the hull of the boat and would extend down into the water.
This meant that they could lift the boat off the surface of the water, allowing it to glide along at high speeds.
Fitch’s design was never put into production, however, because he did not think that it would be practical. He thought that it would be too dangerous to use.
However, his design was eventually picked up by a man called Paul Macready, who created the hovercraft.
Macready’s design was much simpler than Fitch’s original concept. Instead of having fins underneath the craft, he simply had a wing extending from the front of the vehicle.
Without getting into too much nitty-gritty, hydrofoils work on the same principles as aeronautics such as airplane wings.
They work by creating a pressure differential between the top and bottom of the fin. This creates a lift, which allows the board to float above the water.
As the wings deflect the water pressure downwards, this powers the rider upwards into the air.
The great thing about foils on boards is that this transfer of motion can happen at as little as 3 miles per hour, making it perfect for those who are traveling on the waves and want to boost their speed quickly, without overbalancing before they do so.
The first seated foil used in water sports behind a towed boat was designed by a company called Air Chair in the 90s but it was Laird Hamilton who altered the build of the foil to suit surfboards and successfully brought the attention of the mass market to the fun and exciting prospects of using these professionally and testing out your skills as an elite athlete.
What Is The Difference Between A Hydrofoil And A Wing Board?
There are two main differences between a hydrofoil and a wing board. First, the hydrofoil does not have any fins or rudders attached to the underside of the board.
Second, the hydrofoil is attached to the back of the board, whereas the wing board is attached to the front.
The difference between the two types of boards is very important. If you are planning on riding a hydrofoil, then you should make sure that you get one with no rudders or fins.
These will interfere with the way the hydrofoil works, and may even cause damage to the board itself.
If you are looking to buy a wing board, then you need to look for one that has been specifically designed to fit a hydrofoil.
You will find that some companies have made special models of boards that allow them to attach a hydrofoil to the front of the board.
If you decide to go ahead with a hydrofoil, you will need to make sure that you keep it well clear of other people. It can be extremely difficult to control if someone else bumps into you.
Also, you must remember that the hydrofoil will only work when there is enough wind blowing, otherwise, it won’t be able to push off from the surface of the water.
How To Ride A Hydrofoil On Your Surfboard
To ride a hydrofoil on your surfboard, all you need to do is attach the hydrofoil to the rear of the board.
When you start moving through the water, the hydrofoil will automatically rise out of the water, allowing you to use it as a normal surfboard.
You should never try to ride a hydrofoil unless you know exactly what you are doing. If you don’t understand how it works, then you could easily hurt yourself.
Why Do Some People Get So Excited About Riding A Hydrofoil?
The excitement about riding a hydrofoil comes from the fact that it allows you to tackle choppier waters and makes it much easier to pick up speed.
This is due to the streamlined design of the hydrofoil component.
This means that you can travel across the ocean at high speed, which is something that most people dream of doing.
However, if you want to take full advantage of the hydrofoil’s potential, then you will need to learn how to control it properly. Otherwise, you might end up hurting yourself or somebody else.
What Are The Advantages Of Riding A Hydrofoil Over Other Surfing Boards?
There are many advantages to using a hydrofoil instead of a regular surfboard. For example, you can travel faster over the waves because they provide extra lift.
This makes it easier for you to catch bigger waves and makes smaller waves feel a lot bigger than they are.
Also, if you are learning how to surf, then a hydrofoil will help you to develop better balance skills.
Because you will no longer be dragging along the surface of the ocean, you will be forced to concentrate on keeping your balance.
Another good reason why you should consider buying a hydrofoil is that it will make you a better overall surfer.
As it is a lot harder to master, you can transfer the things you learn foiling to your regular surfing routine.
There you have it — hydrofoil surfing looks otherworldly, but the mechanics at play that make it work are firmly rooted in our standard Earthly physics.
There are no magic tricks or hidden motors, just the classic team of velocity and lift!