Author: Brendan Healy
Are you considering getting into this new variation of our sport?
I gave the new fad of Winging a try about 4 months ago after a month or so of doubting whether it would catch on, be fun, add a new dynamic to the sport, etc. Yes, I finally jumped on the bandwagon. What I found, is despite my initial hesitations, it was a HECK of time!! I don’t consider myself an expert by any means, but I think getting a few thoughts out in the open might help anybody who might be on the fence about giving it a try.
Session One: It was a pretty puffy, up and down day where the puff would be enough to get you up on the foil with a good bit of work. If you weren’t in the puff, you were just standing on the board and cruising – definitely more fun to be in the breeze! The breeze was on a downward trend that day, so I took what I could get, packed up and went home.
Session Two: A bright, sunny, WINDY day – I found the learning curve to be significantly steeper! The more power you have to get up and going, certainly makes things easier. Once you’re up and going on the foil, it’s a piece of cake! All of your effort to get foiling quickly pays off and away you go! To improve the learning curve, I would certainly recommend practicing on a very windy and consistent day. You will spend some time (and distance) blowing downwind, so make sure that you have plenty of runway downwind, because more than likely, you will be walking back up the beach for your first few attempts.
Holding the wing directly overhead is also SUPER helpful as it helps to pull you up to your feet on the board…duh! Sounds like a novel concept but it took me a bit of flailing to really piece that part of the puzzle together. What I also found is that if you’re wrestling the wing and trying to pull it closer to your body, you’ll wear yourself out very quickly! Essentially, you want to be more or less hanging from the wing using your backhand to sheet in and out, the way that you would with a windsurf rig for those of you who may be experienced windsurfers.
It certainly helps to start out on a bigger (6ft +) board…something that can float you as you get up to your feet. It also helps to have a front foot strap while learning, as it will give you much more control over the board and feel more “locked” as you’re learning the nuances of the wing. If you’re an experienced foiler, you’ll likely pick it up in a matter of hours or less. If you’re not that into foiling, no worries! Start with a standard paddleboard in even less wind and just enjoy yourself cruising around your favorite spot! The nice thing about the wing is that access is wide open! You can launch from spots that might not have enough room to rig a windsurf board or a kite and from areas that might not allow the other disciplines of our watersports.
Overall, it’s a whole heck of a lot of fun and it’s something that’s new and different to do on the water. It’s perfect for that spot that has rolling swell that might not necessarily break, where you can access the waves with the wing and then just set the wing to neutral and cruise! It’s a blast on the flat water, just cruising around and it’s even more fun with a whole squad of winger friends! Despite what your feelings on it may be, and coming from an original doubter, it’s a great way to enjoy the water and a phenomenal new addition to our sports!
Is winging physically challenging?
Yes! It’s definitely demanding but no more so than windsurfing or kiteboarding. It presents its own unique physical challenges and enjoyments. It’s certainly more similar to windsurfing than it is to paddleboarding. I’d say that if you have any amount of board skills, you’ll pick it up in no time!
Is it better to learn without a foil?
Yes. Particularly if you’re not a terribly strong foiler, I’d say that you’ll have more success on your first session without a foil. Losing the foil will just allow you to concentrate on how the wing reacts in the air and will give you a bit more practice on how to get to your feet and steer the wing without thinking about the foiling aspect.
I’m an experienced foiler, do I need a specific foil or board for winging?
Nope! In all likelihood your current foil will work just fine with the wingding! Of course, a kite or windsurfing race foil will struggle for obvious reasons, but I’d say that if you have a standard surf foil, that should do just fine! It seems that the magic number in terms of foil surface area is right around 1500 square centimeters or larger. In terms of boards, you’ll want something that’s in the 6-7 foot range. Any bigger and the wind has a drastic effect while up on the foil as it will tend to blow the nose around. Any smaller than 6 feet, and you’ll have a tough time floating the board while standing on it. Board width can make up for length as it adds an element of stability, but I’d say for learning, you’ll want something in the neighborhood of 6 to 7 feet.
How windy does it need to be to wing?
That of course varies on the size wing you’re using. My preference is the Cabrinha Crosswing which is a 4 square meter wing. When learning, you’ll definitely want to err on the side of being powered. The more power the better while riding a foil to get the board up, off of the water and onto the foil. Once you’re on the foil, you can easily dump power by sheeting out your backhand when necessary. In general, I’d say you want 15 knots of wind or more when learning.
How well does the wing go upwind?
Surprisingly well to be honest! I’d say that your angles upwind on the wing are pretty comparable to your angles upwind on a surf foil while kiting. Not as great as a race rig, but roughly 50 to 45 degrees off of the wind is what you can expect.
Anything else I need to know?
Definitely wear a board leash when learning! Even after you’ve passed the “learning phase” it’s great to have a leash connected to your board (and obviously to the wing). When you eat it (and you will, it’s part of the game!), the board tends to blow downwind quite quickly. It can be particularly challenging to catch up to the board while trying to swim after it with an inflatable wing attached to your arm! I’d also recommend wearing a PFD and a helmet to get started. Winging can be a bit tiring, so having something extra to float you in the water (and to protect your noggin) will certainly go a long way!
Sounds sweet! I’m in!
Thought you might be! Now get out there and give it a try! You’re kite or windsurf rig won’t think you’re cheating on them!…it’s just one more way to enjoy the outdoors! Rip it up, stay safe, and have fun!