Thanks to Vasco for submitting this article! What a great write up on a really interesting topic that I can’t wait to have a crack at. Please take the time to read and share about and feel free to comment at the bottom. If you have an article you’d like to post please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ever since I saw the surf movie “STEP INTO LIQUID” I have been dreaming of being able to kite with a hydrofoil. I couldn’t kite to save myself about 6 years ago, but the distant goal always was to glide above the waves … nothing but a dream back then. Today I am so much closer :). I have been closely following R&D on foilboards and waiting for the right set of conditions to align — time / money / opportunity / skill, etc. Every year at the beginning of the season I did a little investigating and this year I found the time was right. So I went in…:) – here’s a little account of my trip. You’re welcome to join me or laugh about it. Me, I’m already there
A little history – I paid my dues at Tuggerah Lakes in April and FROZE my butt off at that cold place trying to get on the board after a frustrating lesson by a certain instructor (we won’t go there), until a mate of mine came from Perth to spend the weekend with me and said: by the day’s end you’ll be on the board – and he was right, thanks Adam. Most of the progression from there to intermediate was at Boat Harbour on twin tips in and the upwind, toeside, backrolls etc. Being made fun of by the KKK crowd at Kurnell (all in the best possible taste :)) made me more determined every time. I moved to QLD at the end of 2010 to pursue the next stage – waves
Even though I can’t surf to save myself, paddling into waves that is, I quickly added to my twintip a couple of mutants like The Wave Dr and a Shinn Wave. I liked it so much that I bought my 1st surfboard – haven’t looked back since :). Each to his own but once you’ve gotten used to a surfboard and got the first ‘cut’ into a wave you never go back. Three years of learning how to even understand what to do in front of a wave and conquering the fear of the big sets got me to today. Now I live at the beach and go out most days weather permitting. The bigger the better, cross or even cross-off as the waves are cleaner.
Ok, the boring part is over.. let’s get into the good stuff:
My research: I contacted every shop I knew who could possibly sell foilboards, asked about prices and advice. As I also have a Marketing degree I am fairly unaffected by ‘sales pitches’ and Marketing jargon or at least I’d like to think I am. I am usually fairly thorough on my research and as I wasn’t satisfied with vague answers / promises / lack of real knowledge I did what I always do – I went global.
I found a website with information on foilboarding and not brand based, run by people like me that want to know about Hydrofoils for kitesurfing. From there I emailed: JC-Kiteboards, MHL Custom, Mosses and Wind and Sea in NZ. I also emailed a couple more brands but they never bothered to answer so I won’t even mention them, boohoo to you :).
Let’s not forget that apart from the cost of the gear itself I had to factor shipping costs. By far the most helpful were Wind and Sea in NZ, but they don’t manufacture so their prices were out of the question for brand new. The others were either too expensive to start with because 3 of them are French and all is in EUR and then by the time shipping was added I was out of the race. I then asked for ‘foil only’ costs + specs (design) for a suitable board. I intended to get a blank cut on the Gold Coast and add the foil here.
This is what made me decide on my supplier. Nick Leason from www.mhlcustom.com simply said: “Hey mate give me a few more dollars and have the full set up. Our boards are already reinforced and designed to handle the foil pressures and you’ll be much happier. Besides, if you take the full set I will pay for the postage”. I said: What :)??? This guys sounded great so I scheduled a call to have a chat so I satisfied the fact that I was about to send him a bit of $$. I couldn’t have been happier – Nic completely put me at ease, explained the ins and outs and the painstaking process I would have to go through to ‘get on the board’. He then sealed the deal by offering me a custom paint job.. I said what??? “Sure mate, I can do whatever you want on the board, he said smiling ” so I sent him a photo of the latest Drifter I had just purchased and gave his team full creative freedom. I paid via Paypal and we kept in touch. The board was shipped in 1 week and it took 4 days to get here all the way from Puerto Rico… Nic had on purpose kept the design a secret for maximum effect, he knew full well I would be pleased.
Disclaimer: I have no association or financial interest with MHL Custom. This is simply an account of a pleasant experience. Have a look at who they are
Here she is:
I know, right? I can say I am super impressed. At under 7,5 kgs complete this board is a dream. Look at the Cabrinha Drifter 2014 Orange and you will understand Nic’s colour choice.
I couldn’t wait to try it. But before I take you through the laughing stage of the learning process I would like to tell you a bit more about the sales experience. Hold on, it won’t take long and it will help define why I am so happy with Nic and MHL.
So the board gets dropped off by DHL and I start opening the package. All seems well, good protection and packaging .. until I get to the last paper wrapper. The top and bottom of the board are a testament of their craftsmanship. But then I unwrapped the paper on the sides and found 4 marks on it. DHL had dropped it in transit and managed to make a few dings and even a little possible crack on the carbon. I was devastated. In my opinion, whatever the solution I would end up with a board that had some marks on it, repaired or not.
So I took a dozen photos and emailed Nic. He simply said: I am really sorry to hear this mate, let me look at the photos. He got back to me in 5 minutes and said: Put some resin on it and go play in the water – I will make you another board and put it in the post asap. I am going to DHL but know I won’t get anywhere, too bad. You’re my client and I am going to make sure you are happy. I was very surprised about his reply as I know that I paid over 2k for it and he most certainly would be out of pocket.
So I decided to reciprocate – I told him I would find a good carbon technician and get it repaired. When my new board arrives I will take some photos and I will advise everyone I know that I have a demo board for anyone to try, and if they want to buy it they can contact Nic and purchase it directly from him. I figured one good service deserves another. He was quite happy with my offer, we agreed on a different design based on same colours.
And I went off to find a repairer.. I was referred to Polsy from Ding Repairs – another PRO in his craft. Gave him a call, nice manner, went to see him and he said “no worries mate, I’ll make it new again”. My reservations on that were that the clear cote over the carbon would be hard to make clear again, he (Polsy) wasn’t worried. Asked for 24hrs (how dare he :)) and the next morning it was ready, charged $40 and I went to pick it up. When I saw it I went “Shite, mate what a job” – it was immaculate. Another good chapter.
THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Everything you’re told won’t prepare you for what is coming. You know how to kite, right? Wrong !!! How hard can it be? Frustrating
I live on the beach so I thought I would take it out, body drag past the waves and try it on the other side = mistake. Seen the Castle? “Tell him he’s dreamin’..” Yep, I was dreaming alright. Not only I had the swell to content with, the kite to provide pull, putting weight on the wrong foot, leaning far too much like a surfboard or twintip to provide resistance.. what EVA. It was hilarious.. nothing worked. I didn’t last 2 seconds on the board.. I fell forward, backwards, in every way possible.. over, and over, and over again. Frustrating doesn’t begin to describe it.. Session One was a right off. Even though I expected it I also secretly hoped that my skills weren’t THAT BAD (fool) heheheh.
I acknowledge that I was introducing far too many variables. Since I didn’t have a Jetski or Ski boat on hand to try a consistent pull and flat water river experience I decided to go to the Alley. I figured I have as much right to be a knob over there as any other twin tipper newbie since I’ve paid my dues many times over – best decision I made. Nic also saw some of my progress photos and gave me a VERY IMPORTANT tip: take your back foot off the strap and place it in front.. Man oh man, it made 80% difference. I guess it helps that I can ride a bit of strapless.
Lessons from **Round I**:
- Reduce as many variables as possible
- You must be at a good intermediate / advance level on kite skills, otherwise hydrofoil kiting may not be for you, YET
Session 2 – was much better instead of not being able to get up at all this time I managed to at least stay on the board long enough to fall to the other side, and face-plant :).. a lot.
But on the positive side, I had no waves to contend with and I could at least go in one. But I still wasn’t going upwind so the inevitable walk of shame was doing nothing for my self-esteem, especially not with all the people at the Alley laughing their heads off.
But things were better, much better. I went from shot 1to shot 2 in one afternoon, dozens of splashes later! I even managed a couple of very tiny glides like this – note: 3-4 seconds, then splash again
Lessons from ***Round II***
- try to not use the board as resistance to get up – this will push the board sideways and make the wing pop out. Instead I think the trick is to use the kite to get on the board quite fast, while it is still flat. Then coordinate the forward pull to displace the board forward.
- go downwind, go downwind, go downwind
At this stage I have to add that a couple of friends of mine also tried the board. One had never been on a foil but is a very good kiter and quite fit … he didn’t last 2 seconds on the board as it bucked him out. He tried and tried but couldn’t do much better. The other kiter is a pro, he has a board from Carafino but hadn’t used much or been on it for 2 years.. he also couldn’t do any better than I was. I felt sooo much better Amazing how other’s misery mitigates our shortcomings.
Lessons from ***Round III***
- Slow down.. get the board barely moving by letting go of the bar. This allows better control on the board direction (left, right)
- keep the power of the kite constant, avoid jerking the bar (yeah right).
- Balance should be on the board, not using the kite to lean (like a twintip)
… and suddenly you’re gliding -it’s the most amazing feeling EVER – no drag, no noise.. eyrie
by the sessions end I was able to stay upwind and this may mean no more sore muscles of carrying the board up the beach.
Does this mean I ‘got it’? Nope, it doesn’t, not yet. But I am certainly pleased. Is it all that’s cracked up to be? HELL YEAH !!!
So, what next? Well, I am waiting for my new board to arrive next week, or at least before Xmas. I made a deal with MHL and will be trying their new design – it’s a real quad surfboard, fins and all. This means that by the time I get any good at it I will be able to take it overseas with me and foil or kitesurf depending on conditions, and get away with taking one board only.
I will leave you with a couple more visuals from Sessions III at the Alley and IV in waves.
The question is: should you foilboard? I think that if you’re the sort of person that doesn’t mind the ridicule of ‘learning’ again but have your eyes on the future – GO FOR IT. Have a look at racing world as there is a foil class now –
And just in case you think I’m nuts.. http://www.npsurf.com/blog/damien-leroy-introduces-sup-foil.html
(c) Vasco and kitesurfing.com.au