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Hydrofoiling 101

An Introduction To Wake Foil And Wing Foil

The last time you were at the lake, you might have noticed something different about the wakeboarders. Maybe you saw some on boards without a rope, pumping their legs and catching waves tow-free. Or maybe you were at the ocean, and they were doing something similar, only carrying a wing, a kite, or even had a sail. If you found yourself asking—what the heck am I looking at?—you’ve come to the right place. Those folks were hydrofoiling, and we’ll give you a crash course on everything that entails.

What is hydrofoiling?

There are many ways to hydrofoil, all depending on how you’re powering your motion in the water, but there are two main pieces of gear that connect all categories. Hydrofoiling requires a board, which is similar to a wakeboard or a SUP—depending on which variation you choose—and a foil, or hydrofoil, which is attached to the bottom of the board. A hydrofoil is essentially an airplane that flies beneath the surface of the water, catching the current of waves and lifting you and your board above the waves while reducing drag.


What powers your foil?

There are four main hydrofoil categories. Wake foil, wing foil, kite foil, and wind foil. One requires a boat, and the other three require wind. One of the best ways to learn to foil, no matter where you want to take it in the end, is behind a boat. So if you already know how to wakeboard you’re in a good place to start. In this article, we’ll mainly touch on wake and wing foiling, as those are the two styles we recommend starting with.

The Gear

Hydrofoil-specific boards have tracks along the base for attaching the foil, and they’re reinforced to support the extra load. They also come in multiple styles depending on how you prefer to ride—wake foil boards are more like wakesurf boards, while wing foil boards are more like a SUP. Wing foil boards can be hard or inflatable, and they’re measured by length in feet and volume in liters. Longer boards offer more stability and a higher volume board offers more float. As your skills on the hydrofoil increase, you’ll probably move to smaller, shorter boards because they’re more maneuverable and trick-friendly.


The hydrofoil consists of the fuselage and wings (or “airplane”) attached to a mast, which is directly attached to your board and it determines the height at which you’ll rise above the water. Foils can be aluminum or carbon, and like any other piece of gear that uses these materials, aluminum carries a more attractive price point while carbon is lighter weight, has higher performance, and is stiffer.


Gearhead Take: That hydrofoil is delicate! It’s best to direct the board by its nose if you’re in the water.


Wing foiling requires a wing, which consists of inflatable fabric, usually Dacron, sewn together with a canopy. The leading edge and strut—where your handles are placed—are the inflatable sections, and the canopy takes the load of the wind. 


Gearhead Tip: If you know you want to start with wing foiling, start on a keel board first so you can master operating the wing. If you own a SUP with a keel fin this can make the transition more affordable. Even better—practice handling your wing on land (sans board) before you do anything else.


Wake foiling requires a rope and a boat. As your skill level increases, you’ll be able to drop the rope and use your legs to pump the board through the water on your own, catch waves alone, or make your way to another boat if you’re out on the water with a whole crew.


Accessory Gear

Just like with any sport, particularly watersports, there are other accessories that are vital to having a good time out there. It’s a good idea to have a leash so you don’t get separated from your board if you fall off, or have a leash between you and your wing, and—safety first!—grab a helmet and wake life vest before you head out. 

Just like with surfing, you’re going to want a boundary layer between you and cold water, so invest in an appropriate wetsuit for the temperatures where you’ll be hydrofoiling—and if the waters are especially chilly, booties and a hood are clutch.

Our Gear Recs


Wake Foil

We recommend starting out with the WF-T V1 Foil Board and Hover Glide FWake V3 foil from Slingshot Sports. The ropes aren’t as specific, but the 35′ Freedom Foil/Surf Combo Rope is a solid option you can’t go wrong with.


Wing Foil

If you’re looking to give wing foil a go instead, we recommend the Raptor Foil Board from SIC, paired with the Slash Foil Complete Wakefoil and the Freedom Wing by Freedom Foil Boards


No matter what you go with, we have plenty of great wing foil and wake foil gear to get you started.

Tips for getting started

Hydrofoiling can be a complicated sport to get into, particularly if you’re not familiar with other water sports. Nothing is going to beat the experience of heading out with an instructor or a more experienced friend, but here are a few tips to set you up for success.


  1. Bring a good attitude. You’re going to fall. There’s a steep learning curve, so that’s to be expected. Go easy on yourself and remember: you’re here to have fun!
  2. Start somewhere quiet and uncrowded, and make sure the water is deep enough for your foil.
  3. If you know how to wakeboard, start with wake foiling! You’ll already have similar skills and know how to ride behind a boat. But make sure to take it slow, because the foil changes the experience quite a bit.
  4. Educate yourself. The courses at https://www.foil-academy.com/ are a gold mine!


We hope you learned something about hydrofoiling today. There’s a lot to unpack here, so if you’d like to know more reach out to a Gearhead today.