If you think kiteboarding is a rush, wait until you try hydrofoiling.
Kiteboarders yearn for speed; it’s the way these daring athletes explore the thrilling boundary between sea and sky. Using an apparatus that’s part parachute and part sail, a kite boarder propels him or herself on and over the waves at incredible speeds. But, they’re always looking to go faster. Enter the hydrofoil.
Using glider-like wings attached to a stem underneath the board, the hydrofoil reduces contact between the board and the water, making it more aqua-dynamic. As the rider’s speed increases, the board comes further out of the water, exposing the stilt-like hydrofoil structure. Because it faces less resistance from the air than the liquid beneath, a hydrofoil can top 25-30 knots, even in light winds. The average speed for a kiteboard rider is normally around 15-20 knots.
The best foils are made of carbon fiber, says Nick Leason, who makes custom hydrofoils out of his shop in Puetro Rico. “There are a variety of materials that can be used to build a foil, but you want something with good weight and rigidity.”
Leason says interest in foils is growing not just because of the technology but because of its unique design. “Who could turn away and say that it looks boring?” But the technology is still expensive, with a customer looking at a $2,000-$5,000 investment depending on the brand.
“The hydrofoil has been slowly building momentum in France over the past three years,” says professional kiteboarder Damien Leroy. “I happened to be over racing in a speed event in France at the Mondial Du Vent two years ago; it’s one of the biggest events in France with over 120 riders. By the end of the event, over half the fleet was using hydrofoils. This is when I really started looking into it.”
But you’ll need good kite control and a dose of patience to pick up hydrofoiling, he says.
“The [main] risk is a little bit of a hard learning curve. It takes an average kiter a few tricky hours to start to get the feel of it,” Leroy said. “But once you get it, [it’s] like riding a bike; you will get hooked and never look back.”
Want to try hydrofoiling? First you’ll need to get your bearings on a traditional kiteboard. Windstalkers in Naples offers basic lessons, (239) 601-2700, as does Ace Performer in Fort Myers, (239) 489-3513.
Additional reporting by, Joel Morris.