top of page
  • Writer's picturehendrikvdp

What's up with Hydrofoiling?

Updated: Aug 13, 2021

Hydrofoils have been around for a long time, but their true break through moment in water sports only came in recent years. Now you can spot them on almost any water sports beach, dock or jetty.

So, what’s all the buzz about anyway and why do people hydrofoil ?

A Brief Hydrofoil History 101:

The first form of a hydrofoil similar to those used on boards today was the Air Chair. It was invented as early as around 1990 by Mike Murphy and Bob Wooley.

Basically, riders would sit down strapped to a board with a hydrofoil underneath it and be towed behind the water ski boat and preform massive jumps and flips, generated by the lifting force of the hydrofoil.

In 2003, Laird Hamilton put a spotlight on hydrofoils in the surfing scene by surfing massive wave at "Jaws", Peahi with a modified version of the Air Chair foils in the popular surf documentary, "Step Into Liquid". The boards were ridden with snowboard boots and bindings to be able to control the foil. This variant of the Air Chair type foil still required a lot of speed, thus it needed big and powerful waves to be able to fly. The incredibly powerful wave of Jaw's / Peahi provided the perfect spot for that.

Immediately after that, small groups of engineers and designers kept on developing hydrofoils for various purposes.

The first kitesurfing hydrofoil by Carafino also was directly derived from the Air Chair and was sold as early as 2004! In France, there was an exceptionally large demand to develop hydrofoils for kitesurfing with a few more small brands joining the market. Slowly the design fo the wings evolved away from original Air Chair and they became thinner and faster. By 2008, there were some hydrofoil-only races already in France.

By the time 2013 hit, the entire kiteboard racing scene made a massive switch to hydrofoil boards. As the development in hydrofoil engineering continued, hydrofoils became faster around the race course than the traditional bulky windsurfing style formula boards, resulting in those windsurfing style boards to be immediately abandoned.

Here is where we see the the first major benefit of hydrofoiling and how the natural course of history and evolution in water sports answers part of the question “Why foiling ?” : Hydrofoils allow the riders to go faster, ride in even lighter winds well below 10 knots, and go much more upwind.

The lack of drag from a board touching the water, with only the foil remaining in the water makes them MORE EFFICIENT. And with that they bring more performance, potential for speed,

and allow you to have more days out on the water.

The next big breakthrough in personal use hydrofoil designs came in 2016 in the hands of Alex Aguera.

Aguera was already a top notch kiteboard foil and windsurf foil designer with his brand GOFOIL.

Up until 2016, all hydrofoils were still relatively small and still required a lot of speed to lift off and start flying. Thus, hydrofoils were ridden in sports powered by the wind or pulled by a boat.

Renowned waterman Kai Lenny had asked Alex Aguera for a hydrofoil that would work just with a Stand Up Paddle and without a kite.

So Alex went on to design the first SURF FOIL.

He made his foils a LOT larger and thicker.

This made flying and SURFING at lower speed possible, and brought it down almost to walking speed.

Many will be inspired by the video of Kai Lenny making history and riding open ocean swells on a 14ft downwind racing SUP in 2016. You can check the video here. This next leap in progression boosted the design in foils even more and the design philosophy quickly spread across all other water sports, proving that big foils also work!

This movement opened up hydrofoils to the masses, since hydrofoils can also work on slower riding speeds making them more beginner-friendly than ever before.

What is Hydrofoiling today:

Today we have hydrofoils being used in multiple different sports; from sailing's majestic Americas Cup foiling boats all the way to surf foils.

All these designers are rapidly pushing the limit of what's possible on hydrofoils and are cross influencing each other across multiple sports.

Now we have various hydrofoil designs that range from fun and easy to ride for everyone, to products with extremely high performance! Hydrofoiling is no longer a sport for the top 1% of the athletes. Currently they have become so user friendly that even your "Average Joe" can learn to ride in the span of a few sessions. So why should YOU get on one?

For Surfing and Supping :

  • Turn subpar conditions into an awesome playground.

  • Ride waves you won’t be able to surf on a regular surfboard.

  • Longer rides with plenty of turns until your legs burn.

  • Be able to catch and ride waves that have broken already, no fighting for the take off anymore!

  • Connect waves by pumping to the next wave instead of paddling back!

For Kitesurfing :

  • More days on the water: Double or triple your kitesurfing days - for foiling 8-10 knots is all you need!

  • Goes upwind super easy: no more struggling to go upwind in lighter winds.

  • Very relaxed ride: less stressful on the body so you can ride for hours!

For Wingsurfing / Wing foiling

  • The reason why wings were re-invented: To be ridden on a hydrofoil board!

  • Surf endless waves in the open ocean with the wing hanging neutral.

  • Simple, smooth and light cruising above the water, without a giant bulky board bouncing over the water.

Are you ready to give it a try and get addicted to the feeling of a weightless glide?

Stay stoked!

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page