Getting into kite foiling is a fun and humbling experience, that feeling of gliding on top of the water is so close to flying, although you might feel like a complete idiot in the beginning. There are plenty of resources on the Internet so this would simply be a compilation with a touch of personal recommendations. We hope to make your learning process as easy as possible.
Theories – How Hydrofoils Work?
This mini “wikipedia-like” page covers everything technical details that you should know. Get to know your foil components and some physics behind. Get familiar with terminilogies like taxiing, touch-down, venting, aspect ratio, wing span, anhedral vs dihedral. Understand that a foil moves in 3 axis – yaw, pitch, roll. These theories will help you go a long way in your foiling career.
Another good article is this one from French brand Sroka titled ‘How a Surf Foil Works’ but the theories is applicable to kite foil. It explains every specs that you should know with respect to a foil components.
Wing-foil vs Kite-foil?
In fact why do we even mention wing-foil? Wing foil sucks =P … But in case you haven’t decided between the two, this article offers a complete breakdown.
In a nutshell, kite-foil is more explosive due to a kite can generate a surge of power. It also requires a competent kite piloting skill before attempting to learn. On the other side, wing foil is more mellow and accessible to beginners without any watersports background.
The Overly Simplified Progression Roadmap
Get a kite specialized for foiling (single strut / no strut kite) and thank me later.
Before you start, it’s good to already know how to downloop water-start / transition on a twintip/surfboard. Riding toe-side on a twintip/surfboard would be helpful too.
Ride taxiing enough to accumulate board feeling before tring to rise up and glide. At the beginning only try to do short glidings, i.e. rise and then shortly after touch down to resume taxiing, then repeat.
First few gybing attempts won’t be easy. Try to use more of the “yaw” and a bit of toe-side “roll” to turn the board as the kite pulls you; make sure the nose of the board points to where the kite is throughout the gybe. Heel-to-toe gybe is easier because you don’t have to switch foot first. But you’ll end up in a very unstable te-side stance, so practice and accumulate enough mileage riding tod-side too.
One tip for this is to try do a kiteloop water-start and get into toe-side directly. Practice riding toe-side at the same stage of gybing, these two skills will reinforce each other.
Lastly, foot-swaps. Toe-to-heel foot-swap will be easier because you end up in a more stable stance. But eventually it’s good to be able to do heel-to-toe as well. These will become the building blocks for tacking. This video from Progression Sports provides a fantastic beach drill for foot-swaps (which I ended up practicing everywhere – queuing for restaurants, waiting for a bus…But definitely helped)
Fore more challengings, try heel-side 360 and tacking. I recommend trying the 360 first, as you do not have to change stance (from heel to toe) throughout the turn. For the tacking, heel-to-toe tack will be easier than all other tacks (push tacks/duck tacks). Rob from Progression Sports has this video that I found the most helpful – “It’s all about the hips”.
What I would add to his tips would be using the bar as an aid to get your body around to toe side. I found that using the back-hand only for the whole piloting would help open the body more and make the turn easier, especially in the learning stages. Moreover, try exagerate your front foot pressure (if back foot too heavy, you’ll find it hard to turn around), and try dive the kite earlier than you think (otherwise easy to fall over your toe-side), as well as diving the kite deeper into the wind window, to give you enough power to ride away.
After all these dailed in, congrats, you are now a full-fleged kite foiler! Beyond this point, you could explore a vast variety of riding styles/disciplines – waves, racing, freestyle, big air, etc.
Final tips: do not just try new manoeuvres on your strong side, try on your weak side as well, because it might surprise you! Personal story – I did my first proper (no-touchdown) 360 and roll tacks both on my weak side!
The Best Free Video Tutorial
Like Kitesurf College’s other tutorials such as winging, riding a directional board, this 9-episode playlist is a quality tutorial with great details. Each episode will have a run-through and common mistakes.
The Best Paid Video Tutorial
If you had watched the kiteboarding or kitesurfing Progression Videos, their foil series should come familiar and trust they won’t disappoint. They have a 13-episode general series that runs from intro to gybing, plus a dedicated 6-episode gybing series. They have helped me tremendously during my learning stages. Highly recommend. Link here.
I learnt and progressed greatly on a Slingshot Phantasm 633, which provides a stable platform with 1253 cm² surface area. For further progression we recently got 2 foils from Ketos Foil – a high quality French premium brand producing full-carbon hand-made foils. The two front wings are Kloud with surface area of 1000 cm² and its Free Ride 2 with 700 cm². We ride the Ketos “Kosmo” 90cm Board and 107cm “Pocket” Board.
Generally there are board with volume and boards without (very thin, similar to a twintip build). For beginner we recommend one with volume for more stability and floating support bouyancy during taxiing.
With regards to length: 130-150cm for beginner, 110-130cm for intermediate and sub 110cm for advanced. The longer it is the more stable (but slow and less responsible) the board is. A long board might rebounce off water after touching down, where a short board might just nose dive.
When it comes to responsiveness during turns, why does board length still matter? Isn’t it the foil that is the only part in the water after rising up? This article explains for wake foil board size but the principals are the same for kite foil.
What matters is the length of the mast. The longer it is, you will feel more unstable (due to more leverage), and thus beginners are better of starting with a shorter mast to minimize the risk of crashing due to venting. As you level up, choose a longer mast so as to have less touch-downs while riding in choppy conditions and over swells. It also helps go upwind easily, because we cant the foil over to go upwind, a longer mast can prevent the wingtip of the foil popping out of the water.
The length of the mast also need to be determined by how deep is the water that you are going to foil in.
Generally, a short mast means 50-75cm, medium being 75-90cm, and a long mast is 90+cm (some brands have mast more than 110cm).
The other decision than the length is the material: alloy vs carbon. Watch the below video from Progression Sports.
The Front Wing
Beginner should lean towards a low-aspect-ratio front wind with larger surface area (> 1200 cm²), and ideally a thicker chord thickness. This is to provide maximum stability and lift. The front wing of this shape will generate lots of lift at a lower speed, making the take-off process easier for beginners.
An example is Slingshot’s Phantasm 633 front wing.
A longer fuse provides better stability while a shorter one will feel less pitch-stable but more playful and rippable. Beginner definitely should go for the longer one otherwise you’d be trapped in infinite rodeos…
The Rear Wing
Get bigger rear wing will provide more stability while a smaller one has faster speed. Beginner should get the bigger one in case your brand has multiple offerings.
Refer to this Kitesurf Hydro Foil – Buying Guide for more details about each components mentioned above.
Generally you would minus 2-3 squared meters from the kite size that you would use for twintip. In terns of kite model, we recommend every serious foiler getting a single-strut or no-strut kite (Slingshot’s UFO). I personally started foiling with CORE’s Big Air kite XR (5-strut kite) and the kite was way too powerful during my downloop gybes and many times I ended up getting janked over the board. The extra weight from its 5-strut build also makes the kite likely to backstall in light wind especially when parked at 12 during water start…
When I switched to CORE’s XLITE (single-strut), I immediately wish I had started with this kite. The light weight material (30% lighter than the already-light Nexus). During kite loops the pull feels very mellow, making each gybe / 360 super comfortable.
Use shorter lines than your default twintip setting. Normally your standard bar will come with 24-meter lines (exceptions like North who has 22-meter lines). We know that the longer the lines, the slower the kite turns or loops. Then when you gybe your board might turn faster than the kite due to hydrofoil’s high efficiency. In other words, your board might already turn to the new direction while your kite yet to finish the loop (or even worse if yet to reach half way of the loop). Therefore it’s beneficial to reduce line length to make the kite fly/loop faster.
We recommend progressively shorten the lines as you reduce kite size. E.g. use 20-22 meter lines with a 12M kite, 18-20 meter lines with a 9M kite, 16-18 meter lines with 7M kite, …, you get the idea. But not to use 18-meter lines with a 12M kite otherwise you might find the kite extra heavy and clumzy.
Take note that all else equal, a kite’s lift (aka the pull) is proportional to the square of the line length. That is to say, you will lose 30% of the power switching from 24-meter lines to 20-meter lines, or 20% of power switching from 20-meter lines to 18-meter lines. Hence if you are on a 9M kite with 18-meter lines, and the wind drops, you could lengthen the line by 2-4 meters without pumping a bigger kite.
The best way to experiment with different line lengths is with a bar that’s capable of alternating line extensions. CORE’s Sensor 3 PRO bar comes with 18+4+2 meter lines, and the Sensor 3 PRO FOIL version comes with 16+4+2 meter lines with reduced bar width and line weight. Both are ideal solutions for dedicated foilers.
Nowadays most wings (front and rear) are made of carbon. Mast in either carbon or alloy while fuselage in allmunium, carbon or titanium. It’s ultimately down to your budget. If that’s not a concern certainly go for the best – everything carbon or one with titanium fuse (like AplineFoil).
A carbon wing with alloy mast? Or Carbon mast with aluminum fuse? Watch out for the so called galvanic corrosion that might eventually prevents you from taking your foil apart.
Check out our article where we found the best anti-seize to prevent this from happening.