Foil Surfboard Buyers Guide (2020)

foil surfboard
Source: FCD Surfboards

The foil surfboard offers a completely new and exciting addition to surfing. To anyone unfamiliar with these boards, they could look totally bizarre! Once you understand them though, you will realise just how much fun they can be out in the water. 

The first thing to note about a foil surfboard is that it is completely unlike a regular board. The way you approach and ride them is entirely different from regular surfing because you lift right out of the water. Foil boards also come in all kinds of forms, and it’s important to understand the differences between them. 

If you are interested in trying out this unique sport, then you will need to understand the basic idea behind foiling and how it works. This will also help you to make a more informed decision on finding the right gear. Let’s take a deeper look into foiling, and how to find the perfect hydrofoil surfboard. 

What is a Foil Surfboard?

foil surfing
Source: Stabmag

A foil surfboard provides a whole new sensation on the water. These boards use a couple of varying parts to set them apart from regular surfboards. The familiar component, however, of these boards is the actual surfboard part – the bit that you stand on.

This section looks like a regular surfboard, and can be long, short, thick or thin – you name it! The distinctive aspect of these boards is the hydrofoil. A hydrofoil basically looks like a set of aeroplane wings mounted on top of a strut that extends from underneath the surfboard.

These hydrofoil wings are capable of floating on top of the water and is the same concept that you would find in a catamaran. So, what’s the point of these funny looking boards? Surfing a hydrofoil takes you to new heights – literally! These boards allow you to rise above the water’s surface.

Not only does this provide a whole new sensation, but it also allows you to harness speed from your body and the water below. You don’t have to be restricted to riding waves like with a regular surfboard. One of the coolest things about these boards is that you can use them practically anywhere.

From big waves to small waves, and even slight ripples, you can still use these boards. This allows you to experience new spots, and reach places where regulars surfers wouldn’t be able to go. Foil surfing can also result in longer rides that you have more control over. 

The History of Foil Surfboards 

Hydrofoiling comes from the early 60s where it was first invented in the form of a hydrofoil waterski. This design was patented by Bob Woodward – an aeronautical engineer. This early design started to develop over the years, and soon became a sit-down hydrofoil waterski.

Fast forward a couple of years, and Laird Hamilton started riding a modified Air Chair around Kauai’s north shore. He did this by taking the chair part off and strapping his feet down with a pair of snow boots. He was then towed around like a wakeboarder.

hydrofoil waterski

A group of big wave surf pioneers called “The Strapped Crew” then started charging big wave spots like Jaws with their new foil boards. Over time, people started to pay attention to this awesome new way of riding waves. Naturally, the quality and manufacturing of these boards also started to progress.

Largely thanks to the innovation and experimentation of Kai Lenny, hydrofoil surfboards developed into what they are today. As a result, a whole new watersport and approach to riding waves opened up. 

What To Look Out For When Buying a Foil Surfboard

Choosing the right foil surfboard can be tricky because there are more parts and curves to them than regular surfboards. Here are some important things to consider when looking for the perfect foil board. 

The Foil Design

The first thing to pay attention to with these boards is the design of the hydrofoil. The surface area of the wing will help to show how much lift you can get from the board. This is usually measured in squared centimetres. 

Also, take a look at the profile of the foil. For a foil surfboard, you will generally want a thicker profile. This is because it allows for more lift while providing more power at lower speeds.

Foils with a thinner profile are designed for higher speeds. These allow you to move faster and have more control. However, they are a lot more sensitive to small changes and require greater speed for lifting up. Thinner profiles are more common in products like kiteboards. 

hydrofoil surfboard

The Wing Shape

The wing of the foil board can either be a high or low aspect shape. This shape is determined by the ratio of the wingspan and the chord. Low aspect wings are shorter and fuller, while high aspect wings are wider and thinner.

Another point to consider is speed. High aspect wings are good for controlling at high speeds and are great for pumping. However, they drop quicker and are more difficult to control at lower speeds.

You can also get flat and curved wings. Curved wings are a little bit less stable, but they allow you to carve more in the surf. Flat wings create more upward lift and less drag. If the tips of the wings are curved down, they can provide more stability though. This is the same concept as fins on a regular surfboard.

There is also the stabilizer, or back wing to consider. Smaller tail wings create less lift, and you may need to apply more pressure on your back foot to help balance out the front wing. However, smaller tail wings create a looser board that is easier to turn and pump. Some foils allow you to adjust the rear wing.

The Mast

It’s important to understand how the length of the mast will change the board’s experience. A longer mast gives you more clearance. This lets you make bigger, sharper turns while keeping the board’s rails off the water. This is especially useful on longer boards.

The problem with a long mast is that the foil will be deeper in the water on takeoff. This means that you will need to surf at deeper spots, with enough power for a proper launch. Although longer masts can be more fun, they are generally a little trickier to control.

foil surfboard

The Board

Choosing the actual surfboard that sits on top of the hydrofoil is the next big consideration. The process behind this is basically the same as choosing a board for regular surfing. You could get a shortboard, longboard, or even a SUP for foiling. This is up to your personal preference, and what kind of conditions you plan on surfing.

The board will influence how you paddle, catch waves, balance, and turn. Just make sure that the hydrofoil setup you choose is suitable for the kind of board that you want to stand on.

5 Best Foil Surfboards

Looking for the best foil surfboard out there? Here are some of our top product picks to help make the search a whole lot easier. 

Slingshot Sports High Roller

  • High volume S-Rail design makes for easy paddling
  • Concave deck provided superb heel and toe leverage
  • Compact and easy to transport

For those who are after the perfect foil surfboard for beginners, then this would be the product to get! The High Roller is a unique type of foil surfboard designed specifically for paddle-in foil surfing. Unlike any foil board you’ve ever ridden, this board is packed with foil-specific features designed for easy paddling and early take off.

Its high volume makes it easy enough to paddle into small waves and compact enough to maintain its agility once you’re up an a wave and pumping. The high volume S-Rail paddles like a foil board twice its length. It comes in three length options staring at 4’10” and going up to 5’2″.Overall a great choice for anyone wanting to get into foiling.

Naish Foils

  • A well-trusted brand
  • Includes soft top and carbon boards
  • Suitable for all kinds of surfers
  • Boards and foils are sold separately

When it comes to finding the right foil surfboard, then Naish will definitely be a brand to consider. Naish produces a wide range of foil boards that are suitable for all kinds of different surfers. This includes SUP boards, soft top boards, and compact board of varying shapes.

naish foil surfboard

Naish understands the needs of each surfer that uses their boards. This is why each one is uniquely designed to provide an optimal experience. No matter what kind of weight or height you are, and what type of conditions you plan on surfing, there will be a Naish board that is perfect for you. Of course, each of these boards are specifically designed for a quality hydrofoil experience in all kinds of conditions.

naish foil

Lift Foils

  • A wide variety of foil boards available
  • Boards are matched with the perfect masts and foils
  • Boards are built to last
  • Suitable for all kinds of surfers

Lift utilizes some of the world’s top shapers, such as Sean Ordonez, to create some of the best possible boards for foiling. There is a wide range on offer here – appealing to all kinds of surfers, styles, and locations.

Lift foil surfboards are built for performance. The creators understand exactly what is needed for a quality experience. This means that they match up the perfect hardware for each deck so that the setup is as good as it can be.

Not only can you expect high performance with Lift, but the quality is second nature too. The masts are made from the highest quality carbon fibre, and wings are available in just about any shape and size imaginable. These all come together to create some of the most premium hydrofoil boards out there. 

lift foils

Takuma Foils

  • Foil boards for different kinds of watersports
  • Includes the innovative e-foil
  • Boards are made using quality materials
  • A versatile foil surfboard brand

Takuma loves foils, and so they created a wide range of these boards for all kinds of different watersports. This includes foils for wakeboarding, kitesurfing, SUP foils, surf foils, and wing foils. They have even created an e-foil to take the experience to the next level. 

The e-foil is a stable board powered by its own propellor system. This is an innovative electric board that allows you to cruise around above the water in even the flattest conditions. This kind of board appeals to both beginners and expert riders, as it is easy enough to manage but is still a high-performance board. 

takuma foils

Takuma understands this craft better than most, and so their range of boards is ideally suited to each different watersport. Their surf foils also come available in different board shapes, wing designs, and mast sizes. These can be customized based on your individual preference.

Takuma produces premium foils for the full range watersports. If you are interested in taking foiling to new territories, then this would be a good brand to consider. 

Cabrinha Double Agent

  • A surf skate shape
  • Wood constructed
  • Available with 3 different mast sizes
  • A multi-use board

Cabrinha has designed a foil surfboard that can be put to all kinds of different uses. The Double Agent crosses seamlessly between surf skating and hydrofoiling. This board is super easy to use, and is versatile enough to be enjoyed by all kinds of different people. 

cabrinha double agent
Source: Kitesurfing Magazine

One of the best things about this board is that it can be fully customised using Cabrinha’s various foil options. You could attach a choice of 3 different mast sizes, and choose from their available wing sets. This includes a high speed or a high lifting wing set – something that you can decide on based on your personal preference. 

The board is made from wood, and it uses a really responsive shape. This shape is great for beginners, as well as experienced surfers wanting to sharpen up their skills. The board comes with TT quad fins and a thick EVA deck pad. 

Whether you use this board for foiling, surf skate, or wake surfing use, you will have the perfect tool each time. 

Where Can You Buy a Foil Surfboard

Foil boards can be bought directly from the manufacturers on their sites or on Amazon. This is possible for all of the top boards listed above. However, many surfers would prefer to see the boards and get a feel for them up close. 

foil surfing

Many good surf shops have a range of foil surfboards available. There are also some dedicated foil shops with more extensive ranges on offer. As foiling can be done in such varied conditions, these boards are available all around the globe.

Conclusion

Hydrofoiling is one of the most exciting additions to surfing. This approach to riding waves provides a whole new experience and sensation on the water. If you are interested in trying out something new with surfing, then getting a foil board can be a great idea. 

Foiling is not just limited to surfing though. These boards can be used for wakeboarding, kite surfing, and even with their own little electric engine.

Hydrofoils have a fairly complex science behind them, and there are a number of different parts that will change your experience on these boards. The foil boards chosen above are some of the all-round top choices – providing an ideal platform for all kinds of use. 

We hope that you get to try some of these boards out – because you will certainly become hooked on foiling when you do!

barrel wave

FAQ’s

How difficult is foil surfing?

Although comparable to traditional surfing, foil surfing is a completely unique experience. Foiling requires a few more elements, with more working parts to consider. It is also considered to be more difficult than regular surfing, as there is a lot more going on in this sport.

Are foil boards dangerous?

There is an increase in danger when it comes to foil boards, yes. Especially when compared to regular surfboards. Not only are they larger and strangely shaped, but they can also travel at much higher speeds around the lineup. When used by unskilled surfer, foils can offer a certain sense of danger.

Are foil boards expensive? 

Foil surfboards are more expensive than traditional surf craft. This is because they have more parts to them that require specialized innovative design. If you are looking at specialized foil boards, such as e-foils, then the prices can really go up.

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