Foil surfing continues to grow in popularity around the world, spawning an offshoot of the surfing industry that is attracting more and more water sports enthusiasts every year. In Hawaii, visitors can try out the new-fangled way to ride waves with a number of outfits that offer lessons and equipment rentals.
Hawaii is the ancestral home of traditional surfing, so it makes sense that the Aloha State is also home to many of the latest innovations and variations to the addictive act of riding waves. Oahu’s North Shore is the world capitol and ultimate proving ground of professional surfing, and the Valley Isle of Maui is wind-surfing’s Mecca. Hawaii is where the global appeal of foil surfing began.
What makes foil surfing so unique is that it requires a minimal amount of swell energy but can handle giant surf as well (if you’re an expert, of course). The science behind the technology is quite similar to that of an airplane wing. Put simply, the foil uses “lift” in the same way.
Foil boarding traces back to the “air chair”, basically a sled towed behind a boat designed to hover over the water instead of sliding on it. The hydrofoil has long been commonly used in a variety of recreational and commercial maritime applications. Many lifelong Hawaii surfers are now “loyal to the foil”, as it allows them to ride waves and ocean energy that aren’t enough to propel the weight of a surfer and his board when ocean swell is minimal.
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Maui big wave icon Laird Hamilton and local-boy watersports crossover wizard Kai Lenny are largely credited with advancements in foil boarding. Both are world-class big wave riders, whether it be on a surfboard, sailboard, or kiteboard.
Both of those pioneers have added the hydrofoil to their repertoire and shared it with the world through videos that have gone viral. This has sped the growth of global interest in foil surfing. Surf celebrities and their sponsors, most of them, have IG or FB video of foil surfing escapades.
Such videos are mesmerizing, with a rider gliding two or three feet over almost imperceptibly small waves for impossibly long amounts of time. Other videos highlight riders (mostly Hamilton and Lenny) deftly navigating massive open-ocean swells at legendary big wave spots like Peahi (or “Jaws”) on Maui.
As easy as people like Laird Hamilton and Kai Lenny make foil surfing look, make no mistake: it ain’t easy. At the very least, you need good balance and physical fitness. Experienced foil surfers burn a lot of calories maximizing the energy of ocean swell in what amounts to a high-impact aerobic workout.
Of course, beginners can enjoy the thrill of foil surfing, too. The foil makes it easier to harness the energy of the sea. Hawaii has several companies with experts to get them up and riding. Our Hawaii Aloha Travel experts can connect you to an unforgettable foil surfing experience.