iFoilboards / Inflatables for Winging

iFoilboards / Inflatables for Winging

Wing foiling seems to become a serious and big part of surfing world not just since kiteforum added it as new “main Forum”. One of the main reasons could be its accessibility. What I feel compared to windsurfing, kiting and surfing, accessibility here means more beginner friendly and more spots and conditions to do it or at least easier to reach them with the equipment. If I am right these are similar reasons which allowed kitesurfing to outperformed windsurfing nearly 20 years ago.

Some may disagree as winging especially in the flat can’t reach the lowest winds as kitefoiling, which I agree. On the other hand even without wind a wingboard with its size is always usable for pumping in the marina, surfing waves or going out in the unknown winds in a quarry pond. But in the beginning I have also seen a real limitation in accessibility.

Most wing rider, even well trained from other board sports, will require a board with the volume of riders weight + > 10 l. For beginners without any experience you should add another 50 – 80 l. Which means you come to the terrain and uncomfortable sizes which has been one of the other reasons many windsurfers switched to kitesurfing during last 20 years.

The solution I call iFoilboards, so big inflatable boards that have a connection for a foil. What some may call revolution I would call evolution, but the timing and place for those boards in mid-2020 indeed could cause a revolution for the already fast growing wing surfing market.

First into history going back again over 20 years to good old windsurfing times, it was around:

1998 –when I first and last time tried the Mistral “Windglider” which was the first inflatable windsurfboard I know and in the eyes of an experienced windsurfer a horrible piece, just suitable and also made for family joy. [1]

2001- according to supboardermag [2] already in 2001 “uliboards” offered the first smaller inflatable surfboards even in the first generation not yet with drop stitch technology

2011 – round about the iSUP boom started with a push by Red Paddle boards (starting 2008) kitejunkie and friends already on it, exploring rivers and ridden with kites but the enthusiasm ended not much more than 2 years later but early enough before they started to sell them in the hardware store for Yoga and what not. [2]

2015 – completely into foiling I realised that foils could be the solution to bring the old “skimbat” kitewings into the water. In the same time I fixed my kite foil to my last iSUP but with the first-generation foil “Makaira” with a 500 cm² wing the perspective to fly was as low as the success. In the following years some prototypes for example from Stemax or even preserial for a twintip foilboard from Brunotti have been shown in flight, but the impression was nothing serious at all.

2017 – Renaud Barbier from Manta (shaper of first Zeeko Makaira Foils in 2012-14) as I know offered the first serious serial inflatable foil board which was built for wind- and surffoiling. [3]

2019 – Renaud added two smaller boards with 110 l and 72 l, which I both tried and now using the smaller one since nearly one year for wing- and sometimes kitefoiling, other companies started similar products as Indiana Paddlesurf towards end of 2019 [4]

2020 – French direct seller GONG announced to come up with a series of most likely 5 new inflatable wingfoilboards with a huge carbon plate as connector.

This last step from GONG (blog status from 08-06-2020) to me is not the revolution we have been waiting for but another step to a wide market for those boards we will see in the close future pushing the wingfoiling even more than already happened.

But coming to my experience with those boards and why I think this principle will have great success. From the experience with iSUPs many may think that those rubber boats always will lack of performance and this is right. They always will be less stiff and also will need a bit more wind, wave, power to come into glide and flight. But to know this and if it is relevant for personal preference it is necessary to look into details.

Starting with Stiffness,

which is about all the way in between your heels and wings and weakness already starts in the surfboots, if you wear them as I do, goes along the board pad, the board, the connection down the strut, fuselage into the wing. And here along it is possible to see the first matches in between inflatables and wingfoiling. The shape of wing foil boards is very compact so they are very thick. But thickness in statics is giving stability, so it is much easier to reach a needed stiffness with a 12 cm thick iWingfoilboard than with a 6 cm thick iKitefoilboard. The other question about stiffness is how much is needed. I can’t quantify this yet, but maybe will try to measure some values in the future. My personal experience from over 1000 hours riding mostly mono foils (without stabiliser) which are very sensitive to boards flexibility in pitch: With my small foils from 500 – 1000 cm² ridden fast, pitch stiffness is very important to reach my 40 km/h top speeds on all those wings. I repaired and sold 2 hardboards just because the connection felt too soft to me. With the big surf wings from 1000 – 2000 cm² or riding not more than 25 km/h stiffness is much less important even on a mono foil. Just once when I was riding my 72 l inflatable Manta with a fast 1000 cm² it felt ok but not perfect, but would expect to be ok, with a new slower thicker 1000 cm² wing, I will try next days. So again, I see a good match in between slow wing foiling and softness of inflatables. For normal kite foiling instead I don’t see too much match for inflatables, additionally as those boards are anyway already much smaller or exist also as split versions as I also have one, which seem to be a much better compromise.

About board shapes,

I see similar match for inflatables with the needs of the shape. Looking at the shapes of hard wingsurfing boards as said you see very compact shapes with more or less beveled edges tail cuts etc. on the end for a most time flying board all this doesn’t seem to cause much difference to the ballon shape of an inflatable. A difference for sure you will feel in the take off. But with the small experience I have in comparison it doesn’t feel too big. And maybe we will see improvements as water flow break-away edges as on the Manta (wind)surf foil already existing or other features to be seen in the future.

Features and differences of existing iFoilboards

For wingfoiling I would definitely recommend straps, even if it seem that all boards apart from f-one have those. First as straps can make foot switch easier and second as also wingfoils are nice to be jumped. The manta and maybe GONG seem to have just front straps, but at least for my small Manta it was pretty easy to add a back strap inbetween foil connection and tail ring. Just Indiana has 3 straps setup. Also the compatibility of the foil connection is always important so tracks as GONG and Indiana uses are comfortable to match to different foils. The latest versions of Manta have a combined tuttle all and plate single place connector which is also a good offer. The GONG seems to be just foldable in half with the big connector plate but this need not to be a disadvantage as also the other boards with their adapater can’t be fold as small as normal iSUPs and it also doesn’t feel necessary to do it.

More details about the features I will add with time when I have tested more versions. The inflatable foil boards for winging that can be ordered (apart from f-one) you find here:

https://kitejunkie.com/shop/category/foil-wing-boards-445

Last about accessibility by spots and transport

20 years ago the credo of me and for sure many other surfers has been: If somebody is a real surfer you may recognise if the “surfer” is driving a big surfer bus respecting the needs of the sport and the huge equipment. This has completely changed. Today I think a real surfer is who is respecting the spots and environment. So if there is a technology to avoid using a bus consuming 10 l of diesel then you should go for it. I think apart from kitesurfing, wing foiling with an inflatable board is such a technology. Even if it will be a bit heavier to carry than kite equipment again its accessibility will allow you to enter a coast or lake just close to the train station for example without the need to search for the only kite spot far away with enough place and suitable wind.

I see a chance real surfers will share this new credo, seeing around my place a guy who is selling more and more bike trailers for surfing, already 3 people on my spot arriving with small electric cars instead of the “surfer” bus, corona pandemic, that has reduced air travel excess as nobody would have ever expected and many other small signs of progress.

If you remember that commercial wing foiling is just one year old and remember what design success have been added to kitesurfing after 2000 during the last 20 years I would expect a promising future.

Happy iFoil Winging to all of you

Sources:

[1] https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0664/2973/products/30223_01.jpg?v=1571273622

[2] https://www.supboardermag.com/2015/08/05/supboarders-guide-to-isup-all-you-need-to-know/

[3] https://kiteforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=196&t=2387245&start=250

[4] https://oaseforum.de/showthread.php?t=176839

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