The Foil Board for Everyone Else - The Liquid Force FoilFish
Kiteboarding magazines and videos are filled with amazing riders, beautiful women, and tropical waters. Perfect photographs are framed with extreme contortions of perfect bodies over tranquil background settings . In magazine land, everything looks easy.
But then there is the rest of us. We love to kiteboard as much as anyone else, but we have kids and jobs and don’t get to kiteboard in tropical paradise unless we are on vacation. For the “Everyone Else” out there, how do we get our excitement while fitting in the rest of our busy lives?
We Foil Board.
In the past three years there has been little change within the kiteboarding industry. Incremental changes in gear provided slight improvements in both kite and board design each year, but there hasn't been any ground breaking advances that have changed the sport. Twin tips have more wood in them, surfboards tend to be ridden without straps, and race boards got giant fins..... for the the majority of people, kiteboarding today is pretty similar to what it was three years ago.
ENTER the FOILBOARD -
Foil boards are not new. They have been around for over 10 years, but there were two major problems that kept them from catching on with mere kiteboarding mortals.
1. Foilboarding was difficult - The first time I saw foilboarding, the rider's feet were attached to the board with snowboarding bindings and full on boots. Early foilboards required the rider to be LOCKED into the heavy board, which is not only impractical, it was unsafe. This style of boot and binding can be seen in the early days here -
Be sure to notice the jet ski nearby in case the riders needed any assistance = dangerous.
As foilboards advanced in design, they became more refined and more stable such that foilboarding can now easily be done strapless, and on a variety of different board types. Skimboards, wake skates, surfboards and even twintips can be used as a foil board, with or without straps and they can all be ridden by the average kiter.
2. Foilboarding was expensive - Until recently, getting a foilboard meant shelling out $3000+ for a carbon fiber setup that in many cases was one hit wonder.... Ie, one impact with a rock, log, or even a sandy bottom could ruin the entire wing, fuselage and mast assembly. Carbon fiber is a FANTASTIC material for both its strength and weight, but once it has received an impact, its strength is easily compromised. The impact doesn't even need to be from riding. A carbon fuselage or mast must be taken care of on and off the water and protected from incidental impacts. When you have a carbon foil, you need to be careful about how you even put the rig in your car. At $3000, I don't blame carbon foilboard owners for being very very protective of their gear. At $3000 the price was out of the reach of most normal kiteboarders.
Liquid Force has recognized this issues and have addressed both of the major problems with the release of the Foil Fish.
For as little as $1149, you can get into foilboarding by buying the foil kit and attaching the rig onto a board that you already own. If you don't want to take on that task, for $1599 you can get the complete setup, including the board and the foil together. Each piece of the Liquid Force foil is modular, meaning if you break a part, you can replace just that one part instead of having to replace the entire unit. (This also makes the board pack down really well for travel in the included foil bag).
Instead of using carbon fiber, Liquid Force has chosen to use Aluminum and fiberglass in its construction. Carbon is great for the rich and racing, but aluminum and fiberglass are perfect materials for the rest of us. Initially my thought was that aluminum construction would make a heavy board, but in reality, the entire setup weighs less than many carbon foilboard setups out there, and is much more durable for the everyday kiteboader. Go ahead and toss it in the back of your car.... it has been built to take abuse. It was also made for the first time foiler. ( Yes, the fuselage is solid impact-eating aluminum.... but only weighs 2lbs)
As far as its ease of use, each individual's learning curve will be different, but the Liquid Force Foil included with this board is designed to be bigger which allow you to stay up at slower speeds. Riding at slower speeds (jogging speeds) allow you to learn without having to ride at punishing speeds. Many of the $3000+ foils are race foils which require high speeds just to get the foil to fly. Sure, later in 2015 Liquid Force will release different wings that will allow you to upgrade the current setup to a more performance board, but to ensure everyone has a good first foiling experience, Liquid Force has purposefully valued ease of use over high performance speed runs. Most people are able to start getting rides on the foil within 30 minutes, but be prepared to feel like a beginner again your first time out as it is truely a new skill that must be learned.
The included straps make getting the board orientated in the water easy, but they are not needed to ride. Go strapless if you'd like, as the board has an ample deckpad for you to move your feet around on. Personally I always had my best rides with just one footsrap on and the other strapless. It allowed me to move my weight around to find a nice balance point without having to use the strap, but the one strap made it easier when in the water to get the board into position.
Many people have asked about crashes and if its easy to get hurt. It is true, that when you crash, you are crashing from a higher altitude into the water than when you were learning to ride a twintip, but I think with some precautions, you can safely learn how to ride one of these contraptions. Here are my tips and what I have found while learning over this summer.
1. Make sure you have ENOUGH power, but not too much. Ride what you would normally ride for lightly powered conditions. Initially I tried to learn with too little power, and it takes too much effort to work the kite and focus on the foil. I suggest using the right kite size to where you could ride a twintip, but not be anywhere close to being overpowered. The upward pull of the kite will help stabilize you and being able to park the kite from the start will help. Contrary to popular belief, you can ride foils overpowered quite easily, but you really just need to keep the kite out of the power zone and keep your speed down. As an emerging foil-kiter, I was able to go out on a 10m and twintip and jump 20ft high in the air, and was then able to hop on the foil and cruise around without any trouble. It is more difficult to ride overpowered for sure, but not impossible at all.
2. As you start riding, GO SLOW. No need to crash at really high speeds over and over again, so start slow and build speed as you get more comfortable. It is pretty easy to ride with the foil completely underwater and then add a little speed and "hop" up on the foil. The hop isn't much different than an ollie on a skateboard. Once you are on the foil, you'll notice less sound (no board in the water splashing), a smooth ride sensation (no board smacking the water), and easy acceleration (less resistance since board is no longer causing drag). This doesn't mean you NEED to accelerate to dangerous speeds. Point the board upwind to control your speed and get your kite to the edge of the window, sheeting out if you need to. Your initial reaction will be to over correct and you will begin proposing (up and down, up and down). This is normal, and very quickly you'll realize that if you go up too much and the wing comes out of the water that you'll abruptly drop down. Get used to this and learn to ride out of the drop without crashing. Eventually you’ll be able to catch yourself before your board bottoms out on the water, but don’t stress if your board bounces of the water and you continue to fly on the foil. If you get stuck in this stage of up and down, up and down, don't get frustrated... it is normal. Try moving your feet closer together and get your center of gravity further forward (move your back foot forward and keep your front foot where it is) As you move forward, you may feel it is more difficult to get up on the foil, but once you do you'll be less prone to coming out of the water and dropping back down. Contrary to popular belief that a wider stance makes it easier to balance, I found that a narrower stance made it easier for me to ride as it lessened my tendency to over-react.
3. Don't try to learn in shallow water. You need more depth than is readily apparent. If you can touch the bottom, you are not deep enough. When learning, it will be common for you to sink the board under water, if even just for a moment, and when crashing, there is the potential for the foil to dive underwater. You don't want to risk it, so just make sure have plenty of depth.
4. Seaweed is less of an issue than I initially though it was, but be sure to avoid large clumps in the water for obvious reasons.
5. Once you get up and riding, don't try to edge the board upwind like you would on a twintip or surfboard. At first just try to stand up straight with a very slight bend to your knees and aim your board upwind, and you'll be surprised at how far upwind it will point without edging. Unlike a normal board where you immediately feel a point where you reach your maximum upwind angle, I found that you can easily over steer upwind and not know it for a few seconds only because the foil is so efficient and "glides" upwind beyond a sustainable angle. Regardless, it will point higher upwind than you probably have ever been able to go on any other board.
The Lightwind Advantage -
Once you get a hang of riding the foil, you will find that it doesn't take much power to keep going. I have gone out far across a bay on a foil feeling confidently powered and when stopping to transition ( It is very difficult to Jibe or Tack for beginners - I still have not been able to do a jibe or tack without coming off plane) I could barely keep the kite in the air because the wind was so light. Getting going again and with a few dives to get up on the foil and build my apparent wind.... and I am powered up again. Be careful of the wind because it is likely you could ride into conditions that were so light that you may not be able to even relaunch your kite!
I am confident I would be able to ride in 8mph with a large kite, and maybe even less as I get better. The big deciding factor is if you can get up on the foil and get you apparent wind speed up. If you can get you apparent wind speed up, you are set. Many people ride smaller kites than they would normally ride, and after you are experienced, it isn't a big deal to ride a 10m as your light wind kite, but when learning, the power will help you get going without having to think of the kite. I have no doubts that many riders could ride a 7m in 15mph, but I have spent more time on a 17m Fat Lady and the foil than any other kite mostly because foil kiting has become my light wind activity of choice. Light wind kite foiling is viewed by most as the best wind-range, although it isn't really that difficult to ride one with power as well.
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One Foil Fish - Two Boards
One of the great advantages of the Liquid Force Foil Fish is that you are getting a dual purpose setup = more bang for your buck. Certainly you can ride the foil as it was designed, but there is no reason not to use the board itself without the foil. The Foil Fish is the same board as the KiteFish that has been a popular board for years. It is an easy board to ride in shallow flat water to moderate waves. It is one of the few surf shaped boards out there that is easy to ride backwards, and even if there is no wind, it can catch mushy waves or even be used as a wakesurfer (actually it is exceptional as an introductory wakesurfer board). When travelling, it give you options and choices of how and where you ride. Many foil boards out there are useless without the foil (ie, they are not dual purpose), which means that when you travel you will either have to take another board along, or be restricted to just riding your foil. That really sucks when you want to go ride some waves or go explore some shallow bay where foilboarding just isn’t possible.
If you already have a Liquid Force Kite Fish or another board that you think would work as a foil board (and you are the engineering type), we offer a BYOB foil kit by itself for $1149. I was able to get my original KiteFish setup with a foil in about 30 mintues after a trip to the hardware store to buy some caulk and the proper sized drill bit.
For me, foilboarding has offered a new way for me to enjoy kiteboarding and push my skills. I am no athlete or super skilled rider, but represent "the rest" of the kiteboarding community. My first day out learning to foil was challenging, and I LOVED THE CHALLENGE. Normal kiteboarding for the most part for me has become effortless. Learning to foil kite reminded me of my early kiteboarding days where my adrenaline pumped and I couldn’t wait to get to the beach and try and progress my skills. I still have a long list of skills to learn on the foil (such as jibing and tacking) but I enjoy the deep powedery smoothness and extreme efficiency that the foil board offers. My favorite kiteboarding conditions are still to be super powered on a 10m and twintip, but for winds in the 8 to 25mph range, foilboarding is pretty damn fun.
As a guy with a job, kids, and other activities the take my precious time, I am super excited about the ability to go push my skills on the water, even if it isn’t that windy. While we get plenty of stong wind where I live, most days aren’t super windy, and with foilboarding I am able to get out pretty much any day I want. I have tried foiling in lakes, the Columbia River, several bays, and even tried some waves on the Oregon and California Coast. I am looking forward to the challenge of learning how to ride better, and who knows, maybe someday I’ll be as good as this guy…… but probably not.
We have KiteFish in stock at KitePaddleSurf although they are already selling fast. There hasn't been a board this nice for this price ever, and people are realizing that it is a new way to spend more time on the water, especially in the light wind areas. http://www.kitepaddlesurf.com/2015-Liquid-Force-Foil-Fish-Combo-2158092.htm?categoryId=-1
To learn more about the FoilFish, take a look at what Gary from Liquid Force has to say, or give us a call at the shop and we can get you dialed in. 3607752741