Downwind SUP foiling is exploding currently. As we head into the new 2023 season, lots of brands have or are in the process of releasing specific equipment aimed at the downwind SUP foiling discipline. Unique looking boards and vast span high aspect foils all give the promise of being able to ride the smallest of wind blown bumps along the coast - drift surfing if you will. But is it as simple as that? And can the Esea Foil foil assist help?
What’s downwind SUP foiling?
Unlike SUP foiling in waves, where riders hover above the surf, downwind SUP foiling is about the distance covered whilst being propelled by wind driven lumps and the breeze itself.
Positioning yourself offshore (distance away from land to be determined) the foiler will turn downwind and use both the momentum of the rolling swell and wind to pop up on foil. Once flying they’ll then aim to ride the rolling swell for as long as possible. Ideally not dropping off foil at all until having reached their get out point.
To give an idea of what distances can be achieved Australian foiling maestro James Casey entered the record books having completed a mammoth 213 km downwind run in 2022. That’s the extreme end of what downwind SUP foiling can be but it gives an idea of what can be accomplished.
Can anyone downwind SUP foil?
In theory anyone with prior foiling and paddle boarding experience can access downwind SUP foiling. Beginners may perhaps need some time to work on their foiling and paddle skills first. Making it an advanced discipline. Stand up paddle boarding skills particularly should be a focus if downwind is your goal.
Downwind SUP foiling isn’t easy though. Even the most experienced riders struggle to begin with. As with all foiling disciplines it’s the take off that trips many up. You have to be exactly on point with your paddle strokes, timing with catching the bump and reading of the conditions. Esea Foil can certainly help with the start, taking some of the hassle away.
What equipment do I need for downwinding?
Due to the fact wind blown bumps are weak in power anything that can help a rider ‘get into’ the wave is a good thing. Hence why downwind SUP foiling boards are longer. Longer boards deliver more glide. And more glide equals more speed. With speed comes foil engagement and lift. The foil then needs efficiency to be able to glide effectively and ideally stay elevated. Downwind SUP foil boards also have a very pronounced pin tail and rail chines to further aid release. And the board's nose is shaped to slough off water and promote tracking, which in turns gives even greater efficiency for glide and speed.
High aspect foils are the usual go to for downwind SUP foiling. In tandem with these longer, narrower boards - most with very pronounced pin tails and rail chines for effective water release, high aspect foils glide well. Able to get through flatter patches, high aspect foils are also pumpable.
The downside is many of these high aspect foil wings require good technique and/or speed to remain flying (relative to the conditions). It’s very easy to drop off foil when downwinding, which again, is where Esea Foil can help.
The Esea Foil foil assist can help you unlock downwind SUP foiling with ease.
Consider your paddle.
All types of paddle boarding, whether stuck to water riding or flying above it, are defined by the paddle. This remains the most important part of your set up. A poorly manufactured paddle won’t do anyone any favours. It’ll potentially cause bodily injury and won’t deliver any kind of efficiency.
When downwind SUP foiling efficiency is key. Especially when it comes to paddle strokes. So make sure the SUP paddle you’re using is as good as it can be. And yes, unfortunately, a good quality paddle does cost a little bit of cash. But it’s worth it in the end.
So how can Esea foil help me downwinding?
As we describe above the tricky aspect of all foiling - but especially downwinding - is the start. Riders need to spot their bump well before it hits (hence why being able to ‘read’ the conditions is essential). Paddling hard and with efficiency (the reason you should have good paddling technique on lock) it's hammer down to drive the board forwards. Good board trim is also key here as a flatter craft will take off easier.
It’s usually at this point that riders struggle though. Either they won’t have revved up to foiling speed, or they misread the swell or fall. The latter because of how unstable and narrow downwind SUP foil boards are (although you do get used to this pretty quick).
With an Esea Foil system fitted you can bypass the take off struggle. Paddle hard, as you would normally, hitting the throttle gives that extra bit of boost. Timing still needs to be on point but the added oomph provided by Esea Foil gives a chance of success. Once up in the air it’s then a case of sticking with the bump or connecting to the next. If you should start to lose height a quick boost from your Esea Foil will see elevation once again restored.
Downwind SUP Safety and Esea Foil.
Being often so offshore means there’s a safety element to consider. Plonking ourselves in the middle of a big blue ocean we become tiny specks. Hard to pinpoint if it all goes awry there's a chance you might not get found should emergency services be required.
When participating in any downwind SUP foiling action you should observe good safety etiquette.
- Wear bright clothing that’ll help you be seen.
- Wear a leash - preferably a durable coiled waist leash that doesn’t drag in the water.
- Check all your gear is fully functioning and in good working order BEFORE heading out.
- Carry a means of communication - a mobile phone in a waterproof case is a good idea.
- Wear additional floatation such as a PFD or inflation pack worn on the hip.
- Carry a hydration pack, wear sunscreen and hat/sunnies if necessary.
- If using an Esea Foil foil assist check everything’s working and the battery’s fully charged.
- Don’t take on conditions you can’t cope with or feel comfortable in.
- Tell someone where you’re going and what time you intend to be back. But ideally ride in a group.
One other nifty aspect of using the Esea Foil foil assist is being able to motor out to the wind line. And more importantly back again! When launching in a dead spot, where the water’s sheltered, having the ability to cruise to where you need to take off is great. And likewise when finishing up. You may have to navigate sheltered waters upon exit. The Esea Foil prop will help you glide back to shore with energy to spare (as long as there’s enough battery). It can also potentially get you out of a tight spot if you have equipment malfunction out at sea.
How do I use the Esea Foil foil assist for downwind SUP foiling?
There are two ways you can use the Esea Foil foil assist for downwind SUP foiling depending on your skills and preferences.
Mounting the pod high on your SUP foil mast will allow that initial burst of power, in conjunction with paddling speed, to pop up onto foil. Once at height you can then throttle back and concentrate on flying, connecting bumps and ride in the purist form with the pod and propeller out of the water. If you start to lose altitude it’s then a quick squeeze of the throttle with a few more paddle strokes to raise back up. As you improve you may only need low power, short bursts of assistance.
With the pod mounted lower down your foil mast riders are poised to benefit from assisted riding even when at full foiling height. And with Esea Foil’s folding prop drag is kept to a minimum so the downwind SUP foiling feel you experience is as pure as possible.
Downwind SUP foiling is perhaps one of the ‘best fit’ disciplines for foiling. Calling up on all manner of rider skills that can be pulled from other disciplines, it combines everything learned in tandem with the efficiency of the foil. Roll into this adventure, journeying, oceanic elements and you have one addictive activity.
Esea Foil makes the whole thing so much more accessible to the layman. You don’t need to be an elite level, pro rider. Also, you don’t need to be tackling extreme, potentially life threatening conditions. Being able to open up areas of foil sport, such as downwinding, is what makes Esea Foil worth every penny. Trust us when we say your stoke levels will be sky high!