How Does Foil Surfing Work in [2023]?

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Are you tired of the same old surfing routine? Looking for a new thrill? Look no further than foil surfing! Foil surfing is a popular hybrid water sport that blends surfing with hydrofoiling. It brings a whole new dimension to your wave riding experience. Our team of expert surfers at Hydrofoiling™ are here to tell you everything you need to know about how foil surfing works and why it has become so popular in recent years.

The Basics of Foil Surfing

Foil surfing, also known as hydrofoil surfing, involves using a specially designed board that has a hydrofoil attached to the bottom. A hydrofoil is a wing-like structure that is designed to lift the board out of the water and reduce drag. The hydrofoil is attached to a mast that sits below the board. When the board is moving forward, the hydrofoil generates lift, which causes the board to rise out of the water and ride on the surface.

The rider stands on the board, just like in traditional surfing, and uses their weight and body movements to control the board. To start, the rider paddles to catch a wave. Once they are up and riding the wave, they shift their weight forward to lift the board out of the water and onto the hydrofoil. The rider then uses their weight to control the direction of the board and the foil, gliding above the water's surface with ease.

The Science Behind the Hydrofoil

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To understand how foiling works, it's essential to understand the science behind it. Hydrodynamic lift and drag are the primary concepts that make foiling possible. When an object, such as a hydrofoil or a surfboard, moves through water, it creates lift and drag. Lift is an upward force, and drag is a backward force.

The hydrofoil is designed to reduce drag and create lift. The wings on the hydrofoil are curved, and water flows faster over the top of the wing and slower underneath it. This difference in water speed creates lift and allows the hydrofoil (and the board) to rise out of the water.

Foil Surfing vs. Traditional Surfing

So, what are the differences between foil surfing and traditional surfing? There are a few key differences:

  • Speed: Foil surfing is faster than traditional surfing because the hydrofoil causes less drag, allowing the board to move more quickly through the water.
  • Stability: Foil surfing is less stable than traditional surfing because the board is not in direct contact with the water. The rider must use their weight to maintain control over the board and the foil.
  • Versatility: Foil surfing can be done in a variety of conditions, including flat water, choppy water, and big waves. Traditional surfing is more limited to specific wave conditions.

How to Foil Surf

Foil surfing may look intimidating at first, but it is relatively easy to learn. Here are some quick tips and steps to get you started:

  1. Choose your gear: To foil surf, you will need a foil board, hydrofoil, and a pump. Make sure you choose the right size board and foil based on your weight and skill level.
  2. Find the right conditions: Foil surfing is best on small to medium-sized waves with minimal wind. Avoid large waves or crowded beaches until you have mastered the basics.
  3. Practice paddling: Before attempting to ride a wave, practice paddling on the board to get used to the feel of the foil.
  4. Start riding: As you catch a wave, shift your weight forward to lift the board out of the water and onto the hydrofoil. Use your weight to control the direction of the board and foil.
  5. Keep practicing: Foil surfing takes practice and patience to master. Don't get discouraged if you don't get it on your first try.

Pros and Cons of Foil Surfing

Like any sport, foil surfing has its pros and cons. Here are a few to consider:


  • A new challenge: Foil surfing gives riders a new challenge and a unique way to ride waves.
  • Greater speed: With less drag from the water, foil surfing can reach much higher speeds than traditional surfing.
  • Cover more distance: With increased speed and glide across the water, foil surfing allows for covering greater distances and exploring different parts of the ocean.
  • Ability to surf in a range of conditions: Foil boards can surf in much shallower waters than traditional boards and can access waves that previously were not surfable.
  • More gentle on the body: Because the rider isn't dealing with as much resistance in the water, foil surfing is physically less demanding than traditional surfing.
  • Eco-friendly: Many foil surfing enthusiasts point out that the sport is more eco-friendly than motorized water sports as it is has no emissions or noise.


  • Steep learning curve and difficult to master: Due to the new techniques and skillset required, it can take a while to learn how to foil surf proficiently.
  • Expensive equipment: Foil board and hydrofoil can be significantly more expensive than traditional surfboards. The pump required to inflate the board is extra cost.
  • Not as accessible to beginners: Due to the costs of equipment and the skill level required, foiling is not an entry-level sport. It is possible to learn as a beginner but it’s more difficult and takes longer to get satisfactory results compared to traditional surfing.
  • Can be dangerous if not done right: If you lose control or fall while foil surfing, the foil can be dangerous. Falling on the foil can result in injuries.

Important Tips and Safety Considerations for Foil Surfing

Foil surfing is an exciting sport, but there are safety considerations to keep in mind. Here are some important tips and considerations for staying safe while foil surfing:

  • Always wear a helmet: A helmet can prevent head injuries that could be life-threatening.
  • Use a proper leash: A leash will keep the board attached to you in case you lose control.
  • Always foil with a friend: Foil surfing is more fun with friends and can be safer if something goes wrong and one person can call for help.
  • Always look out for other surfers, swimmers, and marine life: Foils are sharp and can cause injuries to marine life or other surfers if they get too close.
  • Choose the right conditions: Make sure the waves are appropriate for your skill level and that the wind isn't too strong. Stay out of crowded areas especially as a beginner, and avoid foiling around swimmers and other marine activities.


How do you foil surf?

To foil surf, you will need a foil board, hydrofoil, and a pump. You will ride the board like in traditional surfing but need to shift your weight forward to lift the board out of the water and onto the hydrofoil. Use your weight to control the direction of the board and foil.

What is the science behind the hydrofoil?

Hydrodynamic lift and drag are the primary concepts behind the hydrofoil. The wing-like structure reduces drag and creates lift by having water flow faster over the top of the wing and slower underneath it.

Does foil surfing have a motor?

No, foil surfing does not have a motor. It's powered by the rider and the force of the waves.

Quick Tips and Facts

  • Practice paddling before attempting to ride a wave
  • Foil surfing uses a hydrofoil to reduce drag and lift the board out of the water
  • Foil surfing can be more expensive than traditional surfing but is worth the investment for the experience.
  • Foil surfing is more eco-friendly, quieter, and less harmful to marine life than motorized water sports.
  • Start slowly and choose the right conditions to practice foil surfing safely.


In conclusion, foil surfing is a thrilling water sport that adds a new dimension to traditional surfing. It may have a steep learning curve with relatively higher equipment costs, but it is worth it. With the right equipment and instruction, anyone can learn how to foil surf. Be prepared to put in the time and effort to master this unique and exciting sport. Hopefully, you now better understand how foil surfing works, and you're ready to give it a try!

Our Top Foil Board Recommendations:

  1. Naish Hover Surf Ascend PU/S Glass Foilboard
  2. Slingshot Simulator Foilboard
  3. Cabrinha Double Agent Foilboard


Review Team
Review Team

The Popular Brands Review Team is a collective of seasoned professionals boasting an extensive and varied portfolio in the field of product evaluation. Composed of experts with specialties across a myriad of industries, the team’s collective experience spans across numerous decades, allowing them a unique depth and breadth of understanding when it comes to reviewing different brands and products.

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