Wingsurfing, and the more advanced wingfoiling, is the latest watersports craze to hit our local waters and it couldn’t be easier to get involved.
The RYA launched its new WINGsurfing training scheme earlier this year. The four progressive courses are aimed at introducing complete beginners to wingsurfing and developing the skills needed to take flight and wingfoil with confidence.
Want to know more? We spoke to RYA Chief Instructor and the instigator behind the new courses, Amanda Van Santen, to get all your questions answered…
What is wingsurfing and how does it work?
Wingsurfing, and the more the advanced wingfoiling, both use a wing with an inflated leading edge on a strut or boom to power you along. Unlike windsurfing, the wing isn’t attached to the board, but is controlled by your hands while you stand.
What is the difference between wingsurfing and wingfoiling?
The only real difference is the board. Wingsurfing uses a plain board, whereas wingfoiling uses a board with a hydrofoil attached underneath.
Wingsurfing is a great entry-level introduction. It’s slower, easy to learn and requires less technique than wingfoiling. No previous watersports experience is necessary, making it a great option for all abilities and ages.
If you want to progress to wingfoiling you’ll need a board and foil specifically designed for wingfoiling. Understanding how the foil works and more importantly how to control it takes practice, but with a little tuition you’ll be up and taking your first flights before you know it.
What experience do you need?
The best thing about dinghy sailing, windsurfing and now wingsurfing is that you don’t need any prior watersports experience to get started. Mastering the basics of wingsurfing is incredibly easy and anyone can give it a go. I recently met a 79-year-old who was loving the new challenge!
Windsurfers may find wingsurfing a little more difficult in very light winds as you have to hold the wing above your head with very little power assisting you. But once the breeze picks up, wingsurfing potentially has a quicker learning curve and many people will find it easier to progress.
As is the case when trying anything new, it’s a good idea to take some lessons to help set the foundations and enhance your progression. Our instructors know all the tricks and tips to get you winging across the water in no time.
How long does it take to learn to wingsurf?
Grasping the initial skills of learning to fly the wing, go across the wind, turn around and come back should take around four hours (Learn to Wingsurf).
Once you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll increase your confidence winging upwind and improving your tacking and gybing in a similar timeframe (Improve your Wingsurfing).
And by the end of the first two courses, you should be at a good level to go out and practice the skills you’ve learnt, holding ground upwind and being able to return to the point you started from.
Confident wingsurfers can then progress onto foiling and take their first flights!
What are the best conditions for wingsurfing and wingfoiling?
As is the case for most watersports when you’re just starting out, the flatter the water the better. Ideally you’ll want a nice cross shore wind too.
Flat water is also beneficial as you progress onto wingfoiling, but you'll also need to factor in the water depth and any underwater hazards due to the hydrofoil under the board.
How much wind do you need to wingsurf or wingfoil?
You can get wingsurfing in as little as 5kts of wind, any less and it’s a real shoulder work out! As your skill and technique improves you can head out in stronger winds, up to about 15kts for beginners.
For foiling you need about 10-15kts initially, and as your skills improve you will be able to get foiling in lighter winds, as well as staying out in stronger winds up to about 25kts.
How fast do you go?
Wingsurfing is probably slower than you’d expect, making it really good fun and actually quite relaxing. But if you decide to progress on to wingfoiling you can reach speeds up to 25kts!
What equipment do you need?
On a course everything is provided, so it’s a great way to give it a go and see if you like it without investing straight away.
Once hooked, you will need a wetsuit and a buoyancy aid or impact vest. If you’re learning to foil, you’ll need a helmet too.
For wingsurfing, you will need a wing around 2.8-4m (depending on the individual learning and the conditions) and a board with sufficient volume and a centreboard or fin.
If you decide to progress onto wingfoiling, you will need a dedicated wingfoiling board with a foil that’s appropriate for your ability.
As with all sports it’s important to get the right equipment for your level of skill and experience or it will really hamper your progression. Copying what the pros use might look good, but it won’t get you up and riding!
In general the kit is fairly affordable - yes even for foiling! As recently as five years ago, the availability and cost made most foiling spots an unrealistic option for most people, but the developments in materials and equipment over the last few years have been huge and there’s now something for most price points and abilities.
Can I use a wing with a SUP or windsurfing board?
Yes! This is one of the reasons wingsurfing is so accessible. There are a few requirements you’ll need to check, but it’s possible you might be able to get started using your existing kit.
You can use a large to medium volume windsurfing board with a centreboard or a WindSUP (stand-up paddle board) with a centre fin. Centre fins are commonly found on WindSUPs, but most normal SUPs won't have one. Don't worry if yours doesn't, they can be retro fitted to the bottom of most boards.
How do I get started?
Sound good? It couldn’t be easier to get started. The new RYA Wingsurfing and Wingfoiling courses are now available at a selection of RYA recognised training centres around the UK and overseas.
Learn in a safe and fun environment with the support and expertise of specially trained RYA instructors.