I tried eFoiling, the hobby the world’s richest rigs can’t seem to get enough of. But is it just an attempt to humanise themselves, or is it really that fun? I went on a mission to find out.
If Zuckerberg can do it, I can do it, right? As I lay in the water, semi-stunned, for the umpteenth time, that thought rang in my head. But no: despite the fact some keyboard overlord and a bunch of famous Formula One drivers (mostly known for sitting on their arses at break neck speeds, and training said bulging appendages) are able to eFoil with aplomb, I, a surfer was failing miserably. How could this be?
Well, as my instructor Jamie told me, eFoiling is a great leveller (“we’ve had all sorts get up on these”). That’s not just a testament to Fliteschool Manly’s teaching, but also a part of the attraction for both surfers and civilians alike: it’s a challenge, but deeply satisfying when you get the hang of it.
Before we dive straight into the water at a speed that makes it feel like concrete, what is an electric foil? An electic foil is technically classed as a Jet Ski (despite producing less noise, emissions and wake), however, it is actually more like a surfboard on top of a spoke, attatched to a metal (or carbon fibre, or whatever fancy material your eFoil brand of choice has chosen to use) wing.
Just above the wing of the hydrofoil is an electric propeller, which powers the board to move through the water. When you reach sufficient speed the surfboard lifts itself out of the water, and the only thing left beneath the surface is the foil and propeller.
eFoils are powered by a nearly silent electric motor and have rechargeable batteries. They are controlled by a handheld wireless remote that syncs to the eFoil via Bluetooth. The one I used had a “dead man’s switch,” so when I fell off (and stopped squeezing the trigger) the propeller stopped automatically.
After seeing the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Kai Lenny, Laird Hamilton, Lewis Hamilton and Romain Grosjean frolicking around places like Europe and Hawaii on eFoils, I figured I ought to give it a try. Thanks to Fliteschool Manly, I got my chance on the beautiful waters of Bobbin Head, North Turramurra. Here’s how it went, and everything I learnt along the way.
WATCH: My First Time Trying An eFoil
Foiling Is Not As Easy As It Looks
Foiling (especially eFoiling, where you don’t have to pump with your legs) may look effortless, but it’s very tiring when you’re learning how to distribute your weight, and I found it much harder to learn than I expected. Rather than whizzing around the lake at break neck speed, I proceeded to fall on my face at little more than ego-break speed for the first half an hour or so. I also shot myself a little in the foot on the boat ride to the lesson area, talking up my surfing and anticipating I would probably “pick it up quickly.”
Foiling Is An Art
Despite the visual resemblance, foiling is nothing like surfing, wakeboarding or snowboarding. It’s its own thing. To begin with, you have to learn to ride it on your knees. Then, once you are comfortable riding it at a low speed (without the foil popping out of the water), you begin to experiment with leaning back, once the speed setting (there are 20 levels) hits 4. Leaning back causes the board to lift out of the water, and you get to experience the true sensation of foiling. At this point you must lean back until the board gets properly out of the water, but lean forward before you get too high, otherwise you will come too far out of the water, and the foil will buck, throwing you off. Once you figure this out on your knees, you then give it a shot on your feet.
Foiling Makes You Feel Like You’ve Just Done A Hard Day’s Snowboarding
When I finished for the afternoon, I got that sense of tightness, tenseness and rattled-ness that I’ve only ever had before from snowboarding – except in both legs. It really is a great leg workout.
Though It’s Easy To Mock, It’s Incredibly Fun
Some surfers might mock anything that’s not a 5’11” shortboard (from SUPS to mid lengths to goat boats, nothing escapes the piss taking), but I found eFoiling very fun, and it was satisfying to find a new challenge to have a crack at. I might not be ready to charge over to Shark Island and catch two waves in a set on one just yet (as one madman did on a DIY Jet Board in April) but I definitely see how people get into it.
Foiling Is Growing
Whether you love it or hate it, foiling seems to be here to stay (it might even become the new trendy alternative to jet-skis in places like Monaco and St Tropez in the years to come, and we can definitely picture it starting to pop up more in superyacht inventories). As Founder, CEO and Product Architect of Fliteboard David Trewern told DMARGE: “we have taught thousands of people to Fliteboard across the world, with offices in 3 countries, nearly 100 full time staff, 300 commercial partners and numerous international awards.”
David also told us that, though the biggest market is men aged around 45-65 years old, the 18-24 age bracket has increased in the last 12 months alongside an increase from female customers purchasing, so the Fliteboarding audience is not just growing but “diversifying into other age demographics and genders.” During my lesson I was also told that it is becoming a popular option for corporate team building days.
When Starting Out Foiling, Getting A Lesson Will Save You Time
David’s top tips for beginner foilers are “Watch our how to Fliteboard video on YouTube, and get a lesson if you can.” He also says: “Don’t forget the PFD and helmet.” Beyond that, he recommends you choose conditions carefully for your first session (“Smooth water makes learning significantly easier”), take your time and keep things smooth (“Imagine the foil is an airplane under the water. It wants to fly straight, it wants to be horizontal and have smooth power. The goal is smooth water flow over the wings for easy flying”) and start with touch and goes and short stints foiling above the water for only a few seconds at a time (“This allows your brain to work out this new balance skill step by step with minimal crashes and maximum safety”).
eFoils Are Quite Expensive, So Lessons Are An Attractive Way To Start Off
Pricing starts at $17,995 for a Fliteboard Complete package. Lessons, on the other hand, start at a couple hundred bucks.