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SUP Foiling | A beginner’s guide to SUP foil boarding

The ABC beginners’ guide to foil boarding

The world of watersports is constantly evolving - and the latest stage of evolution is all about foiling. Smooth, futuristic and supremely capable in light winds or small swell conditions. Foil boards have given watersports enthusiasts a whole new way to ride.

Want to get in on the action but don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered. In this beginners’ guide, you’ll find everything you need to know to get started with hydrofoiling whether your passion is wind, swell, wave, tow, wake or a combination of all.

What is a foil board? 

A foil board is essentially a board with a hydrofoil that extends below the board into the water. A hydrofoil is a hydrodynamically designed fin with two wings that use the pressure of the water to lift the board up and above the surface of the water. This minimizes friction or drag with the water, allowing riders to easily generate energy, momentum and speed regardless of the conditions.

Foil boards can be used for all a wide range of watersports, including Surf Foiling swell and waves, either prone (normal surfing) or stand up (SUP), Kite Foiling and Wing Foiling wind and swell or Tow and Wake Foiling behind a boat or jet ski.  There’s none of the usual noise, drag or resistance associated with regular boards, making foiling a unique and very addictive experience. It is like flying/gliding above the water surface.

Understanding the physics

Foil boarding works under the same principle of lift that allows an aero plane to fly. Essentially, the front wing of a hydrofoil is designed to deflect water pressure downward. This exerts an upward force on the foil, which creates lift and raises the board out of the water.

Putting more weight on your back foot increases the tilt of the wing and creates more lift. Conversely, putting more weight on your front foot pushes the wing underwater and reduces lift. The faster you go, the more the foil is pulled upwards.

Nailing the setup

Ready to start putting together a foiling setup? Here are a few things to think about when it comes to purchasing equipment:


When it comes to choosing equipment, we recommend looking for reputable international brands that lead the world with comprehensive RnD programs designing and testing equipment for all conditions. Leading International brands like F-ONE and Armstrong  are setting the standards worldwide. F-ONE a family owned business have been leaders in the boardriding industry since 1994 and continue to innovate and lead the world. Armstrong is designed right here in Aotearoa and have been carefully engineered to withstand both the rugged New Zealand conditions and the physical demands of the rider. Investing in quality gear from the get-go also gives you a bit of head room in terms of future proofing and ensures your setup can keep up with you as you learn to master the sport.

Foiling discipline

Decide on the foiling discipline you would like to do e.g. Surf Foiling waves or swell which can be done either prone like normal surfing or stand up with a paddle. Or wind foiling which can be Kite Foiling or the latest sport to hit the water Wing Foiling. Or Tow foiling and Wake Foiling. The foiling discipline will determine some components of the equipment you consider. The Hydro Foil brands we offer are modular so components can be setup for any foiling discipline and later added to so you can foil a range of disciplines. 

Front Wing 

As general guide the size of the front wing determines the performance of the foil and what range of disciplines it will suit.  Large front wings with a thick profile generate lift at lower speeds, while a smaller front wing with a thinner profile generate lift at higher speeds. Front wings come in a range of plan shapes covering low to moderate aspect ratios through to high aspect ratios. (plan shape aspect ratio is the measurement “wing tip to wing tip” compared to the measurement “wing front edge to trailing edge”).  There are many aspect ratio variables that determine the performance of the foil. As a general guide low to moderate aspect front wings are being best for starting out. 

Mast size

Mast length determines how high you can ride your board above the water. Shorter masts are much easier and more forgiving to learn on. Perfect for beginners who haven’t yet mastered the precise movements needed for pinpoint control to keep the hydro foil under the water surface. Longer masts offer greater water clearance for the board achieving better speed, tighter turns or control in rougher water conditions.

General tips for your first few sessions

  • Foiling is a journey of learning: Both on and off the water. It takes some time, practice and understanding. Take the journey with us, and explore the amazing thrills it offers.
  • Watersport experience: You’re going to find foiling a whole lot easier if you have previous watersports experience under your belt. Being confident with surfing, either prone or stand up paddle, kiteboarding, windsurfing, water skiing and wakeboarding will give you a head start. 
  • Learn from the pros on ideal equipment: The best way to get started with foiling is to get some instruction! Investing in instruction ensures you develop the correct technique right from the start, which can fast track learning and save you hours of frustration. At Assault Boardriding Centre, we offer a specialized Foil School, where you can safely learn how to Kite foil, Surf foil, SUP foil and Wing foil under the guidance of our experienced foiling instructors. We use equipment ideally suited to learning. Once you’ve got the hang of it, talk to us about renting equipment on a casual basis or let us set you up with your own. Enquire about our “rent to buy” options. 
  • Be safe: Consider other beach and water users. Never use foils in crowded water locations.  When you wipe out, you’re going to be hitting the water harder than normal thanks to the elevation added by your hydrofoil, so be safe and consider wearing a helmet and protective vest. 

Get started with foil boarding

Okay, enough with the theory - it’s time to get out on the water! Check out our awesome range of foil boarding equipment or give us a call on 027 245 7540 and our foil boarding experts will be more than happy to point you in the right direction.

Get started with foil boarding

Okay, enough with the theory - it’s time to get out on the water! Check out our awesome range of foil boarding equipment or give us a call on 027 245 7540 and our foil boarding experts will be more than happy to point you in the right direction.


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