stevez wrote: ↑
Mon Feb 19, 2018 12:36 pm
I've had probably about 15 sessions on the Gofoil Kai this year. In all sorts of conditions, ranging from 10 to 30 knots. Wave size from almost nothing to about 5 feet. We've had the tail end of two tropical cyclones come to NZ this year, and the third is on it's way tomorrow. I'm hoping tomorrow I'm going to get another chance to test my own limits.
I've pretty much got to the point where I reckon that whatever the guys are riding with sups can be done with a kite. You're really just swapping out the paddle for a kite. I'm riding a very small kite - most of the sessions have been on the 3.5 cloud, even when twin tippers are generally on 9 and 10s. With the small kite you have the advantage of a surge of energy to get you onto the wave, but once you're on the wave, you're going almost straight downwind, or at least close to it, and the small kites have so much depower as it is. So there's almost no pull from the kite, the challenge can be to keep it in the air, and you're definitely testing the limits of the kites ability to drift. But the main thing is it's only the wave propelling you, so at that point it's as if you don't have the kite.
On the one occasion I was completely overpowered it wasn't so much fun - ok on the wave heading straight downwind (again the power even then almost completely turned off) - but when you come to the end of the run and you start bearing into the wind the apparent wind catches you and it's a bit of a handful to slow down. So you really want to be on the smallest kite possible, and it gives you the most flexibility to really surf the wave without the kite playing much of a part.
Regarding wave size and speed, it's quite surprising how much speed you can hold with a sup foil, at least a smaller one like the Kai. It does take a lot of front foot pressure and quite a bit of commitment really. Especially if you drop into a steeper section. But you do get used to it - I'm getting better at it with practice. Just before I go down I shift my front foot forward, and maybe even both feet a few inches forward, and get ready to lean over the front like crazy. I certainly haven't maxed out on any of the waves I've ridden, but of course I haven't ridden the big stuff. The key point though is that you can hold more speed with a SUP foil when that speed is generated entirely from a wave than if that speed is generated from being highly powered by a kite. Maybe because you don't need to counteract the effect of the lift of the kite itself, which would unweight you enough to make it hard to get weight over the front of the foil and keep it under control.
There's no sweeter feeling on earth (that I've experienced at least) than the rush of flying down a wave on a hydrofoil, propelled entirely by the power of a wave. You don't get that feeling on regular kitefoil, unless the waves get really big. And even if they are quite big, I think it's too easy to outrun the wave, and find yourself in the flat section in front, where you need kite power to pull you back onto it. If you outrun the wave on a sup foil you give a few pumps to stay on the foil while the wave catches up with you. Pumping is a big part of it. With a regular kitefoil pumping is not effective.
To me the holy grail, not what I'd like to do myself, but what I'd like to see one day, is somehow people getting dialed into the big waves like Jaws and surfing them on a foil, but with the kite, where the kite is just the tow back upwind. It's definitely possible in some way, but I don't think they'll be doing it the way Kai Lenny does it in the Jaws video on this thread - he's going way too fast down the line, and no kite would be able to stay in the air at that speed, unless it's blowing 60 knots and the kite is a 1.2m trainer kite of some sort maybe. But maybe there's another way of doing it where you're going more slowly, but you'd have to start off further on the shoulder and stay out of the crunch zone and just ride the gentler slopes in a straighter direction. At least to begin with, and then slowly start pushing it in! There are so many variables to take into account - wave size, speed, shape, the way it's breaking, wind speed, direction etc, plus all the equipment variables, foil, kite etc. It's going to take a while to explore all these.
On the very bottom end the same applies to riding on a sup foil. You can catch the tiniest little swells and ride them with a kite on a sup foil, and still get the feeling of the wave power, but I for smaller waves and light winds, I'd like to try out an even bigger foil, like one of the bigger sup foils or even a downwind specific foil. Then you just go downwinding with a kite instead of a foil - use the kite to tow yourself quite far upwind, then set a course downwind where there's just enough apparent wind to keep the kite in the air. Then off you go in that direction, catching the swells as you go, and putting in a few pumps between them to stay on the foil. If you run out of gas on the foil, bear upwind a bit to pick up a little wind power to take you until the next bump comes along, then switch back into downwind mode and get onto that. There's so many new possibilities in this sport - it's a marvellous new journey of exploration.