After a great season riding in the waves the GoFoil Kai, I got my hands on the KeNalu foil. It's a brand well known and respected in the stand up paddle community for their paddles, but not well known by kitesurfers. But this foil setup has many things about it that kitefoilers will like, and may even appeal to them as much or more than paddle boarders.
But first some observations about the Gofoil. This has been a game changer for me for riding in small to medium surf, all kinds of winds. It's brought a new dimension to waveriding, being able to surf the wave and not outrun it, really feel the power of the wave take over from the kite (such a sweet feeling), being able to pump between sections without having to turn to the kite for power. It's easy to ride, carves nicely, and rockets upwind under little power.
I originally got the Gofoil because I wanted to sup foiling. It turns out most people my size are prefering the bigger Iwa foil for sup foiling. For kite foiling in strong winds and bigger waves the GoFoil Kai also has its limitations, becoming a bit of a handful to control, and the mast is too short for high wind conditions when the water is choppy and there's a lot of white water around. Because the Gofoil setup is not modular I couldn't upgrade it by adding a longer mast / new wings, so I started looking around for alternatives. I was fortunate to get an intro special on the KeNalu, and took a chance on it.
Ok first some observations on the setup and build. This is just a beautiful foil. It really is the shizz - it just looks so slick. Build quality is great - it is seriously robust. The KeNalu comes in 2 wing sizes, a 580 and a 775. These are the wingspans in mm. My 775 wing weighs a whopping 1.8kg. That's 1.8kg of prepreg carbon, it's solid and stiff as a plank. The 580 is a more moderate 1.0kg but still also seriously solid. I really like the fact that it's totally modular. This makes it suitable for travel, and easy to upgrade or replace parts. I also like that the wing mounts are flat on flat surfaces. And being able to switch between plate and tuttle mount without adaptors is nice.
The fuselage is aluminium reinforced carbon. It's not particularly light either, especially after checking out my friend's Ketos. So the overall weight is quite heavy for a predominantly carbon setup, but still lighter, and probably quite a lot stronger and stiffer than any alu setup out there. Alarm bells may ring for some on the alu carbon contribution with galvanic corrosion, as it did for me, and after quite a bit of research on the topic, I satisfied myself that it would be fine if I disassemble, rinse and dry after each session. It does mean that leaving it assembled from one day to the next is not an option.
Another small niggle is the bolt holes on the base plate are 90 x 140 or 160. Not the de facto industry standard 90 x 165. And it's m6 bolts, not m8. So works fine for tracks, but not for my pocket board (though I have set about remedying this).
Although both are intended as surf / sup wings, I'd say the 580 is really more of a kite wing, or maybe a bigger wave tow in surf wing. It just feels too light and fast for sup. The 775 is more of a sup wing, but as I've just found out, it's awesome for kitesurfing in the waves. Although it looks much like the Gofoil Kai from the top in terms of size, it feels like a lot less wing. It is sleeker and faster with with less aggressive lift. The foot position is probably about 8-10 cm further back from where you stand on the Gofoil, which makes it more pocket board friendly.
The 580 has a similar top profile to the Gofoil Kai
But a very different profile from the front.
The 580 wing works well as a freeride wing in flat water. My first ride was on the 580 in flat water and I got along with it immediately. In flat water it cruises at basically the same speed as my Stringy foil, my regular freeride kitefoil. I rode them back-to-back with a GPS and I couldn't see any real difference in speed. But in flat water it's a bit less smooth, a bit like riding on a road tarred with slightly bigger stones than on the stringy foil. Understandable I suppose. Though you don't feel this sensation in the waves though. I found it super easy to ride from the start. My first tack attempt I foiled straight through - I'm at the stage with tacks where I can complete most times, but normally touch down. And it's really quite fun a playful and carvy, but stable and easy to ride at the same time, and easy to learn new manoeuvres. It obviously has a very low foiling speed. I'd say it will make a great beginner foil.
Its real sweet spot is as a wave wing in slightly bigger faster surf. I had a go in decent 3 ft swell with 25 knot wind, and it was awesome, so lively and so much fun. Faster than the Gofoil Kai, and easier to drop down steep sections without exploding lift. I struggled with the 66cm mast in these conditions, and felt the need for a full 90cm. I was getting spat out a lot, and the margin for error is very low at the speed that it can go at. I will definitely be getting a longer mast at some point.
The other day I got my first ride on the 775. The wind didn't come through as expected, and I found myself short a kite size or two. There was a small but decent 1-2 ft wave, and I knew I wouldn't get going on the smaller wing. The big wing was a revelation. I was up and out and riding these swells that hardly existed. But once on them, many times I just forgot I had a kite. This foil is perfect for these conditions. It's a superbly balanced manoevreable, fun foil. It seems to be less front foot balanced than the Gofoil. I'm still standing at least 5cm further back. It also seems to accelerate down the face without quite the intense surge of front foot pressure that requires you to lean right over the front like crazy with the Gofoil. There's nothing draggy about this foil - it seems to have awesome glide, and a great speed range. These are just my first impressions, I don't have it dialed at all. The good thing is the back can be shimmed to change the back wing angle of attack, which might alter this behavior somewhat. In any event, I had my best light wind small wave session ever. Coming too close to shore, the wind had dropped and I was having to work at it to keep my 6.2 cloud in the air, but once got the board in place and dived the kite, I popped straight onto the foil and ride straight out. I couldn't believe I was able to ride such a small kite in probably no more 10 knots, and not want for power at all.
Here my current setup and with the 775 wing.
This is how it was on the day, small but rideable waves, and not a white cap in sight, but a 6.2m kite was still enough.
I think the 775 is going to be my go-to foil for kite foiling in the waves, in anything less than 3 feet and less than 20 knots, after which I'll probably be switching down to the 580, which is contrary to my initial assumption, which is that I'd be mainly on the 580. They are different enough to satisfy any need for variety in experience, yet at the same time there is still a similar feel between them.
So I'm pretty stoked about this new setup - ticks pretty much all the boxes for me on the wave foiling front. I'm also looking to complete the quiver with the 970 downwind wing when it comes out. In the long term I'd like to get into downwind sup riding using the kite to get upwind - or at least explore the possibilities here.