Pics: James Jagger, Tez Plavenieks
We’ve spoken to Windsurfing UK/SUP Mag UK’s editor Tez Plavenieks before about hydrofoiling. With the discipline(s) still getting quite a lot of attention we thought we’d catch up with the south coast flyer to see where the sport’s are at in 2020.
What are you loving right now? Windsurf or SUP foiling the best?
That’s a tough question and very much depends on conditions. As most will be all too aware the UK’s weather is fickle, without any real consistency. Add to that my local area’s unpredictability and you end up with a lot of head-scratching. I tend to windfoil (windsurf) more. But that’s because we tend to get more breeze than we do swell. When waves do come they’re often accompanied by wind. Plus, we have an additional complication of tide. Waves may be there but the depth of water could be too shallow for hydrofoiling. The shortest foil mast I own (the upright bit) is 60cm long. If it’s breaking in knee-deep water then SUP foiling’s not on the cards. In that situation I grab my normal stand up paddle board.
Has hydrofoiling exploded as some predicted?
Foiling gets a lot of interest – in associated media and with views/reads online from people who haven’t yet made the leap. It’s a fair expense to get set up with gear and then there’s the time a rider needs to spend getting to grips with the skills. You may foil/fly on your first attempt. But there’ll be LOTS of crashes. Having got the feeling of flight it’s then a case of learning to control ride height and sustaining flight. So no, it hasn’t exploded. Instead, there’s a steady trickle of new recruits. Out of the two foiling disciplines, I see more windsurf foilers coming in to the fold than SUP foilers. I was the first person in my area to SUP foil and during the last few years there’s only really one other regular, with a couple who’ve visited. Windfoiler numbers have increased a little but are still rare on most days. Further afield and it’s similar. Small numbers of growth but not large scale by any means.
What’s foiling gear like in 2020?
Much easier to use and much more efficient! In terms of foils I’m using (mostly) bigger foil wings these days, and the lower aspect types. Unless it’s blowing, then I go smaller for windfoiling. For SUP foiling I stick with bigger wings as I want to utilise small wave conditions. When it gets bigger I go back to standard stand up paddle boards. That’s in contrast to windfoiling as I can fly, in control, up to around 30 knots. So I tend to choose whether I windfoil or windsurf depending on my mood.
What’s with these wing foiling thingies?
Wings for wingsurfing and wing foiling really came on the scene in 2019 (although they’d been around in some shape or form since the early 80s). They’re sort of like inflatable kites without lines where you hold the middle strut. Whilst you can use them without a foil they’re at their most efficient when paired with. It’s still early days yet for wing foiling. I’ve tested a few but prefer windsurf and SUP foiling over wing foiling. That may change…We’ll see I guess.
How’s getting afloat with the current COVID-19 situation?
Not happening. I enjoyed a decent winter of windfoiling, windsurfing, (some) SUP foiling and SUP surfing before it all kicked off. A few locals have been out but they’ve been small numbers. My situation, with a vulnerable, immunosuppressed child, means my family have been locked down 100%. We’re seeing how things pan out. I’d have been totally selfish to have gone out with all of what’s going on. Once this second phase of three-week lockdown has passed I’m going to head back out for flat water paddles on my SUP though. I can stay well clear of everyone. As far as foiling and stuff, that’ll come later.
Where do you see foiling disciplines heading?
It’s hard to say. I think there’ll be more foilers hearing the call but 2020 may be written off for many. As I say, it takes time to get to grips with. Just because you fly first time doesn’t mean you’ve nailed it. Being proficient at anything takes dedication and practice. Gear will undoubtedly become even more user friendly though. And hopefully cheaper. I’m a big advocate of foiling and am intrigued how things will develop.
Nice one Tez, we hope you get back to normality soon. Cheers!
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