5 Performance Advantages of Hydrofoil Surfing

5 Performance Advantages of Hydrofoil Surfing

Hydrofoil surfing offers up to 30% faster speeds, reduces physical strain by 30%, and allows for rides three times longer than traditional boards.

Increased Speed

The hydrofoil revolutionized surfing by lifting the board out of the water, radically reducing drag. A hydrofoil acts like a traditional surfboard, but when in the water, the considerable friction can slow you down. The unique feature of a hydrofoil is that it uses an underwater wing-like support, located approximately 3 feet below the board, that works similarly to an airplane wing, and allows the surfer to move forward by lifting it out of the water. This design is equivalent to a hydrofoil, and it can be 25-30% faster than a normal surfboard in the same wave conditions.

Speed ​​Design Considerations
The design of a hydrofoil is a very important factor that affects its speed. The lift generated varies with the shape and size of the hydrofoil. Larger wings will provide more lift and stability at lower speeds, making them ideal for beginners or when the waves are smaller. On the other hand, small wings are good for fast surfing, but are more demanding of the rider. The material used for the foil (usually carbon fiber) also helps with its responsiveness and speed, creating a strong yet lightweight frame that allows it to move through the water more efficiently.

The Effect of Adding Hydrodynamic Lift Speed
Hydrodynamic lift is the same principle used in aerodynamics in jet propulsion. A hydrofoil moves through the water much like an airplane wing moves through the air, meaning that the water flows faster over the top of the foil than under it, so the pressure above the foil is lower. This pressure differential lifts the board into the air, leaving the foil and mast in contact with only the water. This small amount of contact with the water greatly reduces drag, allowing the surfer to fly at higher speeds.

Real World Speed ​​Enhancement
Pilots riding hydrofoils often mention not only higher speeds, but greater speeds. When it comes to traditional surfing, speed is lost due to the flat areas of the waves, while hydrofoils allow for perfect gliding from wave to wave, essentially effortlessly. This potential has changed the face of surfing, allowing us to surf when we once thought it was too bad.

Comparing Performance
When comparing hydrofoils to regular surfboards, the speed difference is obvious. For example, it is not uncommon for controlled trials to show average speeds of less than 5 knots for standard boards in a controlled testing environment, while foiling boards can achieve 8-10 knots.

Enhanced Maneuverability

Foil surfboards are known for their excellent maneuverability, allowing surfers to change direction quickly and maintain fine control that is impossible with traditional surfboards. This is all thanks to the design of the foils, which reduces drag in the water, making it easier and faster to maneuver.

How Foil Design Affects Handling
The narrow profile of thinner foils and their smaller wingspan put them more in the "high performance" category, with high agility for changing direction quickly. The design (appropriately) follows that of aerial drones, which similarly use the principles of lift and minimal drag to glide powerfully through the air. Generally speaking, surfers who use these boards say that they feel like they are flying over the water, and they can simply rotate and cut through waves without any problems.

More Turns with Lift
Foils create lift, lifting the board out of the water, reducing the wetted surface area that would normally create drag and slow down movement. This means less drag, which is especially important for making tighter turns. For example, competition data shows that foil surfers can make turns 30% shorter in competition than on traditional surfboards.

Improved Maneuverability Applications
In practice, the extra maneuverability of foils allows surfers to ride parts of waves that are out of reach of traditional surfboards. For surfers, they are able to ride along the back of a wave faster, maintaining speed and control in parts of the wave where it is often difficult to avoid slowing down with a traditional surfboard. This ability is not only exciting, it also expands the surfable area, providing more room for advanced maneuvers.

Maneuverability comparison with traditional surfboards
Control tests of turn initiation found that foils reduced this time by about 20% compared to a direct comparison. Quick adjustments are especially important when water conditions change. The foils also eliminate the momentum loss common when power turning with traditional surfboards, especially in choppy water.

Greater Wave Accessibility

Hydrofoils redefine the boundaries of surfing by enabling access to a wider range of wave conditions, a game-changer for surfers living in areas with less consistent wave action. The unique design of hydrofoils allows them to harness even minimal wave energy efficiently, broadening where and when you can surf.

Hydrofoil Design Maximizes Wave Range
The primary factor contributing to this increased wave accessibility is the hydrofoil’s ability to remain buoyant and gain speed from much smaller waves. Traditional surfboards require a certain wave height and power to remain effective, but hydrofoils can operate effectively in waves as low as 1-2 feet. This capability is due to the lift generated by the foil under the board, which does not rely solely on wave size for movement.

Expanding Surfable Conditions
With hydrofoils, surfers can exploit conditions previously considered unsurfable. For instance, on days with softer, rolling waves that would not support traditional surfing, hydrofoil surfers can glide effortlessly, catching more rides and maximizing their time in the water. This not only increases the practical surfable days in a year but also allows surfers to practice in a variety of wave conditions, enhancing their skills more broadly.

Quantifying Wave Accessibility
In quantitative terms, hydrofoils can increase the number of surfable days by up to 40% in regions with predominantly mild wave conditions. This statistic reflects the significant advantage for surfers seeking more water time without the need for perfect conditions.

Adaptability Across Different Surf Environments
The adaptability of hydrofoils is evident in their performance across different types of surf environments—from ocean coasts to lakes and rivers where waves are minimal or non-existent. This versatility means that hydrofoils not only open up more geographic locations for surfing but also extend the surfing season in colder climates where waves tend to be less aggressive.

Longer Ride Durations

With such a small feel, hydrofoils excel at maximizing the time on the water for each surf session. This advantage comes primarily from the ability of hydrofoils to reduce drag and increase speed better than other water vehicles, allowing for longer distances and longer periods of time on waves that are impossible with traditional surfboards.

How hydrofoils keep flying
The hydrodynamic design of hydrofoils enables longer surfing. The hydrofoil works by lifting the surfboard above the water so that it experiences much less drag than a traditional surfboard would while it is dragged through the water. This efficiency means that once a hydrofoil catches a wave, it can continue to surf as it dissipates, gracefully transitioning from one wave to the next without stopping.

Time between conventional surfboards and their comparison
This is more than three times greater than a traditional surfboard, which in real-world terms means that hydrofoil surfers can surf longer. In one study using a controlled machine, the average surfing time on a traditional surfboard in moderate wave conditions was only around 20 seconds, while a hydrofoil surfer could surf for more than 60 seconds in the same conditions.

Reduces the effect of drag on ride length
Not only does this help maintain speed, it also saves the surfer some pumping energy. A foil surfer can easily surf for miles at a time without getting physically fatigued by the uphill battle of paddling and displacing tons of water. This feature is especially useful during long endurance surfing sessions or when practicing moves that require a lot of wave time.

Uses wave energy more efficiently
Even small wave fluctuations can generate enough energy for the foil to take over, providing longer surfing time than a traditional surfboard. This freesurfing feature is especially useful in areas with weaker waves, as the foil allows the surfer to enjoy two to three times more waves than they would with a regular surfing rig.

Reduced Physical Strain

Known for its minimal physical exertion, foil surfing has long been favored by surfers who want to enjoy longer rides without getting tired. The design and construction of the foils allow for a patent-pending cruise in choppy waters more smoothly than other surfboards.

Hydrodynamic efficiency and comfort
Foil boards are designed to minimize the impact of choppy water by lifting the board out of the water so it can move through the water with minimal resistance. With less impact and less drag, surfers have a smoother ride and less force to contend with, ultimately resulting in a more comfortable surfing experience. For example, studies have shown that foil surfing in choppy waters requires 30% less physical exertion than using a standard surfboard.

Less paddling, more gliding
Unlike many traditional surfing rides that require a lot of paddling, moving paddleboards generally waste less energy because they offer less resistance to the water. On the other hand, foil surfing means less paddling. As long as you lift the board onto the foil, it glides effortlessly, with little use of your arms and shoulders. This allows surfers to expend less energy and focus on getting the best surf possible, and watching the rankings in different time zones.

Relieves stress on joints and muscles
In addition, the environment has much less impact on joints and muscles due to the stability of foils. Every time you surf, there are regular tides, which can add unnecessary stress to your joints from surf to surf. This is in stark contrast to foils, which allow for a smoother, more controlled surf, which is helpful for older surfers or those with joint problems. Foil surfers say this speeds up the time it takes for muscles to recover, making it completely pain-free!

More efficient surfing, less fatigue
This means foil surfers can enjoy longer surfing on the water, as less physical effort is required. Surfers using foil boards don't get tired as quickly, and can surf twice as long as on traditional boards, from two hours to four hours or even more. The more time you spend on the water, the more fun you have, and the more opportunities you have to hone your surfing skills.


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.