We got our first taste of foiling in Aug of 2022. Below is a video of Nate and Alan out on their first try riding a foil. Nate took to it pretty quickly having some wakeboard experience, Alan struggled a bit but we since learned it was easier to just go out there with the wing and try it. We started with a large beginner foil from Axis and a 125L board. In the last year, Alan has progressed to smaller foils and learned to gybe on foil. There is a healthy club of wing foilers in New Bern, NC called the East Carolina Foil Club and in 2023 we even saw the first wing foil race in NC off of shell point at Harkers Island along with the "Around harkers island regatta". We also have an excellent foil gear shop called Banx Watersports in New bern formerly Standup Outfitters that now sells primarially wing foil equipment!
"Foiling" is a relatively new sport and is changing all the time. There are many diciplines that fall into the "foiling" category. Here are some.
-kite foiling (kit surfing but on foil)
-"wind" foiling (wind surfing but on foil)
-wing foiling (holding an inflatable wing for propulsion while riding a foiling board)
-prone foiling (foiling on a surfboard riding the waves)
-SUP foiling (Stand up Paddle board surfing but on foil)
-Downwind foiling (foiling on downwind ocean swells with or without a paddle)
-wake foiling (foiling behind a boat wake)
We were drawn specifically to wing foiling. Wing foiling uses minimal gear. A board, foil and an inflatable hand wing are all you need. Compared to windsurfing the setup time is nearly instantaneous. Just pull your board out, attach the foil, inflate the wing and you're ready. Compared to kite surfing you can launch anywhere without worrying about a safe place to launch your kite, space to lay out lines or worry about the wind direction. Many former windsurf and kitsurfers have taken now to wing foiling. Wing foil races are also very popular with slolom, upwing and freestyle competitions.
Alan foiling on the Bay River, NC
Hollow Plywood foil board kits:
Foiling gear is progressing all the time and each advancement is making the sport more fun and cheaper to get into. New hand wing, board and foil shapes keep improving overall efficiency, reducing weight and cost. One of the biggest expenses in wing foiling is the board itself. The first board we bought cost over $1,000. This is compounded by the fact that a larger board is recommended to learn on but you grow out of it relatively quickly and then need a smaller board to progress. Boards come in all shapes and sizes from short sinker boards to long skinny boards that resemble kayaks and each is tailored to rider weight, dicipline and the conditions but the vast majority of foil boards are currently built just like surfboards. A blank is shaped from EPS foam, track boxes are installed and reinforced with a high density foam, and finally the board is sealed and reinforced with fiberglass or carbon fiber. Unlike surfboards however, foil boards are unique in that they must be strong enough to support the riders weight while cantelevered out in front of the foil mast puting tremendous bending load on the board.
We saw an opportunity to design a range of easy to build cnc cut foil board kits from a material we know intimately. Plywood! While not every board shape make sense to do in plywood there are a few unique advantages to a hollow plywood wing foil board. The biggest advantage of course is cost. The cost of materials to build a plywood board are easily half that of a foam board. Some diy board builders we followed on foil board building facebook groups spent over $1000 in materials and equiptment building their homemade boards. High performace foam boards require difficult techniques such as vacuum bagging which is difficult for the beginner to get right the first time and produces a lot of waste.
Flat shapes, hard edges, and relatively thick boards are commonplace with foil board shapes and these shapes lend themselves very well to folded plywood construction. Thinner smaller boards are not ideally suited to hollow plywood construction but the larger, thicker, narrower boards especially the popular "downwinding" or "light wind" style wing boards are perfect for this construction method. A properly engineered plywood foil board will be light and strong every time and does not reply on complicated techniques or require large foam blanks.
Our first plywood board (seen below) is a 135L all around beginner style board. We are in the process of building it now and will be testing it out to make sure it meets our expectations. You can see the build album here. The goal is to keep it under about 16lbs which would make it 2 lbs lighter than the beginner production board we purchased and with 10liters more volume. We will also be offering our cnc files to anyone who wants to cut one out on their own. The material we chose for the first board is 3mm poplar plywood which is about 8 lbs per sheet. The reinforcement cleats are Paulownia wood and select fiberglass reinforcements will strengthen the structure.
To our knowledge this is THE FIRST cnc cut plywood wing foil board to be offered as a kit for homebuilders.
Above: Nate oversees construction of the first plywood board prototype.
Our next board will be in the popular "kalama inspired" downwinding shape. Longer and narrower, designed to takoff on foil in displacment mode as opposed to getting the board up on plane to reach foil takeoff speed. Here is a sneak peak.