1. How to wingfoil upwind
Wingfoiling upwind in an efficient and comfortable manner is an important aspect of the sport. Not only to save you from the embarrassing ‘walk of shame’ to get back to your car/launch point; it’s the gateway to accessing waves and allows you to enjoy the real freedom that wingfoiling has to offer. In this short blog I am going to breakdown the technique in simple stages and identify the best hydrofoils, boards and wingfoil wings that will enable you to rocket up wind with ease.
As with most aspects of wingfoiling, the key to success is a combination of correct technique, experience (time on water in the correct conditions) and suitable equipment. Let’s look at each one in turn and put them all together at the end.
Upwind Body Technique - The age-old adage of ‘your body follows where you look’ could not be more relevant here. If you spend most of your time looking at the windfoil wing (which is downwind of you) or directly in front - that’s exactly where you will go. It’s important to look upwind. This action will naturally twist your shoulders in that direction, along with your hips. This will impose a torque reaction to your feet which, in turn, will point the board upwind. This must be done in unison with banking the board over to windward. The windward heal allows the hydrofoil’s lift vector to act in the direction you desire - upwind. Obviously, this needs to be controlled as too much bank will expose the tips through the surface of the water and allow the foil to ventilate (huge reduction in lift and increase in drag). The optimum amount will depend on the conditions and your equipment. On that note, the angle you hold your wingfoil wing will also make a difference to your upwind performance. It is a very common mistake to over-sheet (pulling in too much with your back hand) and stall the wing. The optimum angle is where the front section should be just engaged - you can achieve this by sheeting out until the front begins to luff (disrupt and back wind) and sheet in a touch to stop this. It should always be on the verge on luffing but not quite.
Experience levels - There is no substitute for time on the water. You can spend hours and hours looking through YouTube videos and reading articles but until you figure it out for yourself you won’t progress. There are so many variables in play with wingfoiling that it’s impossible to describe them all. My advice is to read as much as you can and try as many different techniques on the water - to see which one works for you. This takes time and lots of failure but the key is to enjoy the process.
The Recommended Equipment for Wingfoiling Upwind
Equipment - “A good workman never blames his tools”. This is true, a good wingfoiler can make anything go upwind like a rocket but when learning something for the first time, having incorrect equipment will seriously delay your progression. So, let’s look at each of the parts and identify what is the best kit for going upwind.
Wingfoil Wing: This needs to be a wing with good pre-tension. What I mean by this is a wing that has at least the first 1/3 (from the leading edge) under tension. This gives it a performance profile which minimises drag and allows it to sail closer to the true direction of the wind (taking into account the apparent wind) and good example of this is the Takoon Wing V2. This wing is an upwind machine because 2/3 of the canopy is under tension. This enables fast speeds and good upwind performance. The negative of this is that with only 1/3 of depth, its low end is not as good as wings with less pre-tension.
Foil: A high aspect foil with a long mast is the ideal upwind performance. A good example of this is the Armstrong HA925 with a 100cm mast. The high aspect gives efficiency and reduces drag, aiding the upwind performance, and the long mast allows the rider to bank the board to windward without tip breaches. The disadvantage of these is that high aspect foils are less manoeuvrable and longer masts can be hard to get onto foil in shallow areas, and are very expensive (a longer mast needs to be made stiffer due to the extended righting moment. If you try and achieve this by making it thicker the drag goes up - making it slower. Superior materials and manufacturing processes need to take place to avoid theses inefficiencies, this is costly!). Like with most aspects of wingfoiling, there is a balance to be struck. If you are wingfoiling in waves and surf; you don’t want to be able to rocket upwind but not have the manoeuvrability to actually ride the waves!
In summary, the key to good upwind performance is ensuring you are looking upwind (twisting your upper body to the true direction of the wind) and leaning the board to windward. This combined with a mid-high aspect, efficient foil and a longer mast will give you all the tools you need to increase your upwind angles. All that’s left to do is practice, practice, practice!
As always, if you have any questions about kit and/or techniques, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at email@example.com
Clear skies and good winds