How to Wing Foil

How to Wing Foil

This section of the website goes into detail on exactly how to Wing Foil.

There is in depth descriptions on how to use wing or sail, the wing foil board, the hydro foil and how these all interact with each other.

Knowing how to wing foil includes understanding all the equipment, set up and all safety measures.

There are separate pages on this website that go into great detail about the equipment, safety measures, the relevance of wing foil lessons and advanced foiling.

On this page we will assume you understand the equipment, have the right equipment for your skill level and are taking all the necessary safety measures.

The sections below cover:-

1 – Sail – using the sail for propulsion, steering and balance.
2 – Board – getting on the board with the sail, wind orientation and using the sail to move forward
3 – Hydrofoil – how the hydrofoil works how you get up on the foil
4 – Putting it all together
5 – Advanced Manoeuvres
6 – Enjoying the Sport

1 - how to Kite, sail or wing.

Once you have inflated the sail and connected the leash you will notice some handles. There is a handle on the leading inflated edge in middle of the front large tube, this is for use when surfing a wave and you need no power from the sail. There is also a  front handle and back handle on the inflated tube the goes from the sail front edge to the back edge (this is known as the main strut). Some sails have several handles or even a bar.

Practice with the sail on land first.

To practice have your back to the wind. Take the sail by the front handle on the main strut and hold it in your preferred hand. Then with your other hand hold the rear handle. If you extend your arm holding the front handle and pull your arm holding the rear handle the sail will pull more. If the sail pulls too hard pull in with your front hand a lengthen or let go or your rear hand. This way there is less sail surface area facing across the wind so the sail will pull less. If it all goes wrong you can just let go of both handles and let the leash stop the sail from blowing away.

Recover the sail again front handle first then back handle. Ease the power on and off and get a feel of how it works.

Notice how you can steer the sail up and down. Steer it over your head and into wind for less power. Lower and across the wind is more power.

Good sail holding

To avoid tendon pain or injury practice keeping your front arm fully extended with all the muscles relaxed except those in your hand. It is a natural response to tense too many muscles when learning something new. The ideal way to sail is with both arms as relaxed as possible just using hand muscles to hold the handles. As you go along you change the amount of pull with your rear most arm. If the wind is too light pull in on the rear arm. If the wind is too strong extend your rear arm. Extra movement can be found in the shoulders. If a really strong gust of wind comes along pull in with front arm, extend rear arm and move sail more over your head. Eventually these movement become almost automatic but its very important to start with the right technique. Keep reminding yourself to relax the arms, extend and lean back into the wind.

Using the sail to maintain balance

Pulling on more power and releasing power is also an important technique to maintain balance. If you are falling back pull on the power, if you are falling forward release the power. When not foiling spend some time imagining this technique, it really speeds up the learning process.

The sail is the source of your power. Practice on land. Walk along when the wing pulls and get a feel for how it reacts in differing wind strengths.

Turning back to shore

The next thing to learn is how to change your hands on the handles. When you get on the board and head out to sea, for example, with the wind coming from behind and the left you will have your left hand on the front handle. To turn around and come back you will need to change hands on the handles. Always release the rear hand first, aim the sail upwards, put the rear hand on the front handle, let the wing continue to rotate clockwise. When the sail is pointing  straight up put your rear hand on the front handle and well as the the other hand then let go with the original hand. Pull the sail above your head to bring the rear handle closer to your now rear hand, then grab the rear handle with the other hand. A common mistake is to just try and reach for the rear handle. Remember to use the hand on the front handle to move the sail closer so you can grab the rear handle with your other hand.

When on the board this all take place whilst turning the board as well. Using the pull on the sale to maintain your balance. When turning it helps to release most, or all, of the power from the sail so that any gusts or wind does not pull you over.

Again practice these manoeuvres on land first. Try and get them automatic. Know where the handles are even without looking. Your balance is better if you keep looking ahead and not close in. A quick glance at the handle location is ok but the quicker the better.

Keep practicing until your responses become almost automatic.

Check out the Wing Foil Equipment guide

2 - How to use a wing foil board

Probably the most important variable with a wing foil board is its volume. Once you are riding along  the hydro foil the board is out of the water so shape is not so effective. At the early stages of learning you will need a board with around twenty litres more volume than your weight (in Kilograms and litres). So if you weigh eighty kilograms you will need a board with a volume of 100 litres. This volume allows the board to have enough buoyancy for you to stand on it when stationary and give it some extra stability.

Once you are familiar with the sail you can now combine it with the board.

First of all set the board up with just the hydro foil mast, this will act like a dagger board on a sailing boat.

Entering the water

Before entering the water attach the board to you ankle using the board leash and the sail to your wrist using the sail leash.

When carrying the board and sail you do not want the two to get tangled as the foil will easily damage and cut the sail.

Pick up the sail via the handle on the leading edge with your downwind hand keeping your arm extended. Now pick up the board using the handle on the bottom with your upwind arm and the mast pointing into the wind. This is how you walk into the water. Once knee deep you can rest the board upside down on the water always keeping the sail downwind of the board. Walk deeper into the water until at least waist deep.

Now turn the board to the mast is facing down and pointing out and across the wind. Go to the upwind side of the board making sure the leashes do not get tangled.

Getting on the board

Once you are in water that is deeper than the length of the mast you can climb onto the board and get into a kneeling position. You will need to kneel in the centre of the board to maintain balance. Make sure you are not on any of the leashes and that they are free to move. Ideally you will still be facing away from the shore with the wind on your back. Try to be kneeling facing the nose of the board.

Using the sail on the board

Take the sail first via the front handle on the main strut then take hold of the further back handle with your other hand.

Hold the sail so it is facing into the wind and not pulling. Have it positioned above your head with all parts of it out of the water. The sail tips will tend to drag into the water, if this happens extend your arms higher above your head so they are clear.

At this point you should be kneeling in the centre of the board with the wind behind you and the sail held in both hands above your head and out the water.

You will notice that the sail not only effects the movement of the board but also its orientation to the wind. The board will rotate around the mast. Moving the sail forward will make the wind blow the board to face more down wind. Moving the sail back will rotate the board into wind.

Standing up on the board

Next stage is to stand on the board. First put your front foot on the board, pull on the sail a little to help you stand then come into a standing position with both feet central on the board. Try to stand straight up. Use the sail to maintain your balance, if you are falling back pull on more power in the sail, if falling forward have less power in the sail.

Steering the board

Once you can maintain your balance pull on power in the sail and start to move forward. You can steer the board with the same technique as described before. Turn downwind by putting the sail towards the front of the board. Turn up wind by putting the sail towards the back of the board. As you pick up speed you can also turn by angling the board like a skateboard or surf board.

Navigating the board back to shore

After going a hundred meters or so its time to turn around and come back to shore. Slow the board down and turn down wind. Once facing down wind change hands on the sail like you practiced on land previously. You will now need to change your feet on the board so they are the opposite way around and you are facing the sail again. Move each foot small amounts maintaining balance until you are facing the sail again. Continue turning the board in the direction you came from. Now pull on power with the sail and head back to shore. If you fall in just get on the board again but with the opposite orientation to how you began so you are heading in the direction of the shore.

If all goes wrong you can just lay on the board and paddle it, like a surfboard, back to shore.

Keep practicing sailing the board, steering and turning around. Try and sail back to the point you began or even going up wind. Get a feel for using the sail to maintain your balance and going faster.

3 - The Hydro Foil

Once you are confident sailing around with just the mast fitted its time to return to shore and fit the hydro foil to the mast.

Enter the water taking extra care with the hydro foil. They are delicate but also sharp. Take care to keep the hydro foil away from your body, legs, feet and the sail. Make sure you have a helmet and protective body padding.

Sail as before and gain speed until you feel the board lifting out of the water. Balance becomes a little different as you now have to regulate altitude as well. Keep looking at least five to ten meters ahead. Take a quick glance to regulate your height but balance suffers unless you look well ahead.

4 - Putting it all together

At this point you have a full understanding of all aspects of the sport. You have a  good knowledge of all the safety procedures in case you get in any trouble.

Now its time to get up on the hydro foil and properly wing foil over the water.

Head out into the sea and get on the board the same was as you did with just the mast attached to the board. The sensation will be very similar to not having the foil attached.

The difference now is that when you build speed the board will start to rise out of the water.

Safety point

It is important to keep you body vertical on the board in line with the mast. A common mistake is moving your body out of alignment with the mast, at this point the board falls one way and you fall the other. Once you feel yourself falling beyond the recovery point be conscious to get clear of the hydro foil.

Getting up on the foil – mast and body position

Get on the board and start sailing as before. Allow your speed to build until you feel the board rising out of the water. If the board comes up too quickly move your feet further forward on the board. If the board does not start to lift even if you have good speed move yourself further back on the board or adjust the mast position further forward on the board.

Wing Foiling

When you have good speed, your body and feet in the correct position the board will rise out of the water. You will now need to use your body weight to adjust the board position in three dimensions. Not just left and right but also up and down. If you go too high the foil will come out the water and you will fall. Keep you eyes looking a good distance ahead, with the horizon in your sight it will be much easy to maintain balance. At first the board will come up for short periods of time. You will probably fall a few times. Keep practicing. Keep the wing holding a steady pull. The most wind power is needed to get the board out the water. Once up on the foil you are moving with much less drag so need less wind power.

It is also a little intimidating the first few times you come up and out the water. You will feel very high up and unstable. Remember to keep looking a good distance ahead. Get a feel for the correct height above the water, this is with about half the mast out the water. Practice, practice, practice and it will all start to be more natural and automatic.

5 - Advanced Maneouvers

Once you can foil one way you will then need to learn to foil coming back. Everything is the other way around and again disorientating. Remember how you had your feet, hands etc in the other direction and reverse those positions. Everyone has a preferred direction but with practice the difference will be much less.


Once you can foil in both directions turning and changing your feet position whilst still foiling can be learned. This will also take a while as your body learns its automatic responses to each imbalance situation. In the How to Wing Foil advanced section there is some good advice on making wing foil turns.


If you are foiling in the sea you will come across some waves moving in your direction. This is where you can start surfing. Again more about Wing Foil surfing in the advanced section

6 - Enjoy The Sport

Remember to enjoy the process. No one learns straight away. All the people you see going well had to go through the same process. They remember what its like and should be understanding and sympathetic to you. With a bit of dedication you will soon be flying along over the water.