Is wing surfing difficult? How do I learn?
The surf wing is taking the world by storm, both because of its simplicity and its versatility. It was originally conceived to be used with a foil board, but it can and has also been adopted for use with regular SUPs, as well as windsurf and kiteboards. More recently it has even been adopted on land, in conjunction with a snowboard or skateboard.
While foil boarding takes quite a bit of getting used to, even for experienced surfers, wing surfing isn’t extraordinarily difficult. Because it’s handheld, an experienced surfer can learn to wing surf using whatever board or boards they’re already proficient with. Because of its universal appeal, the surf wing has quickly established itself as a way to modify a wide variety of other sports.
How wing surfing works
Unlike other types of sails, a surf wing has no rigging components, lines, bars, booms, or masts. Instead, surfers simply hold an inflatable lightweight wing in their hands and shift it over their heads or to either side to get where they want to go. The wing is very light, and generates lift when the wind catches it, minimising the strain on the muscles of the user. With a bit of practice, a wing surfer can go for hours without tiring.
On a foil board, a wing surfer needs wind speeds of approximately 12 knots to get up out of the water. On a regular board, though, even much lower winds will do the trick. A touring paddleboard, for example, can be difficult and unpleasant to use in windy conditions. By switching to a wing, a paddleboarder can get moving faster than they can paddle with just 5 knots of wind.
Pick the right equipment
The simplicity of the equipment is one of the biggest draws for the sport of wing surfing. Surfers only need to add a wing to their existing surfing equipment. There currently isn’t a great deal of variety to choose from in terms of design, but that doesn’t mean you can pick up any surf wing and expect great results. The size of your wing needs to correspond to your weight.
An average surfer will generally opt for a wing with a surface area of approximately 4 meters. For a small surfer, this might be problematic, since a wing that’s too large will be unwieldy, and difficult to use. If a wing is too small for a heavier surfer, on the other hand, it might not be able to lift the user out of the water if they’re on a foil board. On a regular board it might still work, but it will provide a less than ideal experience.
To get up on a surf wing, start by kneeling on the board. Then lift the wing, let it catch the wind, and get up on one leg before standing up and sailing off. Surf wings can be handled relatively instinctively, meaning that they’re not difficult to learn to use, requiring little to no formal instruction. While it may take a few attempts to get familiar, it has a much easier learning curve than kiting or windsurfing - even ask Madloop Windsurf School or SupWell for lessons.
It’s important to note that surfers that don’t have experience using a foil board shouldn’t attempt to learn both foil boarding and wing surfing at the same time. Instead, you’ll likely enjoy more success, and have more fun, by learning to use a wing with a board that they’re already used to. Foil boarding can take a lot of getting used to, and it’s best to master it before attempting to introduce another unfamiliar element to your surfing.