I thought foiling was a fad.
This was last year. Sure, the footage looked cool, but so awkward. Top athletes like Kai Lenny and Zane Schweitzer appeared like they were moving fast but also like they were working hard, wiggling to ride unbroken waves and connect open-ocean swells. Plus, foiling had been around in different iterations for decades. (Laird and Kalama towing at Jaws, anyone?) How fun could it be?
I was not a believer.
Then after a Saturday of competition at last fall's Pacific Paddle Games, the freesurf began. Pumping swell drove every type of frothing paddler through the surf at Doheny State Beach: racers testing out new gear, groms shredding on the inside reef, parents getting their time on the water. The lineup looked like an ocean carnival. And then there was Schweitzer, out on his foil.
Now, we do not advocate using a foil in crowded waters. This is experts-only domain. We give Schweitzer—a two-time winner of The Ultimate Waterman and a bona-fide watercraft genius—a pass. That honeyed evening at Doho, Zane danced through the surf with sushi-chef precision and put on a clinic for hundreds of paddle fans. Everyone else on the water looked like they were holding still.
That's when the light went on. I had to see it in person to believe it. Now foils are everywhere: shattering times on downwind runs, flying above waves that were previously thought too mushy to ride, and, pretty soon I'll bet, in competitions. With so many world champs converting to the fun, event organizers may soon have a new board-class to reckon with.
Readers are confused too. They keep asking, "What are you going to do about foiling? How are you going to cover it?" The answer is the same as with any and every sector of this sport: Include it. If people are having fun, standing on a board and propelling themselves with a paddle, we are going to cover it.
Standup has always been about progress. It's still such a young sport, and so much has changed since it re-emerged some 15 years ago. Change is the only constant. The pedigree of the sport becomes more professional by the day. Board and paddle design continues to plow forward. And athlete performances keep redefining the limits of what is possible. This is just the beginning.
In the pages of our Winter “Progression” Issue (available now in digital and print) you'll find statements on how the sport is progressing now: a profile on Connor Baxter, the fastest man in SUP and the figure at the forefront of defining our sport's next possibilities; a gear review on the latest paddles; and yes, a deeper look at this explosion of SUP foiling.
Foiling is here. And, like anything in SUP, it's only moving forward. The only thing to do is embrace it. —Will Taylor
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Read also: The State of SUP Foiling in 2017