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Interview Sky Wing / Aero High Aspect
Sky Solbach & Klaas Voget
For the introduction of our new Sky Wing boards and the range of Aero High Aspect foils we caught up with Sky Solbach and Klaas Voget to hear about the ideas behind these new products and how they actually ride.
Sky – like the other foiling shapes in the Fanatic range, the new SKY Wing boards also feature your name and were born in your Maui workshop. What’s different to the SUP and Surf shapes and what makes the Sky Wing wingfoil-specific?
After riding Ken Winner’s early foil wing prototypes a couple of years ago on big SUP foil boards, we knew right away that we needed a more compact and purpose-built board for wing foiling. As Ken improved his wing designs, I made boards to match our riding progression. The main goal throughout many generations prototypes was to ride as small a board as possible, but at a certain point it became apparent there was a fine line between just right and too small. There are the obvious benefits of riding a small board: easy to transport, light, easier to pump, easier to turn without catching edges in the chop, etc. But there are also drawbacks, especially for light wind: less flotation and glide to get going, less stability to get to your feet. Of course you can water start even a really tiny sinker board in 25+ knots of wind, but those boards already exist - they’re called surf foil boards. For these reasons, we decided to focus on making a range of boards that are as compact as possible but still pack enough volume to be knee-started.
Makes sense. Klaas, you’ve been riding Surf foil boards from the beginning – do you need a Wing-specific board?
That’s true, I was riding a surf foil board pretty much from day two. A SUP foil board is great for the beginning, but – as Sky mentioned - once you figure out the techniques of wing foiling you want something smaller, more compact. The gap in volume between the smallest Sky SUP and the biggest Sky Surf is huge. For me as a lightweight the start is doable on a Sky Surf, but for most guys that’s just too small, especially in lighter winds. That’s where the Sky Wing boards come in – with 55l, 75l and 95l they close that gap in the compact length of a surf foil board, but with volume, width and flotation to actually get started.
To come back to your question – once I have some good power in my 4m wing, I personally don’t have a problem starting my Sky Surf 5’2”, but the moment the wind drops a notch, I’m sinking to my belly button. To bring the board up and out of the water from here takes a lot more wind compared to lifting a board that’s already floating on the surface. So yes – I need a wing-specific board especially for the lighter and gusty days. The options for footstraps is the next benefit of course, as the air game has only just begun… ;-)
OK, which is the recommended rider weight for each size?
All three boards are designed to be knee started, but obviously that depends not only on your weight, also on your level. They have too much volume to sink them enough to do a water start. At 94kg I am even able to knee start the 4’8” with some wind, but the target weight for the 4’8” is any rider up to around 70kg and the 5’0” any rider up to around 90kg. The 5’4” covers everything light wind oriented.
Klaas for example - with just around 70kg - can use the 4’8” as his go-to board for anything once there is wind. When it gets really light, he’ll not benefit too much from the 5’0” with the same bottom concept, that’s when the light wind oriented bottom shape of the 5’4” really comes into play.
The bottom shape of the two smaller sizes looks pretty radical – why these massive concaves?
The double concave bottom shape on the 4’8” and 5’0” accomplishes two things. Firstly, since the boards are so short, it creates a flat section in the entry rocker to give the board glide while still maintaining ample nose scoop to prevent catching. An additional benefit is that the center spine splits the water upon touchdown to soften the landing. I’ve found it to be a really simple yet effective bottom shape for really short foil boards of all kinds.
Klaas – you as someone already riding small boards - what else is wing-specific on these boards, which you’re missing on your surf foil board?
All of Sky’s foil boards have recessed deck shapes, which gives maximum amount of leverage and control over the foil, but the Sky Wing is even more dished out under the back foot. That creates an edge in the tail to push against. Combined with the kick pad, it also helps to keep the board under your feet during starts. The footstrap options are something else you’re usually missing on surf foil boards. The Sky Wing comes with two options, double front strap plus single back strap for freeriding with change of stance, as well as an option to have a more centered single front strap, for maneuver-oriented riders, who never change sides and stay in their natural stance all the time using only one front and back strap.
Last but not least, we have two handles on the Sky Wing boards, one more centered on the deck to carry the board with or without a foil and one closer to the tail in the bottom, which is really handy carrying your board with the foil mounted into the water with one hand and the wing in the other. Anyone who has tried wing foiling with a SUP, knows the challenges I’m talking about… ;-)
Sounds like all the homework has been made to deliver a complete package!
Sky – Ken Winner and you haven’t only been testing boards – there’s also a new range of foils coming. What’s the benefits of the new Aero High Aspect?
Yes that’s correct. Ken has been drawing wing after wing and it kept us busy all year around. He’s been obsessed with hydrofoils with higher efficiency to speed up and improve the glide for his daily downwinders. He’s taking GPS speeds every time and keeps beating his personal records. We found during testing, that these wings not only work great for downwinders, but also speed up the game in general for wing foiling – not only for straight line blasting, but also in turns. Basically with their straighter outline, thinner profile and wider span they have a higher lift to drag ratio, so they lift like a larger wing, but deliver the speed of a smaller one. The wide span has great roll stability for a very controlled ride, at the same time they are still very agile at these higher speeds, that’s why we combine them mostly with the longer fuselage adding pitch stability. For wing foiling these High Aspect wings work like a dream, as you just go a notch faster compared to the “normal” Aero Surf. The Aero Surf matches the speed of smaller swell perfectly for surfing and SUP foiling and is great for the beginning with the wing too, but the Aero High Aspect takes your wing foiling further.
So should a new Wing Foiler start with the Aero Surf first and then go to the Aero High Aspect next?
A new wing foiler can go straight to the Aero High Aspect, as it’s not more technical to start, but will deliver greater control at higher speeds for wing foiling. The good news for any wing foiler owning an Aero Surf is, you can easily upgrade just the wings. For example, if you’ve started with the Aero 2000 long fuselage combo and you feel fine on it, you can get the new 1500 High Aspect front wing with 250 back wing as an upgrade for the next step down and keep using the 2000 for the really light days.
So there’s a 1500 front wing and a 250 back wing – which other sizes are available?
We’ll have a range of three carbon front wings – 1250, 1500 & 1750 – and two new carbon back wings – 250 & 300 – of which we mostly ride the 250 with the two smaller front wings and the 300 with the 1750 – everything is interchangeable and works with our current 75cm & 90cm masts and the 80cm and 64cm fuselages.
Do these High Aspect Wings also work for Surf and SUP Foiling or is that pure Aero Surf territory?
Anyone getting into to SUP and Surf Foiling will be well equipped with the Aero Surf. The speed of these wings match the speed of small swell perfectly and they have a very direct and intuitive turning behavior at these lower speeds. Once you progress, you can also use the High Aspect wings, especially for downwinders or slightly faster surf. We did quite a few test sessions prone foiling and SUP foiling on Maui’s outer reefs and had a great time on the High Aspect wings too, but the initiation of the turns need a bit more commitment and they react a little less direct. Once the turn is engaged the High Aspect can be pushed into a really tight carve, plus the flat arc and wider span of the wing even allows breaching the surface with the wing tip. The potential for high performance surfing is great, but a little more technical to access compared to the Aero Surf. So at lower speeds of small swell – where most people start Surf or SUP foiling – the Aero Surf is still the top choice.