Our brand new Sky SUP is an uncompromised foil board designed 100% for foiling – compact, light and radical, this board is the ultimate SUP foil board. For the purists out there, we have the Sky Surf. A dedicated surf foil board designed to put a completely fresh perspective on surfing – it catches waves in even the smallest of conditions. We caught up with our shaper Sky Solbach about the design and R&D process.
Can you describe what it’s like to foil compared with regular SUP or surfing?
Foiling allows you to ride a really small board on a tiny wave and have tons of fun. It just opens up so many more places and conditions. You simply don’t need great conditions anymore and you can get really excited about one foot surf! On the wave you are very connected but in a different way to surfing. You almost have to relearn where to find power on the wave. At the very top of the wave, almost at the back of the wave, you find a lot of speed and power, where on a normal surfboard you would probably be falling off the back. There are lots of new sources of energy on the wave that you wouldn’t normally know existed because they are underwater and you wouldn’t usually be able to access them. When it comes to riding, it’s kind of trippy because you can drop into a wave, get way out on the shoulder or the flat section and do this big carving cut back with all this power on basically a lump of water that isn’t even breaking! It’s totally crazy, it feels like doing a cut back on a six foot wave, but actually you are on just a tiny lump of water. It’s a really cool sensation. With the foil, you don’t really want to take off in the steepest section, so you are taking off in a different position. Usually either further out or further in. You can actually just sit on the inside, take the white water and it doesn’t matter that you are in the wrong place because as soon as you are comfortable to get on the foil, you can easily pump out past big sections of white water to the position you want to be in. So overall, positioning is a lot less critical.
When would you choose to regular SUP or surf?
When the waves are good, go regular, when they are flat or not great, the foiling makes those waves feel perfect.
Assuming you can already SUP or surf, how much more difficult is it to learn foiling?
Once you know how to SUP or surf I think foiling just adds a new dimension to it. It is a bit different, when you first start dropping into a wave and the board starts rising out of the water. It takes some time to get used to but it opens up a whole new world of possibilities and conditions. Particularly having a lot more fun in smaller waves. You don’t need to have any special strength or fitness. It’s mostly about technique and positioning on the board. When you are learning you can play a lot with foot positioning. If you stay forward on the board it holds the board down and as you step further back it encourages the foil to lift, so when you are learning you can stay forward a bit more until you are comfortable enough to step back and let it fly and eventually you will find your sweet spot.
What are the ideal conditions for foiling?
The most ideal would be a wave that breaks a big distance from shore (you want to have a long ride) and maybe just feathers a bit to let you get into it and after that turns into a rolling swell. For foiling that’s perfect because it allows you enough push to get onto the wave, but then once going you just have the swell to ride for big turns and carves with plenty of power for the foil. The other really good thing with these foil boards is that when you get to the end of your ride, if you are good enough, you can actually kick out and keep the board foiling all the way back out just by pumping it with your feet up and down. If you do kick out and decide to paddle, you don’t feel the influence of the foil at all. It just feels like a regular board to paddle.
What are the main design differences between a regular SUP/surf board and a foil board?
The foil boards are as compact as possible. So they are much shorter than a regular board, which has a lot of benefits when you are foiling. Firstly, it fits in the wave a lot better, particularly because you are often riding smaller waves on the foil; if you have a really long board what happens is the nose is almost hitting the flats in front of you whilst the tail is dragging on the crest behind you, so you don’t really have enough room to manoeuvre on the wave. By having a much shorter board, it gives you a lot more space on the wave. It makes a huge difference.
The other function of it being short, particularly for SUP, is that you are stood facing forward to catch the wave and then when you get on it, with a short board, you can simply leave your front foot where it is and rotate your back foot behind you to get in the surfing position. With a longer board you would have to take some steps back which makes the balance and transition a lot harder. The Sky SUP and Surf range has a bumper in the pad above the centre line, so you can feel easily that your foot is in the right place. The shorter length also makes the board a lot less physical when it comes to pumping it up and down to generate lift from the foil. The other factor is the bottom shape, which is pretty different. The SUP board has a 45 degree bevel on the rail which has a couple of functions. It keeps the rail up and out of the water when you are doing a banked foiling turn. It also creates a sharp point, which gives it a better release when hitting the water and reduces the wetted area resulting in a softer touch down. Because the board is designed to foil, it doesn’t need to have all the engineered flex characteristics of a regular planing board but it does need to be stiff and light, which gives a much more responsive and reactive ride underfoot.
Would a good foiler have a quiver of boards for different conditions or is it more about changing the foil?
I would say for me, I just have one foil surf and one foil SUP board and then simply change the foil. Most people are going to buy these boards for smaller conditions, so one board is definitely going to do the job, but you may want to have a few different wings for different conditions. For example, one for steep waves, one for not such steep waves, one for down-winding, whatever. That’s kind of where you would build your quiver, with your wings.