Beginner seeks Advice on Foil Surfing on long period Glassy Swells

I am learning to foil surf at San Juanico, BCS, Mexico. We ride south swell. I’m an old guy teaching myself to foil surf using a 6’1" 100 L Kalama E3 board and a Foil Drive. I ride without a paddle. I want to be able to stay with an average wave here. There is the opportunity to ride one statute mile here if I start at the second point., All I have to do is stay with the wave. The average wave here is about 1-meter height, 16 seconds period, glassy, at least where I am riding, I have been riding mostly with an Axis SP 860. I have trouble staying with waves, I get up on foil and I’m riding down the line and then I get behind the crest and I’m left behind. Maybe it’s my poor skills. I’m guessing these swells are quite fast. They aren’t very steep. It seems my SP 860 and PNG 1010 wings both have too much drag when I’m traveling at about 140 percent of the wave’s speed. My front wing quiver is Axis SP 860, PNG 1010, and PNG 1150. I wonder if I need a faster front foil to stay with this swell? Any tips will be appreciated. Here is my almost up-to-date journal: Learning to Foil Surf using Foil Drive at San Juanico, BCS: My Journal – Time with the Giants


Sounds epic! I found even on HPS880 I would not have enough speed for longer period swells if I had pumped out to before they started hitting the sand bank. 13s period probably max on that foil. Less of a problem once they started pitching a little bit. Are you surfing in the pocket of the wave or further down the open face? It sounds like you are getting stuck behind the section?

Most modern foils are much faster than surfboards, so if surfers are making the sections then I’d say you need a faster foil!

Thank you very much for that information. That info is just what I needed. I haven’t seen or heard of a surfer making it from second point to the north shore of the bay recently.I think they have done it in the past. But I know a fellow older guy Mark from Hawaii, he has a small thin F-one foil, a Foil Drive, interestingly he rides on his knees and he does very well, he has made it the mile from second point to the south shore near the fisherman’s beach in recent days. I am largely a beginner, but I would like to do what Mark is doing. I have only played north of first point. In general these swells don’t break until they get very near shore. It sounds like I do need a smaller thin foil. Perhaps I will start scheming to find one and a way to get it to this somewhat remote place. I think I will try to find someone who has a black fuse and an appropriate front wing which I can borrow as I am currently short of change.

Hi foilco,
Love this question because I bounce around from time to time and found myself in similar situation when I was just getting into foiling. The solution that worked with me at the time (was on Lift and then Armstrong at the time) was moving to the smaller and then HA wings. I’m loving the Axis wings lately and the Art 999 with the 425p-300p tails work for me at 220lbs.
In the New England a 9-10 second period is good usually more like 7-8, go out to Maui and not so much 12-14+ is more the winter norm and big slow foils get punted or left behind more than you’d like.
Been meaning to checkout Cerritos and maybe some spots on east side of Cabo this spring any recommendations where I’d find other foilers?

Get yourself a black fuse and an ART 899 with a small, low drag tail and you will make the sections. It is faster and has way more glide than the foils you have. And, hopefully the salty surfers don’t hate on you like they did on SUPers. I miss SJ. I would think that San Gregorio would be a great foil spot too.

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Thanks for your comments. I was at Cerritos two years ago. I didn’t get excited about it at all. But I’m not that knowledgeable or experienced. I think Nine Palms on the East Cape gets a lot of good reviews. If you joined the Facebook group La Ventana Kiteboarding I think you could find people who foil surf at nearby breaks when the wind is away at La Ventana. I think there is a handful of prone foil surfers and two SUP foil surfers at San Juanico. If I could afford to travel, I think I would like to try the Florida coast. I doubt I would do much better than SJ. Best wishes. Surfing in Cabo - Surf Break Locations Map, Board Rentals, Lessons, Surf Camps Charles

Hi Foily, Thanks for your comment. It looks like my hypothesis was quite correct. I was thinking about it. My board with foil drive can only just keep up with the wave if it is in front of the wave crest. If it falls back at all behind the waves peak it can’t get back to the front face. To make a line at 45 deg. angle over the ground, which I think I need to do, I need to ride along the wave face at the same speed as the wave. One concern is being able to catch the wave, Today, with small waves, I tried riding in front of the wave and parallel to the wave, already standing and on foil. I think that works very well. I’m a regular foot and I have a nice view of the wave face. I just need to carve an arc and join the wave face elegantly.
SJ first point is not crowded, and many surfers are not able to catch a wave. I haven’t had anyone raise their voice at me. I try to keep to myself away from groups of surfers. That is why I have this interest in getting good at riding swells that are not breaking. I think everything will be fine as far as getting along with the community. If everyone had a foil drive that doesn’t sound so good. I think for now things are going great for this old guy.
I’m working on getting myself a fast hydrofoil setup. I’m hoping to join the mile club this summer. Best wishes.

Foils can expand the pocket of the wave. The larger the foil, the further you can be away from the breaking wave. The SP 860 is a great foil. But it’s made to sit in the power source of the wave. It’s thick and slow. The PNG 1010 you have is also a great foil. It is made to pump though. So while it will let you pump really well, it’s quite thick and slow.

For the type of foiling you’re trying to do. Cruise far out on the shoulder on open swell. Gliding for miles at a time. You’re going to want high aspect and wide wing span. The ART 1099 would work well I bet. The new ART PRO 1201 would probably be even better.

I would suggest finding someone from San Diego who goes down there every summer to throw an extra foil and fuse in their car. The new gear will improve your riding straight away. You’re basically looking for something closer to Downwind gear. The 860 you have is a surf wing, sit tight in the pocket and do turns. The 1010 is a pump wing, better suited to flat water/dock starts.

That said, you should be able to connect from 2nd through to the pangas on the foils you have. You just have to work on your pumping and riding in the energy of the wave. (A turn can be as good as a pump) Did you meet Kyle who was just down at the contest last week?

Hello Hdip,

Thanks for your comment. That all makes sense. to me. The waves have been diminishing. I plan to keep on having a session per day and working on my foil pumping skills. I want to do the work to self-learn to do a flatwater motor pump-up instead of a flatwater paddle pump-up. I like the idea of being able to link waves by foil pumping. I will be making the work my priority when the waves are tiny.

“A turn can be as good as a pump.” I have thought for a while about getting a Unifoil Progression 140 setup when I could afford it. I think I may be able to obtain financing from a dealer who trusts me. I am convinced it is a really great foil. I have listened to every Progression Project Podcast. Since I now want to get a smaller and faster foil so I can ride glassy swells, I think I will reach for the Progression 140. I can buy a Unifoil adapter to fasten the Unifoil fuse to my Axis mast. What do you think about this?

I had also thought about the ART PRO 1201. I didn’t meet Kyle.

Thanks again and all the best.

The progression 140 is amazing. I know it will work there. For you and small waves I might suggest the 170 though. It’ll give you some extra glide and be even easier.

Use to order and he has the financing built in on his website. Josh is the owner and responds at instagram here. The Foil Shop - Seal Beach (@thefoilshop) • Instagram photos and videos or I’m sure he has a contact link on his site. He will get you setup and may even know someone going down there to ferry the gear to you. Josh is the Unifoil dealer here in LA and Patrick works in the shop often and Patrick works directly with Unifoil. It’s a great shop and they send stuff to Mexico already I know.

Thanks very much, Hdip, Yesterday I tried getting financing with Affirm on Houston Kiteboarding"s website. Affirm refused me. I know a dealer who I think trusts me and may give me financing. In my case, I should be able to pay in full by mid-July, but I also don’t want to wait that long if I can find a way to get one sooner. It was tough for me to decide between the 140 and the 170. Given my weight of 81kg, my skill level and experience, the additional weight of my foil drive equipped setup, and your recommendation I decided I should go with the Progression 170. Again, thanks very much.

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I would try before you buy if you can. The progression wings are optimized for very lazy small slow moving waves and might not be best for your scenario from what I understand. If you want uni then hyper 2 might be better for faster moving swells

HI FoilMad.
Thanks very much for your comment. I will give that consideration.
Best wishes.

I decided I think you are probably right. I’m getting a price on a Hyper/ 170 setup. I am very happy I can get a mast to Unifoil fuselage adapter for my Axis and my PC mast. Thanks again for your input…

I would say get a ride on anything you can first if possible. It sounds like you need fast downwind type foils from the conditions you describe but there are many options around.

I also think in foiling it’s important to keep our heads on our shoulders as so many of us have spent so much money buying the next greatest foil only to see people ripping on the oldest of foils.

In your case axis is about to bring out an updated art series meaning you will see many cheap second hand art wings that will likely do the job for you with out too much financial penalty. Art999 for example or even 899 as you improve. You may get both a lot cheaper than 1 new foil of the latest release from any brand. Something to think about. Take your time.


Yes I’d buy used, ideally from someone rage selling, likely many decent options and they will all feel very snappy coming from gen2 foils (we are on gen4?)

Not sure if the foil (front wing) is your biggest issue. If you are, for example, riding straight onto the shoulder and the crest passes, then any foil setup will slow down. Also, if you are riding low, your mast drag is a much bigger factor than the front foil. And then when the foildrive starts dipping even more so.
Even a “relatively” slow front wing will keep up with any wave if you keep it closer to the pocket, and will speed up in turns. Suggesting to try ride higher and do a few cutbacks into the pocket before buying more gear.

Thanks for your advice. Those are good points, but there is no pocket. I’m trying to ride a glassy swell that us not very steep and is not breaking anywhere near me. This is a swell that no board surfer can catch.

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Did you post what tail you’re using. Just changing the tail or even adding a shim could make the foil more efficient and easier to stay on the swell.

I have used only a 460 tail with no shim…I have a standard length fuse.