How to maintain downwind speed and increase upwind speed?

This summer I plan to ride downwind and back upwind a lot more and with a garmin watch, I’ve been able to start to gather a bit of info about how much time I’m spending flagged out riding swell, vs how much time I’m putting in riding back upwind.
I’ve pinned down how important a slower foil is. Going a touch faster than the swell speed makes for more casual dw runs, fun turns, easier time linking nice swell lines (vs too slow, falling off, or too fast, outrunning everything). I attached a photo of a recent session showing the style of my riding and where, for the first time, my dw swell riding time (45:50) exceeded my upwind travel time (45:10). I’m wondering, is there any technique to increase my upwind speed without forcing myself onto a faster foil or bigger wing?


Assume you are using a harness line?

I can significantly increase my upwind angles (beyond what would work with a powered sail) by simultaneously pumping my sail and foil together. You basically generate speed with the sail, and then pump the board upwind. One foil pump for every one sail pump. Kind of hard to explain, but it really works if your sail is appropriately powered to the wind. It’s not faster through the water but it is far faster in terms of getting upwind at steeper angles. Downside is that it is very physical.

Top of the pump is the steepest angle, point slightly lower once you hit that point and power the sail and go lower on the foil, then carve upwind as you reduce power in the wing and rise higher on the mast. Repeat.

Nice looking lines B :+1:
This time of year is already the exception for shorter upwind travel times. Your starboard tack angle is already almost straight downstream with the current. My guess would be that our ratio of upwind to downwind will continue to deteriorate into the drier summer months. You could try the above mentioned method by VR, I’d agree there’s an angle benefit there. I kinda like to use the upwind for recovery, particularly on a day like yesterday (cold and OP’ed).

You could just adopt the new school upwind system… burning dead dinosaurs :blue_car: :joy:

I’m not entirely sure, because I haven’t ridden that many wings. But it sure seems to me that some wings are much better than others in terms of angle to the wind.

The other thing I would note is that when going upwind you are angled over and putting a lot of force into the foil. You need to think about the foil operating at a totally different lift point. In other words the same foil you ride downwind with just your body and equipment weight going into it - now has quite a bit more “weight” it has to provide lift for. Us heavyweight people know the drill - all the foils are designed and tested by 165lb athletes and they don’t work the same for 200lb dads. I’m not sure exactly what you might do differently, but something to think about when choosing equipment.

The other thing I’m noticing (but I don’t take data) is that the most efficient foils go upwind best. Less tail shim for less tail drag will make a difference too.

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Oh, and I meant to mention that what you care about is called Velocity Made Good (VMG) in sailboat racing. Usually not the highest angle to the wind - you can sail a lot faster at a lower angle but don’t make as much progress upwind. You can pinch up to a higher angle but the speed is slow. There is an optimal angle and speed for a given set of conditions and gear. It might be interesting if your watch could feed VMG back to you in real time as you experiment a bit.


I haven’t tried to take any measurements, but it feels like this works to eek out a little more VMG without expending a huge amount of energy.

When you’re at a good upwind speed and heading put in a couple pumps to increase your speed then turn upwind and spend some of that speed to glide directly upwind. Then back to your previous heading to build your speed back up.

Like going up steps? The couple pumps upwind are stepping up to a new level? Then continue on the good angle?

Yeah, but I’m pumping on the normal heading to get a little more speed, then just doing an upwind s-carve and returning to the same heading, slightly further upwind.

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Another vote for the foil pump upwind. I try to get in phase with the chop that comes at about a 2 to 3 second encounter period, it tends to be about knee to waist high if wind is 15kn or more and conditions fully developed. There is part of the wave just after the peak on the backside that is extra lifty so i am heavy on the board there and then light through the next trough. Feels magic when it clicks and upwind vmg is dramatically better, but it is taxing to keep up for a long time.

I just can’t bring myself to go down that road! I gotta believe the wing is faster than the car for most of those laps!

Hmm I’ll have to start looking at this a bit closer. I can definitely get real time speed feedback on the watch and will see if I can eek certain speed increases based on different angles. Here’s a graph showing the extreme end of this where I started to realized that foil speed flagged out was dramatically faster than upwind travel, depending on the foil being used. The speed peaks are when I am flagged out on swell. The valleys are upwind travel. This day my foil speed and time spent surfing was much lower than my time spent doing upwind travel.

As opposed to this speed chart that is reflective of the first image I posted. You can’t tell tell as clearly if I am flagged out, or driving upwind due to the DW surf speed matching the upwind reaches more closely:

You can save some time by tacking vs jybing. Also, sometimes smaller sideways swell bumps or wakes can be worked occasionally to maintain more speed almost directly upwind when one aligns just right and it’s worth it to pump a bit. I imagine the new two skin wings are much better upwind. I definitely notice a difference in upwind ability between all my wings. A thin leading edge and stiff frame is probably best.


Tacks for sure, I’ve been nursing a tweaked shoulder and guarding a bit on my transitions so I’m losing a few seconds there. I started rigging a bigger sail because of this and have found that while the sail is a bit more cumbersome on the DW runs it does hack away at the upwind quite a bit better.

Yesterday I also made note that “cheating” with the wing a touch on the DW scored me huge gains. Instead of trying to pretend I have a paddle, just engage that wing to hop over or back to a better section of swell scored me several extra minutes of dw time vs upwind time. That’s the beauty of the wing so I suppose I shouldn’t consider that much of a cheat.

I’ve heard the double skin wings don’t flag especially well, so I think that would be a tough sell for me. You’re right though, certain wings and wind conditions are undoubtedly favorable vs others.

Lap 2 (downwind travel 2.34 miles) vs lap 3 (upwind travel 2.18 miles) was quite satisfying yesterday. 13 minutes downwind vs 11 minutes upwind. This was in quite light winds though, translating this into faster water and bigger swell is difficult.

Love to se some video of this