I don’t mean to brag, but I might be an authority on how hard it can be to learn to foil. I bought my first prone board(Armstrong FG) in the fall of ‘21, and yesterday I almost made my first connection. Based on this experience, I thought I’d record some things that affect one’s progression, some of which might not be talked about much.
The aforementioned FG did not pair well with my takuma foils, wasting a winter, and also leaving with me with some PTSD concerning being over foiled. I’d size down so much that if I didn’t launch at take-off, I wouldn’t be able to get on foil even if I could stand up on it. I switched boards with a buddy and immediately it all felt WAY easier, but my hesitation to size up continued to be an issue until fairly recently. I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but it leads to new revelations:
Discussions with our crew and increased confidence has led me to appreciate a foil that engages early. This seems to create stability, makes the board really skim allowing easier paddling(?), and less water in the face(?), as you press the board against the water while standing up. Without that popping up seems a bit harder, but you have to be able to hold it down. The angle on the takuma fuse, and the higher angle of attack on the PNG Axis(I’ve been enjoying the 850/mostly 910b, I’m 77kg btw), or a mast plate shim seem to do that.
A factor that I stumbled into that helps with and probably allowed me to figure out the above advice, is having a board with some nose rocker. Tangent: this winter, I came to understand that I was very inflexible in the hips(more on this later), with led me to find a board with more deck recess for placing the front foot. I can’t really try boards much here in Maine, so my internet research led me to the KT wing drifter in 38L. It didn’t turn out to have that much recess, but it has a ton of nose rocker, which I thought might work almost as well so I kept it(and added strips of deck grip on the sides to act as yoga blocks). It turns out that the rocker made it much harder to pearl it, which in turn made me embrace catching later, getting forward, pressing down, and thus being less frightened of a nice big foil.
It is true that I am inflexible enough that my personal trainer was impressed in the wrong way, but there was another factor too. A bit ago another foiler mentioned he got cold while we were walking back to the cars. A bit after that I started wondering, since I haven’t been cold all winter almost, if I was over dressed. I had been using my 6.5/5 Patagonia because my 5/4 had holes in it. Everyone talks about booties, so it didn’t occur to me that an extra thick, thick wetsuit would shut me down. But it was true that I was in like month 3-4 without making progress, and my last session before getting a new 5/4 in the mail saw no successful pop ups. I’ve had 3 sessions since getting it, and in that time I’ve averaged, maybe 95% success in at least getting up and foiling in front of the wave. This last one really illustrates how important gear is, 1.5mm of extra rubber = 0 success.
So first winter wasted from wrong board, second winter wasted maybe from wrong wetsuit. Which is a bummer since I spend much of my summers away from waves. Oh well……it’s the progression I really crave, so I’m in a good spot now. Like my son who is reading Harry Potter 3 right now. I’m actually quite jealous of him that he has all that ahead of him….