Two Maui Watermen Free The Foilboard
GoFoil’s innovative products take surfers to new heights – literally – without being strapped to a kite or sail.
Foilboarding has been around for almost a decade, but it took a conversation between two Maui watermen for the technology to really take off.
A hydrofoil wing – shaped almost like a miniature Cessna airplane, with two large metal wings in the front and rear wings in the rear – is the underwater element. It is attached by a sleek metal mast to a surfboard, paddleboard or kitesurf, which actually rises above the water – not over the water like other boards.
The first time you see a foilboarder over the ocean, it almost seems miraculous. All foils harness the forward energy of an ocean swell to keep the board a few meters above the water.
But for most of his life the foiling’s popularity was limited. Much like kitesurfing and parasailing, a decent takeoff required more energy than the ocean swell provided, which meant using a kite or sail to gain more speed from the wind. Some early foilers would even be towed behind a boat. But that all changed when a former professional windsurfer and Maui-born water sports freak joined forces.
“What I did was I did it so that you could outsmart using human power and the ocean as your engine,” says Alex Aguera.
“You can paddle, stand up and surf.”
A native of Florida, Aguera, 59, has lived in Maui since he was a teenager when he decided to become a professional windsurfer. He has since taken part in professional windsurfing and kitesurfing tours, and more recently, has reinvented the foilboard. By making the sport more accessible to everyday surfers, Aguera has helped usher in a wave of foilboarding in Hawai’i and around the world.
The sport’s ‘power solution’ came from a conversation Aguera had with Maui-born waterman Kai Lenny – who, at 28, has already accomplished more than most as a big wave surfer, stand -up paddle, kitesurfer and windsurfer. Lenny knew that Aguera had foiled via kiteboarding for years, and that he had even started his own kite-foil business, GoFoil, but wanted him to make a foilboard that could be ridden without a kite or boat. towing. Lenny wanted to fly using the ocean as a motor.
Aguera got to work, taking a kitesurfing foil and making countless adjustments to the thickness and shape of the equipment for weeks on end before offering a finished product. It was a whole new type of foil – stable and strong enough to harness the power of the ocean more fully.
“Eventually I had enough, so I called Kai to ride it, but it was on its way to Europe,” Aguera says, “so I decided to give it a try.
After many erasures and a few close beheadings, Aguera spotted a flaw in his design. The mast, which connects the board to the foil, was much longer than necessary, which gave the rider too much lift. “So I went back to my store and cut the pole in half,” says Aguera, “and the next day I take it to Kanahā (Beach Park) and I’m like, ‘Whoa, I do! ‘”
After Lenny’s return to Maui, he quickly took to foilboarding and began to understand its intricacies in record time. “When I first saw him foil, I thought, ‘Oh my God, what is he doing?’ It’s everywhere, ”says Aguera. “He went past the peak, across the peak, across the wave and back.”
Before Aguera’s modern foil was invented, regular surfers were forced to stick to the wave’s “pocket” – where the wave peaks and breaks – to maintain speed and energy, but Lenny quickly discovered that the foil could take it wherever it wanted, as long as there was a swell pulse below it catching the foil.
Then came the video. It’s no understatement to say that social media can make or break a business in modern times, and a single Facebook post on Lenny’s account – showcasing him and riding off Maui (fb.watch/4rp-0WqjQS) – collected millions of views in a few days. And that was all it took for Aguera to realize that his modern film could be so much more than just a pet project. Going into business with their two brothers-in-law, who now help run GoFoil’s factory in China, the trio pumped foils at an ever-increasing rate.
“We’re going all out with building panels and wings now and we have distributors all over the world,” says Aguera, who lives in Hai’kū. “I ride around Maui and now I see foils everywhere, and I never thought that was going to happen.
Aguera is now focused on staying one step ahead, one that he helped create. “It’s really hard to keep up with the pace,” he says. “You are the creator and inventor of this whole new aspect of foiling, but you have to put yourself in front of the others because everyone is nipping at your heels.
To separate GoFoil from the competition, Aguera focuses on the “winging” aspect of the foil, where foilboarders use a small hand-held kite to generate even more speed than a normal foil, without wings.
Surfers aren’t keen on change, so the speed at which they ditch their old boards for foils shows just how appealing the foilboard is. Maybe it’s the ability to get away from crowded breaks and enjoy the ocean on your own. Or it might be fun to go fast. Aguera has his own ideas.
“There is something about the humans and the escape. They like to fly. And there is that feeling you get when you come out of the water that you are flying. It calms down, you’re zooming above the water and it’s a whole new feeling. And people are really drawn to it.
How to start
If you are a surfer, paddle board or kitesurfer and want to try out a foilboard, here are Alex Aguera’s advice:
- “It is better to use a shorter mast when learning to foil for the first time, so as not to come out too high out of the water.”
- “When regular surf foiling, which we call“ lying down ”in the foiling community, as well as SUP foiling, start in high waves. Rolling white water is the easiest to learn as it will push you and help you move. Steep drops are not what you want when learning to thwart for the first time! “
- “Remember that foiling is a sport for the front leg, so put a lot of weight on your front leg to keep the foil down.”