THE PHYSICAL DEMANDS OF FOILING

FOILING

So firstly if you're reading this..it’s because you have 'foil brain' or soon to have it ! Having personally tread the foil path for 2 years I've noticed many changes to my outlook on the ocean , equipment and also my body’s limitations. The latter has made me question and challenge my body more than ever before in search of consistency and progression in a body 40 plus years old. So get training..! 

Foiling is starting to create niche players in new ocean realms and because we've never done this before and the sensation is so addictive ...sometimes we all need a new endeavour

The demands of foiling are different to other board sports, some even say that foiling is the most physically demanding of all the board sports! You can spend a lot longer in an engaged riding stance when foiling compared to surfing or SUPing, and as well as the usual left to right control and balance needed for other boarding, foiling has the added dimension of the front-to-back balance and control for your muscles to deal with. Also, once you’ve finished riding a wave, you can pump your way out back again, without having a break! So, having these extra demands, and requiring them for longer, means you can certainly expect your body to be aware of these demands during and after surf foiling sessions… Feel the burn!

 

The riding stance

Pic credit - Glennel Jordan - IG ocean_baby

Winging it

Getting out foiling with a wind wing and learning to ride in switch stance will completely change the loading and could also help even you out a bit in terms of left/right biases. That and the brilliant brain training of having to relearn things backwards!

(WARNING; May involve some entertaining crashes.)

 

THE RIDING STANCE

The foil board rider controls height and turning with weight shifts, upper body movements and balance through their riding stance.  This riding stance involves a specific foot position, which is required right from the starting moment of riding.

The riding stance 

Jonathan at ClubBluePearl 

Involves having your chest up facing the oncoming horizon (Imagine you're iron man with that circular ring facing forward) , front knee bent and loaded, and rear ankle and knee bent and loaded. This rear foot position (knee and ankle bent) is something we do in prone surfing when riding, but the limited amount of time we spend in this position, and the absence of the vertical force demands involved in surfing mean it rarely causes problems.

In hydrofoiling, you are essentially hovering above the water, thanks to the wing ‘flying’ beneath the surface of the water.

As such foil-boarding uses the same terminology as that used in the aviation industry;

 

  • PITCH is the front to back vertical rotation of the board. This, as well as your speed, controls the board height above the water
  • YAW is the left to right horizontal rotation of the board. 
  • ROLL is the left to right vertical rotation of the board.

YAW and ROLL can control board direction, but you also have to take into consideration your PITCH when changes of direction come into play- which in itself is a delicate balance between your speed and your front/back weight distribution!

THE BIOMECHANICS

There are certain positions that your body needs to be able to deal with to foil well. You need to be able to keep your chest up which requires a lot of upper back opening (or ‘thoracic extension’), else your lower back will compensate which could lead to a sore lower back. You need to be able to achieve deep squat positions, which requires good ankle and hip flexibility (‘ankle dorsiflexion’ and ‘hip flexion’). You need to be able to turn your knees in and out to control direction (‘Internal and external rotation’ at the hip). What’s more, you need to be able to do this in deeper squat positions. Internally rotating at the hip with your foot planted leads to what look like a ‘knock-knee position’ (Also known as valgus, see below). This isn’t the most natural of positions for the body, but also happens a lot in skiing. For you body to manage these positions well it’s important to have good flexibility, strength, and control at the ankle and hip.

If you want to understand the demands of foiling as a non foiler

Try going upstairs with your foot at right angles and pelvis facing forward….  actually don’t !

 

The valgus knee position, also seen in skiing

SO, WHAT CAN WE DO!?

It’s important to have good movement mechanics, strength and control, especially around squatting, lunging and rotating, due to their clear relevance to foiling. Muscles shorten to deliver power but lengthen to give control and to help absorb and then re-deliver force. Having strong muscles, particularly quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves, which are good at this helps avoid overloading forces getting concentrated in tendons, joints and ligaments, where problems can tend to ache and niggle. It might be worth seeing a Strength & Conditioning coach to improve in these realms. If you have any pain or old injuries that might interfere with what’s required of foiling it would be worth seeing a physiotherapist of course!

Flexibility around hips and ankles is really important.

(MobilityWOD on youtube has good ideas for flexibility and the positions mentioned above in biomechanics!). 

Steadily building up your foiling time, being diligent with warm-ups, recovery, stretching, rollers, even massage will help.

Core strength and endurance is, of course, also important.

These are all things that would be included in the regimes of the world class athletes who are foiling.

If you are starting something new always remember to start slow/small /low impact and build really steadily!

By far the easiest form to learn with limited stress on the body and joints is using the adapted electric motorised hydrofoil - known as the Efoil board

If you are interested in trying hydrofoiling and learning to foilride book on one of our Efoil Intro Experience

Co Written by the following - Thanks for your input both 

Alec MacHenry MCSP- Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist

Matt Barker Smith- Foil specialist 

Chris Chucas- Strength Coach