Beginner Surf Gear

How to Choose the Best Foil Surfboard: Buyers Guide

The foil surfboard, also known as a hydrofoil board, adds an entirely new and exciting dimension to surfing.

As a matter of fact, anyone unfamiliar with hydrofoil boards may think they look totally bizarre!

Once you understand them, you will realise just how much fun they can be out in the water. 

The first thing to note about a foil surfboard is that it is quite unlike a regular board.

How you approach and ride them is entirely different to regular surfing because the foil lifts you right out of the water.

Foil boards also come in all forms, and it’s essential to understand their differences. 

To try out this unique sport, you must understand the basic idea behind foiling and how it works.

This guide will also help you make a more informed decision on finding the right gear.

So, let’s take a deeper look into foiling and how to find the perfect foil surfboard. 

What is a Hydrofoil Surfboard?

A hydrofoil surfboard is a surfboard with a foil that acts as a lifting force in place of traditional surfboard fins.

The hydrofoil lifts the board out of the water and into the air – the hydrofoil works based on the same concept as aerofoils on an aeroplane.

As a result of this design, the foil surfboard provides a whole new sensation on the water.

These boards have several parts that set them apart from regular surfboards.

The common component between foil surfing and traditional surfing is the board that the surfer stands on while riding through the water.

This section looks like a regular surfboard and can be long, short, thick or thin – you name it! The distinctive aspect of these boards is the hydrofoil.

The hydrofoil looks like a set of aeroplane wings mounted on top of a strut that extends from underneath the surfboard.

The hydrofoil wings can float on top of the water and use the same concept that you would find in a catamaran.

Why use a Foil surfboard?

Surfing a hydrofoil takes you to new heights – literally!

These boards allow you to rise above the water’s surface. 

Not only does riding a hydrofoil board provide a whole new sensation, but it also allows you to harness speed from your body and the water below.

In addition, the hydrofoil board doesn’t restrict you to only riding waves like a regular surfboard.

One of the most fantastic things about these boards is that you can use them practically anywhere.

You can use these boards for big to small waves and even slight ripples.

The foil board allows you to experience new surf spots and places where regular surfers wouldn’t be able to go.

Foil surfing can also result in longer rides you have more control over. 

The History of the Foil Surfboard

Hydrofoiling started in the early 60s in the form of a hydrofoil waterski.

The inventor of the hydrofoil was Bob Woodward – an aeronautical engineer – who patented the design. The early design developed over the years and soon became a sit-down hydrofoil waterski.

Fast forward a couple of years, and Laird Hamilton innovated on the original hydrofoil by riding a modified Air Chair around Kauai’s north shore.

He did this by taking the chair part off and strapping his feet down with a pair of snow boots.

He was then towed around like a wakeboarder.

Hydrofoil Waterski

A group of big wave surf pioneers called “The Strapped Crew” started charging big wave spots like Jaws with their new foil boards.

Over time, people started to pay attention to this incredible new way of riding waves.

So naturally, the quality and manufacturing of these boards also started to progress.

Largely thanks to the innovation and experimentation of Kai Lenny, hydrofoil surfboards developed into what they are today. As a result, a whole new watersport and approach to riding waves opened up. 

How to Choose a Hydrofoil Surfboard

Choosing the right foil surfboard can be tricky because they have more parts and curves than regular surfboards.

Here are some essential things to consider when looking for the perfect foil board. 

The Hydrofoil Design

The first thing to pay attention to with foil boards is the hydrofoil design.

The wing’s surface area will determine how much lift you can get from the board.

Manufacturers usually measure the lift of a foil in squared centimetres. 

Also, take a look at the profile of the foil. For a foil surfboard, you will generally want a thicker profile. A thicker hydrofoil profile allows for more lift while providing more power at lower speeds.

Foils with a thinner profile generate higher speeds. These allow you to move faster and have more control. However, they are a lot more sensitive to small changes and require more speed for lifting up.

Thinner profiles are more common in products like kiteboards. 

Hydrofoil Surfboard

The Foil Wing Shape

The wing of the foil board can either be a high or low-aspect shape. The ratio of the wingspan and the chord determines the foil shape. Low aspect wings are shorter and fuller, while high aspect wings are wider and thinner.

Another point to consider is speed. High-aspect wings are good for controlling at high speeds and are great for pumping. However, they drop quicker and are more difficult to control at lower speeds.

You can also get flat and curved wings. Curved wings are slightly less stable, but they allow you to carve more in the surf. Flat wings create more upward lift and less drag. If the tips of the wings are curved down, they can provide more stability. The wing shape s a similar concept to fins on a regular surfboard.

There is also the stabilizer, or back wing to consider. Smaller tail wings create less lift, and you may need to apply more pressure on your back foot to help balance out the front wing. However, smaller tail wings create a looser board that is easier to turn and pump. Some foils allow you to adjust the rear wing.

The Hydrofoil Mast

Understanding how the mast’s length will change the board’s experience is essential.

A longer mast gives you more clearance, letting you make bigger, sharper turns while keeping the board’s rails off the water. The added clearance is especially beneficial on longer boards.

The problem with a long mast is that the foil will be deeper in the water on takeoff. A longer hydrofoil mast means you will need to surf at deeper spots, with enough power for a proper launch.

Although longer masts can be more fun, they are generally trickier to control.

Hydrofoil Mast

The Foil Board

The final important consideration is choosing the actual surfboard that you will ride with the hydrofoil.

This process is similar to selecting a board for regular surfing. You could get a shortboard, longboard, or even a SUP for foiling. The board shape is up to your personal preference and what kind of conditions you plan on surfing.

The board will influence how you paddle, catch waves, balance, and turn. Make sure that the hydrofoil setup you choose is suitable for the kind of board that you want to stand on.

Hydrofoil Surfboard

5 Best Foil Surfboard Configurations

Are you looking for the best foil surfboard out there? Here are some of our top product picks to help make the search a whole lot easier. 

Key Features

Review

For those who are after the perfect foil surfboard as a beginner foil surfer, then this would be the product to get!

The High Roller is a unique type of foil surfboard designed specifically for paddle-in foil surfing.

Unlike other foil boards, this board is packed with foil-specific features designed for easy paddling and early take off.

Its high volume makes it easy enough to paddle into small waves and compact enough to maintain its agility once you’re up an a wave and pumping.

The high volume S-Rail board paddles like a foil board twice its length. It comes in three length options staring at 4’10” and going up to 5’2″— overall a great choice for anyone wanting to get into foiling.

Key Features

Review

When it comes to finding the right foil surfboard, then Naish is definitely a brand to consider.

Naish produces a wide range of foil boards that are suitable for all kinds of different surfers.

The Naish board range includes SUP boards, soft top boards, and compact boards of varying shapes.

Naish understands the needs of each surfer that uses their boards, so they uniquely design each board to provide an optimal experience.

No matter what weight or height you are and what type of conditions you plan on surfing, there will be a Naish board that is perfect for you.

Of course, Naish explicitly designs each of these boards for a quality hydrofoil experience in all conditions.

Key Features

Review

Lift utilizes some of the world’s top shapers, such as Sean Ordonez, to create some of the best possible boards for foiling. There is a wide range on offer here – appealing to all kinds of surfers, styles, and locations.

Lift builds their foil surfboards for performance and understanding the requirements for a quality experience. This means that they match the perfect hardware for each deck so that the setup is as good as possible.

Not only can you expect high performance with Lift, but the quality is second nature too. Lift Foils makes the masts from the highest quality carbon fibre, and the wings are available in just about any shape and size imaginable.

Lift brings all these features together create some of the most premium hydrofoil boards out there.

Key Features

Review

Takuma loves foils, so they created a wide range of these boards for different watersports.

This includes foils for wakeboarding, kitesurfing, SUP, surf, and wing foils. They have even created an e-foil to take the experience to the next level. 

The e-foil is a stable board powered by a propellor system. This innovative electric board allows you to cruise above the water in even the flattest conditions. This kind of board appeals to both beginners and expert riders, as it is easy enough to manage but is still a high-performance board. 

Takuma understands this craft better than most, and so their range of boards is ideally suited to each different watersport. Their surf foils also come available in different board shapes, wing designs, and mast sizes and can be customized based on your individual preference.

Takuma produces premium foils for the full range watersports. If you are interested in taking foiling to new territories, then this would be a good brand to consider. 

Takuma understands this craft better than most, and so their range of boards is ideally suited to each different watersport. Their surf foils also come available in different board shapes, wing designs, and mast sizes and can be customized based on your individual preference.

Takuma produces premium foils for the full range watersports. If you are interested in taking foiling to new territories, then this would be a good brand to consider. 

Key Features

Review

Cabrinha has designed a foil surfboard that you can put to different uses.

The Double Agent crosses seamlessly between surf skating and hydrofoiling. This board is super easy to use and is versatile enough to be enjoyed by all kinds of different people. 

Cabrinha Double Agent Foil Board
Source: Kitesurfing Magazine

One of the best things about this board is that it can be fully customised using Cabrinha’s various foil options. For example, you could attach a choice of 3 different mast sizes, and choose from their available wing sets. This includes a high speed or a high lifting wing set – something that you can decide on based on your personal preference. 

The board is made from wood and uses a responsive shape. This shape is excellent for beginner foil surfers and experienced surfers wanting to sharpen their skills. The board comes with TT quad fins and a thick EVA deck pad. So whether you use this board for foiling, surf skating, or wake surfing, you will have the perfect tool each time. 

Where Can You Buy a Foil Surfboard?

Foil boards can be bought directly from the manufacturers on their sites or on Amazon. This is possible for all of the top boards listed above. However, many surfers would prefer to see the boards and get a feel for them up close. 

Many good surf shops have a range of foil surfboards available. There are also some dedicated foil shops with more extensive ranges on offer. As you can ride a foil in such varied conditions, these boards are available all around the globe.

Conclusion

Hydrofoiling is one of the most exciting additions to surfing. This approach to riding waves provides a whole new experience and sensation on the water. Getting a foil board can be a great idea if you are interested in trying out something new with surfing. 

Foiling is not just limited to surfing though. You can use these boards for wakeboarding, kite surfing, and even with their own little electric engine.

Hydrofoils have a fairly complex science behind them, and there are a number of different parts that will change your experience on these boards. The foil boards chosen above are some of the all-round top choices – providing an ideal platform for all kinds of use. 

We hope you get to try some of these boards out – because you will certainly become hooked on foiling when you do!

Frequently Asked Questions

How hard is it to hydrofoil?

Although comparable to traditional surfing, foil surfing is a completely unique experience. Foiling requires a few more elements, with more working parts to consider. Most people consider foiling to be more difficult than regular surfing, as there is a lot more going on in this sport.

Are hydrofoil surfboards boards dangerous?

There is an increase in danger when it comes to foil boards, yes. Especially when compared to regular surfboards. Not only are they larger and strangely shaped, but they can also travel at much higher speeds around the lineup. So when used by unskilled surfer, foils can offer a certain sense of danger.

Why are hydrofoil boards so expensive?

Foil surfboards are more expensive than traditional surf craft. This is because they have more parts with a more specialized innovative design. If you are looking at specialized foil boards, such as e-foils, the prices can go up.

2 thoughts on “How to Choose the Best Foil Surfboard: Buyers Guide”

  1. Dear Beginner surf gear,

    I am interested in getting into prone hydrofoiling, however I am unsure what board to get.

    I am under 60 kg, under 170 cm tall and have a budget of $700 (but am willing to exceed if really needed). I have intermediate experience surfing and can do solid carves comfortably (if that helps).

    Any help would be greatly appreciated, no rush to reply as I am just keen to get the right board.

    Thank you so much,
    Fred

    1. Beginner Surf Gear Team

      Hi Fred. Most foil boards at present are a very similar shape. What you need to pay attention to is the volume of the board. Based on your weight and height specifications along with your mentioned ability level we’d advise looking at a board between 32 to 38 litres. Boards in this volume range are usually around 4 and a half feet in length. As it’ll be your first foil board we’d advise going for a mast of 28″ in length.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.