Windfoil competition in Azores - Picture: Bellande / CNPV.org
There is a steadily growing interest in windfoiling, particularly due to its potential inclusion in the 2024 Olympic Games. Out of the several factors that have led to the burgeoning interest around windfoiling, it is the simple fact that some of the greatest windsurfers in the world are coming out in support of this “new,” and emerging sport. This includes the Holland windsurfing team – Gold Medal winners of both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Men’s Windsurfing competition, the Gold and Silver winners of the recent World RS:X Championship, as well as the Gold medal winners in that competition’s Women’s event.
Sail World is right in saying that these dedicated athletes are the ones with the most to lose in the event of any major changes to Olympic windsurfing. However, considering this team’s open support of windfoiling, they could potentially be the ones with the most to gain from such a change. In the Dutch team’s proposal to replace the RS:X Windsurfer with a windfoil, the athletes detail several reasons why the world of windsurfing should embrace windfoiling.
“Foiling has transcended windsurfing in almost every discipline: waves, speed, racing, slalom, freestyle and free ride. It’s exciting. It’s beautiful. It’s the future. And it is here right now.”
This brings us to another vocal supporter of windfoiling: Antoine Albeau, who not only holds 25 Windsurfing World Championships in these different disciplines, but has also set the current windsurfing world speed record at 53.27kts. According to Albeau, you don’t need to be an elite windsurfer to start foiling:
"...the minimum level you need is to be able to make a straight line in the straps and harness, so when you have this level you will need 1 hour to start flying a little bit and 2/3 hours to start flying a couple of hundred meters.”
The rise of online material related to water sports has also enabled more people to become aware of the different types of sports available today. Where once water sports, like windfoiling, were seen as exclusive for those who lived by the ocean, articles and videos like Wind Foiling – The Idiots Guide or Learn how to windfoil allow you to get a deeper understanding of the activity without having to visit specialised training centres.
You then get a good idea of whether it is something you would like to pursue, without having to travel and spend money.
Ben profitt learning to windfoil
Water sports are also being indirectly promoted through companies, which have embraced the rising curiosity of sports like windsurfing and windfoiling to reach out to their own audiences.
Online provider Slingo has water sport content that is aimed at targeting this market through games such as Wild Water and WipeOut. The knock-on effect of this is that it opens the door for more people to discover and hopefully participate in water sports through a seemingly unrelated online format. This means more potential newcomers to the burgeoning windfoiling community.
At the same time, given these developments, it’s also important to consider why this might not happen.
Although the best windsurfers, as well as windsurf manufacturers such as Neilpryde and Starboard, are working to promote windfoiling and develop the necessary equipment, many windsurfers still see it as an inaccessible activity, due to the high cost of windfoiling equipment. In a nutshell, buying your own windfoiling equipment is expensive for the average windsurfer.
However, this may change in the near future as the price of foiling equipment may decrease due to many new products entering the market and the heavy price competition between surf shops.
On the other hand, the second hand market on facebook and forums is also growing, offering used foils in good condition at an affordable price.
The good news is that interest in the sport is increasing.
Windfoiling events are getting more and more frequent. Neilpryde has launched the RS:X Convertible Class and the PWA (Professional Windsurfers Association) has its own windfoiling competition, launched for the first time in 2018. The Azores windsurf-foil challenge was another competition held in 2018, showing that the level of professional windfoilers is getting higher and higher.
These competitions, together with the interest of windsurf manufacturers, the support of top level athletes and the general interest of the windsurfing community could be the first steps in getting windfoiling to become an Olympic sport.
Disclosure: Contributed Article by Archie Burke