Today we have discussed with Adrian Hessels, a 61 year old family-man from Canada, still ripping on his foil board and even teaching people how to windfoil. He is happily retired and spends lots of time out on the water to improve his foiling.
He told me that he follows two main retirement rules: Have fun and don't get hurt!
That’s how we started to talk about the pros and cons of strapless foiling.
I think there may be a few of you out there who may be interested in this topic as well, so I have asked Adrian to give us his thoughts and views on the subject. Of course, you are also more than welcome to give us your thoughts in the comments below!
Hi, my name is Adrian, my favourite activity is ice hockey and I still windsurf about twice as much as I windfoil. Generally, when I’m in Maui, if I can sail a 4.8 on my 85L board, I prefer to windsurf. I also enjoy mountain biking, snowboarding and golfing with my wife.
From my perspective, I don't think it is right or wrong to use foot straps. However, I believe it is worth raising awareness that even if a windfoil board comes with foot straps included, it does not mean that you must ride with them! I believe there are advantages to both.
In fact, many Slingshot board decks are actually colour coded for strapless foot placement. I am not sure if the colour coding was designed for this purpose but I have successfully used it as such when teaching windfoiling.
Here are some of the benefits of using foot straps:
1- Required for jumping
2- Stops your foot from sliding on hard touch downs
3- Allows you to pull up in jibes, while pumping, takeoffs and other tricks
4- Allows for more aggressive cut backs when riding swells, although I find I am able to cut hard without the straps, kind of like most SUP wave foilers do on even bigger wings
5- Allows you to pull up / push down when stabilizing the foil
6- Makes it easier to carry the board!
Strapless benefits include:
1- Avoiding injury when falling. Unlike on a regular windsurf board, the foil does not allow the board to follow your foot as easily. If both feet are in the straps, you could fall back onto the foil. When foiling without straps and out of the harness, you can simply push/jump clear.
2- In the same conditions, a smaller sail can be used foiling versus windsurfing. Hence, there is less sail force and the foot straps are not required as much to prevent you from being tossed forward.
3- Allows beginners to simply find a comfortable balance position, using small steps, near the centre line of the board without having to move their feet into the foot straps.
4- Allows for movement from your center of gravity depending on wind conditions. When overpowered you can just move a few centimetres forward with both feet or move your back foot forward.
5- Allows for simpler foot placement and less motion when jibing. For example, you probably want to place your back foot on top of the rear foot straps to keep the foil balanced, rather than ahead of them. Also there is no need to jam your front foot into the strap, just place it were it is comfortable near the centre line of the board.
This is also what I try to explain in this video, meant to help people to learn the foiling jibe easily:
6- When really going upwind, many boards have foot straps that are not out board enough and plenty of leverage can be delivered with both feet on the rail. Unlike regular windsurfing, your feet are not going to get bounced off by the chop;
7- Generally you will find yourself moving around the board depending on what you are doing:
When going upwind you may move your feet onto the rail.
When preparing for a jibe you may move your feet closer to the centre-line.
When riding a swell you may move your rear foot closer to the centre while your front foot may be more comfortable a bit closer to the rail.
Small differences in foot placement seem to make foiling easier.
I think the question for beginners needs to be "Do you really need foot straps when learning?". Once folks get comfortable foiling and jibing, I think straps allow for more advanced windfoiling.
I hope this helps some windfoilers to have more fun or at least raise the awareness of a strapless option!
If you are considering going strapless, here are some more articles about strapless foiling which may interest you:
Here is also an article by Tez Plavenieks teaching how to foil strapless.
And finally, here is another interview and fantastic video of Benjamin Tillier foiling strapless in Nouméa. Check it out!