man trying to learn kite foil on sunset

What about the not-so-nice side of foiling with kite? As with all good things, there must be some drawbacks.

Hitting objects

The biggest problem with hydrofoiling is that you need deep water with no obstacles in the top 1m of water. There is always the risk of hitting an underwater object at speed. A shallow sand bank or large underwater rock that extend too close to the water surface can damage or destroy your foil.

Then there are floating objects that might float just under the water surface and be difficult to see. And making very fresh sushi unintentionally has happened before, but is is a rare phenomenon fortunately.

It is important to know the underwater hazards of the place you hydrofoil at. The obvious things to consider are shallow sand banks and rocks. At particularly shallow dams where the water visibly did not allow me to see how deep it is I have taken an SUP and rowed around dipping my paddle into the water to test the water depth. You can quickly find out which areas to avoid.

Rocks in the ocean can normally be seen at spring low tide, or from a higher vantage point if the water is clean.

Not easy to surf with a lot of waves and big chop

Most hydrofoils for kites have a keel of about 0.9m long (distance between the bottom of the board and the top of the wings. This means that the maximum distance between the underwater foil and the board is 0.9m.

Most of the time the foil is canted to one side slightly which decreases the usable ride height. One would assume that this would mean that chop must be less than about 0.8m high if you want to keep riding over it? The good news is that this is not the case.

Since chop/waves move the water up and down, riding towards chop automatically lifts the foil up and over the chop and then down on the other side again. I was very impressed the first time I noticed this phenomenon.

I thought the 1.2 m high chop heading towards me would surely either cause my board to hit the water, or my foil’s wings to fly out the water on the other side, but before I knew it I had gracefully traveled over the chop without having to make ride-height corrections.

Not good in gusty wind conditions

When I first looked at getting a foil I thought that my (then) local gusty inland winds would not allow me to ride a hydrofoil. Thankfully I was wrong and it is possible to balance on the hydrofoil in some very gusty conditions. But it does make it more difficult in the beginning.
In general, a hydrofoil is less fun in stronger winds which tend to be more gusty and create bigger chop. Lighter winds are generally very smooth and then the water surface too. A hydrofoil really complements a twintip really well. One for light wind when the other board would be boring, and the other board for strong winds.

Not easy to learn

Learning to ride a hydrofoil is not that easy. It is not like any other board where you can jump on and try it. Learning to ride a hydrofoil can take just as long as it took to learn kiteboarding.

Some might say that hydrofoiling will soon be boring because the the pinnacle of progress you can strive for is to cruise around on the foil without falling off. They have obviously not tasted the addictive feeling of hydrofoiling over the water. And once you can ride anywhere you want to, you can still make progress.

You can ride normal, then toe-side, you can practice jibing, and then tacking, you can do back rolls, and some people even do a foot position change while the board is foiling above the water and then jibe. And then you can do down-winders or even up-winders, or go cruising a couple of kilometers to different shores before returning back to your car.

If you ever get bored of that then you can go hydrofoil surfing where you can surf breaking waves or even just surf the swell while using your kite to pull you into the waves. Since the foil can get back upwind much faster than a directional, you can surf a lot more waves than on a directional board. Hydrofoiling is anything but boring.

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