6 Tips for learning how to Surf Foil with Clinton Filen

Clinton is a keen surfer, kiteboarder and product designer, as well as Brand Director for Airush Kiteboarding and AK. As such, he gets to develop products for surf, wake, and kiteboarding in collaboration with an R&D team of designers, team riders and product testers.

We caught up with him to get the low down on the AK Surf Foil development and hear his top tips if you’re learning how to surf foil…

Questions: Graham Wiles
Answers: Clinton Filen

What spiked your interest in foiling?

I have been involved in developing kite foils for some time. We have a typical longboard surfing wave outside the design office, and we are constantly working on new ideas to work in the small surf. The Surf Foil is an obvious solution to small wave riding that got us all really excited.

AK Durable Supply Co. Surf Foil - Surf Foiling

6 Top tips getting started?

1) Make sure your foil actually works and is trimmed correctly.

There are a lot of foil products and modified boards out there, but if the foil does not fly you are wasting your time. Something that crosses over into surf, or is made specifically for surf and is easy to use is essential. A big wing over 1200, a relatively short mast (less than 80 cm) and a big board will all really help. You can push your foil board from the tail along in the shallow water, if it does not lift out there is a good chance your trim is wrong.

2) Get yourself towed around if you can.

I am not a fan of jetskis or boats, but when you are learning how to get up on the foil it can make a huge difference to learn behind a ski or boat. If you can kite that is also a good way to get a feel for your surf foil. Once you have mastered this you can get to the stage of paddling in, where standing up is possibly the biggest challenge.

3) Find a small softer wave with some distance from the beach to paddle in.

Avoid a pitching shore break wave, you need a bit of time to get to your feet and once you are foiling you can keep going for a while. Also, make sure it is not too shallow as you can hit the bottom and damage the foil.

4) Don’t start foiling until you stand up.

You need to be standing up before the foil lifts out of the water. So first get to your feet, then very gently lean back if you need to, although the foil should actually lift by itself as you get speed. Foils are way more sensitive to trim than a surfboard and one of the biggest challenges, in the beginning, is standing in the right place and gently trimming the foil.

5) Stay low.

It’s essentially like skateboarding on a barstool, as you have such a high center of gravity compared to the lifting surface. So keep your body low and grab the rail if you need to. You might see people pumping the foil to generate speed, but in the beginning just getting the trim angle right is challenging.

6) Stay away from people.

Even though foils are less dangerous than they look, in the beginning, no matter how well you surf, stay away from other people as you can easily get out of control.

Recommended surf foil board, entry level to advanced?

If you have a converted surf shape, the more volume the better and avoid anything over 6ft as it makes the foil very sensitive to trim. A big fish can convert well and you can either use two 10” fin boxes or we make adapter inserts. There are also glue on foil insert pads, although I’ve personally not tried these.

For the dedicated Surf foil intermediate of average weight (85kg /188lb), I would recommend something around 5´2” – 5´6” and 40 to 50 liters volume. Advanced riders will go smaller and entry-level riders, the more volume and glide the better. Generally, with a longer board you will get more glide when taking off, a shorter board you can pump well.

We developed a crossover board over at Airush called the Mini Monster that is available in 5’10” (178cm) with 38.5L for the bigger rider or the 5’6″ (168cm) with 33.5L. This is a bit small to learn on, but once you have your basic skills down it’s a great alternative as a foil, kite surf crossover.

Why is the AK Surf Foil complete the ideal setup?

The AK Surf Foil is configured as standard with a short mast and a large front wing, which provides a lot of lift while the short mast enhances the stability.

It’s a really versatile modular platform that can accommodate longer masts, bigger and smaller wings and either a box or plate configuration.

It is also compatible with the Airush Kite foils, which are also fun in bigger waves or of course if you do kite.

Who have you been working with in development?

Moorrees Van Rensburg does the foil design and modeling, he has years of experience in Aero-hydrodynamics, and we have an incredible in house workshop crew, CNC cutting and laminating the wings and other components. We can get a concept out and tested within a few days.

Jaques Theron and James Taylor have done the key testing. They are both avid big wave surfers and kiters who got hooked onto foiling pretty early. They are committed to finding the absolute limit of the sport, or just trying variations on a small day. We have quite a few international riders stoked on the surf foiling so the input pool is growing every day.

Go behind the scenes on a foil test day here: AK Surf Foil Session Cape Town

We believe the AK Surf Foil has its advantages for kiting?

There has been a massive shift in kiting away from the high-speed foils towards freeride and carving. The trend towards much bigger wings has created a lot of demand for the AK surf foil as a pure kite foil or of course as the crossover setup that we originally planned.

That’s it!

More about the AK Surf Foil:

The AK Surf Foil is our foil wing developed primarily for surf use, combining a high lift profile with a stable delta design that comes up smoothly and pumps efficiently.

On the front wing, the elliptical wingtips are swept down for directional stability, while the delta shape maintains the key lifting area in the center of the wing underneath the rider.

The X-Wing rear wing is a unique symmetrical foil invertible wing that offers a huge amount of trim option as your riding advances. The trim system allows you to adjust how quickly the foil comes out of the water, so based on your body weight, skill level and wave height you can fine tune the foils response.

For the crossover athlete (You know we love those guys) the AK Surf Foil can be configured in pure surf mode with a swept down rear wing or the rear wing can be inverted for a more stable platform at speed such as kite or wake use, or when used with a longer mast and smaller wings and is compatible with Airush Kite wings for the kite enthusiast.