The landscape of water sports has changed forever! Not only can we swim, paddle, surf, and cruise on the water…we can fly too. The hydrofoil board, or foil board for short, has given water enthusiasts another way to fully embrace the beauty and power of the water. But how do you learn to use the foil board? Is foil surfing hard? Is wing foiling difficult? There are dozens of questions that has been spawned with the introduction of foil boards to this fun-loving community.


In this article, we will address the level of difficulty you can expect when learning to ride the foil boards, and how to you can skip the hard parts of learning and get right to the fun parts early in your efforts.


Is foil surfing hard? The short answer is yes. It can also be dangerous if you aren’t prepared. Foil surfing is hard and dangerous because:


  1. You should know how to surf first
  2. Then you will contradict some of your fundamental surfing techniques
  3. When you fall, don’t forget about the dangerous blade attached to your board
  4. You need to control left and right turns AND up and down changes in height


Many in the surfing community also ask, “is foiling easier than surfing?” The answer here is no, not really. If you already know how to surf, then you can learn the foil board quicker than others, but you will be a kook all over again, because there are some significant differences.




Some of the fundamentals in surfing have to be thrown out when you start to foil surf. The major issue is the effects of the wave on the hydrofoil. When you strap a foil onto the bottom of a surfboard, you add a lifting force into the dynamics of surfing. As soon as you gain a little speed, like paddling onto the wave, the foil starts to lift. As you catch the wave, speed increases, and that increases the lifting force.


The next major impact on surfing fundamentals is the need to apply pressure on the front foot as you initially stand up (pop up). When surfing, all surfers pop-up and immediately apply back foot pressure to keep from pearling, or pushing the nose of the board under water during the bottom turn. If you do this on the foil board, you will end up in the air and then back in the water.


The last major difference between surfboards and foil boards is the control of the board. Surfers use the rail and the tail to maneuver their surfboards on the wave. This works because the surfboard remains in contact with the water. In contrast, a foil board rides on the foil, which means that the board IS NOT in contact with the water. Pressing the front-side or back-side rail into the water to turn won’t work. Instead, foil boards are best controlled by rolling the shoulders left and right across the centerline axis of the board.


Learning to foil surf is not easy, but it can and has been accomplished by many surfers. The trick is to be patient, and to take it slowly. If you are an accomplished surfer, you need to expect very little of yourself on the foil board.


  • Start on the white water of smaller waves
  • Get the board going and play with the amount of pressure you put onto your front foot
  • Ride straight on the foil for the first few times
  • Pick a line across the face of the wave rather than straight down to the bottom


If you want to learn about the easiest way to learn to foil, check out another article here. We talk about tow-behind foiling and efoiling as options to make your journey much shorter and easier.


Having gone through this process personally and with many of our students, we can tell you that the effort is definitely worth the reward. The thrill of surfing is one thing, but the joy of foiling is at a different level altogether. We encourage you to take on the challenge, find a friend to work with, and get out on your foil board with enthusiasm and commitment. Your efforts will be rewarded if you just keep trying. Aloha.

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