On a recent trip to Punta Mita Mexico, my buddy Darrin & I decided it was time to try our hand at E-Foils. With years of surfing under our belts, riding E-Foils seemed like a fun alternative in our board riding experience.
As it turned out, E-Foiling was equal parts challenging, thrilling & laden with kooky wipe outs!
What’s an E-Foil?
For the uninitiated, an E-Foil is a laminated board, with a grippy rubber deck. Size wise, they fall somewhere in between a large boogie board & small surf board.
E-foils are somewhat thicker than a surf board, making them very boyant (Darrin’s about 200 lbs & keeping him above water wasn’t a problem).
The water tight interior of the E Foil carries a rechargeable, 35 pound battery, which propels this unique watercraft for an hour straight, without recharging. All in, the E-Foil weighs in around 40 lbs (verify).
The real magic happens underneath when riding a E Foils. A 3 foot foil is affixed to the rear of the board. At the bottom of the foil is a set of wings that guide the board through the water (forward, turns & up and down). Finally, between the wings is the propeller. The propeller is encased in a circle, which protects the rider from the blades.
The Remote Trigger
The Remote trigger is a handheld device that the rider uses to control how fast the propeller spins… and consequently how fast the rider travels on the E-Foil.
The trigger floats in case you drop it (that happens). When riding E Foils, if the nose goes under water for more than a second, the trigger no longer communicates with the board (yep, that happens too) and the propeller/board stops…not gradually; more like suddenly!
E-Foiling without proper instruction & safety gear is not a good idea. While loosely based on surfing, skateboarding or snowboarding, there’s much to learn to safely make E-Foiling a fun outing.
Plus, at about $12,000 per E-Foil, you don’t want to bring a damaged E-Foil home as a souvenir from your vacation!
Step One – The Basics
We started our lesson from the Sufi Pier, in Punta Mita. The pier reach’s out into the deep, rock free waters of Banderas Bay.
Our experienced instructors spent the first 15 minutes going over the board, Foil and how to CAREFULLY operate the trigger.
Teaching the basics of riding on your belly, then knees, steering, then standing was the initial focus of the lesson. This was followed by an equal amount of time dedicated to FALLING OFF THE BOARD.
The handheld trigger propels the board faster, the harder you squeeze it. If and when you lose control, falling off the BACK of the board is optimal.
While there is plenty of water around the board, the main goal is to fall behind and away from the board… while NOT SQUEEZING THE TRIGGER.
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Step Two – Master calm vs itchy trigger finger
Once we put on our safety helmets/vests and pushed away from the Pier, the adventure began to unfold. As Darrin & I have been surfing for years, we went from belly to knees to standing in about 10 minutes. Whoo Hoo! This is Easy! When the board is skimming along the surface of the water, it maneuvers very much like a surfboard dropping into a small wave. When the board is moving forward at controlled speed, it’s actually very stable… until you squeeze the trigger too hard or too soft.
While we found it easy to get underway & up on our feet, under or over squeezing the trigger led to some spectacular kook falls!
A steady and gradual increase of the trigger finger makes for a fun ride. Anything else is “no bueno.” Mastering a calm & steady finger when things get unstable is perhaps the most difficult part.
If you get to your feet and forget to keep squeezing the trigger, the board nose quickly drops & goes underwater. This brings the board to a stop… but not you. Nope… you’re still moving! You fly off the front or side of the E-Foil. The trick here is to gradually re-engage the trigger before the nose slaps the water.
If you get up and then mistakenly crush the trigger, the board goes from smoothly riding on the surface to rising up to three feet above the water.
Without the drag of the board, the E Foil goes much faster… and steering becomes much trickier! At least on these occasions I did fall off the back of the board, per the instructor’s suggestion. On the rare occasion that I was able to gradually bring the trigger back down to maintain my speed, the board slowed and hovered just above to water. In this situation, I more often got practice falling off the back of the board.
The Payoff – Taking Flight
Despite the many wipeouts, standing up on an E-Foil, then gradually rising out of the water is a memorable experience. Leveraging the wings of the foil make the ride smooth and whisper quiet. All the drag from the board hitting the water is gone.
While the wings are controlling the ride from under water, you’re no longer affected by the chop on the surface of the water. You’re floating 2-3 feet above the water, gliding around the bay. With a steady trigger finger you can cover some ground.
For Next Time
We found it fairly easy to turn the board when it rides along the surface of the water. However, when I was able to take flight, turning the board while flying required a light touch and enough speed to lean the board (and the wings) into a gentle arch. Plenty of falls sorting that maneuver out… something to focus on for my next session.
Also, once you’ve lifted off the water, it’s necessary to tip the board forwards and backwards to control how high you rise out of the water & be able to lean the board side to side, to steer. Lots of work for your feet and core. Did I mention to keep the trigger steady too! 🙂
If it’s your first time, please put on a helmet and life jacket!
“Better to be thought of as a dork then to hit the board without any protection… and remove all doubt.” – Mark Twain, on his first E-Foil lesson 🙂