Flying over the water!

April 22, 2021 1

If you have been to Maui, you have definitely seen people surfing-that’s for sure! But have you seen people surfing above the water?! No, you were not hallucinating due to too much time spent under the tropical sun! The surfers of Maui are flying over the water!

It is call hydrofoiling, but most people just call it foiling. It’s a new discipline that has grown very quick in the world and that is particularly famous on Maui.

If you are curious about how this is possible and why there are so many of them in Maui, keep reading!


1-Mechanic of Hydrofoil

It may seem like the surfer is literally “flying above the water”, and in fact his surfboard is not in contact with the wave anymore.

However, his long aluminum / carbon fin is what keeps him flying above.

Under the board, surfers have a long fin called a “Mast” connected to what looks like a small plane.

This “Small Plane” works exactly the same as an airplane. The wings have the same profile offering a lot of lift as soon as a certain speed is reached.

To start “Flying”, the surfers need to catch speed first. There are many different ways to do it. Catching a wave is one of them, other people prefer to use the power of the wind, using kites and sails.

The easiest way to get started hydrofoiling is definitely by using the power of an engine, much more predictable and stable than the elements.

Being towed by a boat is the most common way to get started and learn foiling. Some Hydrofoils come with an electric motor-no wave, wind or boat needed!


2-The Magic of foiling

Foiling has something very unique, no matter which way you use it.

First, it totally makes the vibration and shakes that the chops in the water can create, disappear. This is because you are being supported on the surface of the water but underwater!

Secondly, you catch more power even in the smallest and softest of days. Most of the power of the waves is actually underwater and not in the surface and the foil is able to use this power and create much more speed than a normal surfboard .

Thirdly, there is less resistance. Since your floating device is not in contact with the water anymore the friction is extremely reduced. Foils are much more efficient than any other device, making it possible to sail in lighter winds.

Finally, once you are started and are “flying”, the foil gives you the ability to pump and glide over the water.

Generating speed without any other source of power than the surfer’s body. That is unique.

3-Foiling in Maui

One reason why foiling is so successful in Maui is because the island offers ideal conditions to practice all the different types of foiling, in the waves or with the wind.

Another reason is probably because of the history of foiling. Watermen from Maui like Laird Hamilton and most recently Kai Lenny have helped a lot in the development of this sport.

In 2003 Laird Hamilton introduces surf foiling to the world in his movie “Step into Liquid”.

Around 2016 Kai Lenny shows how it’s possible to foil in waves without the help of a Jet Ski, making it more accessible to the public.

Foiling is a growing sport around the world, but definitely has some deep roots in Maui.


4-Learning how to foil

Before considering learning how to foil I must warn you of how dangerous this sport is!

The hydrofoil is basically a big piece of metal with very sharp edges underneath your feet. A fall can turn very bad, very quick.

If that does not discourage you, then here is some advice to get started:

Learn the techniques without a foil first. Practice surfing before trying to foil in waves. Learn how to kitesurfing before trying kitesurfing on a foil, etc.

Use protecting gear, a helmet and a life jacket. Broken ribs and stitches are common injuries in foiling. Better be safe than sorry!

Take a lesson, having someone to guide you and watch after you is definitely necessary. Experienced watermen such as @Zane Schweitzer or @SkyRama are great instructors from the Lahaina side.

Ideally, get started by using the power of a motor. Like we said before it’s much easier. You can get towed by a boat or take an Efoil lesson (Electric Foil).


The next time you see someone flying over the water, know that you are not hallucinating! It is just a bunch of surfers getting closer and closer to their childhood dream. Riding a Hoverboard just like in “Back To the Future”

Keep in mind that these athletes are not floating in the air but on top of a sharp plane made of carbon and aluminum, so make sure not to get too close! 🙂

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