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The Best Wings for Foiling in 2023

Mr. Kai Lenny himself, Direct Drive in hand. Photo: KT Surfing


The Inertia

Like you, we love to surf. But traditional surfing leaves little room for error in terms of return on effort. You need waves, and if we’re being honest, those waves need a little size and power to be fun. And if we’re really being honest with ourselves, the cleaner the better – meaning wind generally kills waves. So in most parts of the world, that leaves a small window when we can actually ride good waves: early in the morning. Then what? We’re here to tell you that the key to extending your surf window comes down to that one element that ironically (as we mentioned), often destroys waves: wind.

Wind allows us to surf when the conditions aren’t conducive to traditional equipment, or expand our wave riding to wild places. Combined with a foil, the wing is a relatively new device that lets us easily capture the wind to power us on foil and board – surfing waves near shore in the ocean, surfing open-ocean swell, or surfing windswell in freshwater on rivers or lakes.

The wing, of course, is born of kite and windsurfing. A combo of the two, it’s a hand-held device that comes in different sizes. And one could argue, it’s almost more pure. There’s little rigging, other than using a pump to inflate it. No need for a harness (although some prefer one). Wingers simply sheet the material into the wind and then feel the power as the speed lifts the board off the water, and on to foil. The wing is fully powered with both hands spread on the handles of the wing. To de-power, simply drop your back hand. So no more getting dragged over the jetty by an out-of-control kite, or fumbling terribly with a mast as you try to re-power your board after a fall.

And the wing has opened up new places to ride. Users can now launch in the tightest of spaces where a kiter can’t – and windsurfers have no room for their massive amounts of gear. It truly is an evolution of ease. Following is our review of the best wings in the wind industry that took us almost nine months to test. You’ll also find a buyer’s guide below, with a look at what differentiates different wings, and a side-by-side comparison table.  The red-hot wing market is literally changing weekly with new innovations and products constantly hitting the market. So we certainly plan on keeping this review updated. 

Editor’s Note: The Inertia’s Will Sileo contributed to this review.

The Best Wings of 2023

Best Wing for Freestyle and Maneuvers: Duotone Slick V3

Best Wing for Surfing and Swell-Riding: F-One Strike V3

Most Versatile Wing: Cabrinha Mantis V2

Best Wing for Light Wind: F-One Strike CWC

Best Wing for Beginners: Ozone Wasp V3

Best Handles on a Wing: KT Surfing Direct Drive

Best Windows: Armstrong A-Wing V2


Duotone Slick

Best Wing for Freestyle and Maneuvers

Duotone Slick V3

Pros: Boom handle is relatively lightweight and gives the wing incredible rigidity and response.
Cons: For portability and weight the boom will not be everyone’s top choice. Boom sold separately.

The Duotone Slick might just be the best wing on the market for turns, tricks, and maneuvers that we’ve seen. The combination of the boom handle, for effortless hand placement, and the forgiving wing shape with what Duotone calls “positive lift,” simply makes it easier to complete whatever maneuver you may be trying, whether that’s a 360 or your first gybe. The boom is especially helpful in this regard, giving you an intuitive and hard-to-miss location to quickly place your hands.

Furthermore, Duotone (and F-One) are leading the charge in stiffer materials hitting the market this spring. Combined with new design strategies to increase tension and reduce canopy elasticity under power, Duotone wings are simply stiffer and have more of a direct response than any wings we’ve seen to date.

That said, booms are an extra step to deal with in terms of setup, and like most boom wings out there, the Slick does not come with boom included. You’ll have to purchase one separately: $80 for an aluminum boom, $250 for carbon.

For those who are truly looking for the stiffest and lightest wing out there, Duotone also makes its Unit and Slick wings in a D/LAB construction that uses Aluula, a stiffer and lighter material than the classic Dacron. It’s pricey, but stiffer and lighter tends to be a recipe for success in wing design.

Stats
Price (4m): $989 (without boom)
Handles: Boom
Windows: Yes
Inflation Style: Two-way, one inflation point.  

check price on MACkite check D/Lab price on MACkite


F-One strike v3

Best Wing for Surfing and Swell-Riding

F-One Strike V3

Pros: Very light, stable in the air, and in higher winds. Stiff construction. 

Cons: No windows. Soft handles, no matter how stiff they are, are not hard handles. 

F-One’s Strike V2 was a top-choice last season. Just this month, the Strike V3 dropped, and while we’re not going as far as to say it’s a game changer, it’s a better wing in a whole lot of ways. Most notably, the construction. The stiffer handles are an upgrade over the Strike v2’s, and not only that, the material (F-One calls it HITEX) feels stiffer, especially under power, which made for a super direct response in turning and maneuvers. The wing shape is fairly similar to the strike V2, with a decent bit of dihedral, but F-One has made use of panels of different materials in the wing canopy to achieve that stiffness, along with a “load diffuser” panel at the rear end of the strut. 

The only real dings we had on this wing were the design choices of no windows and soft handles. Windows, while they have some drawbacks, do increase safety, especially as the sport grows more popular. As for the handles, F-One has stuck by its soft handles while much of the industry has shifted to hard handles, which we found to provide a more direct response to the wing overall. The V3 handles are certainly stiffer than the V2 handles, but they’re still soft. For more info on windows and handles, check out our buyer’s guide.

Another, very small but significant detail are the two-way inflation valves on the F-One and Duotone wings. These valves, over the standard one-way, allow for precise pumping with a hand pump, taking a certain amount of guesswork out of the inflation process.

Stats
Price (4m): $1,170
Handles: Soft
Windows: No
Inflation Style: Two-way, two inflation points. 

check price on MACkite

Best Wings for foiling 2023

Most Versatile Wing

Cabrinha Mantis V2

Pros: Extremely versatile series; would be nice to own four, five, and six-meter versions.

Cons: Some riders don’t like wings with single-inflation points.

Cabrinha is easily one of the best wind brands in the world and has put years into the kitesurfing (and SUP) market. And their wings show it. The Mantis V2 is the second-generation,  do-it-all instant classic from the brand. I tried the four, five, and six- meter versions of the Mantis so I got a solid feel for the full range.

And it felt good. The Mantis is rigid and easy to maneuver any direction you need, which makes it ideal for surfing, whether on open-ocean bump or breaks closer to shore. Dropping the Mantis is something that was meant to happen. In a good way. The Mantis features two, foot-long handles that are wrapped in sturdy material. They’re easy to grip and easy on the hands when switching positions.

The Mantis V2 is available with windows and you’ll appreciate that, especially at high speeds. The “Sprint Inflate Valve” allows for one inflation point near the wing’s leading edge and then instantly inflates the boom. Depending on your preference, this can be a plus or a minus. Nano-tech ripstop material is seriously tough so it’ll be a big ask to do damage to this gem. The Mantis, I feel, is all about its well-designed shape. It’s easy to control in this tight little package and is a simple wing for beginners while still allowing expert riders to do their thing.

We’re a little late to the party as Cabrinha has already released the V3, which we’ll be testing and adding to the review soon. You can purchase the V3 here, and still get your hands on a V2, here.

Stats
Price (4m): $615 (on sale)
Handles: Hard, covered in fabric.
Windows: Yes
Inflation Style: Single inflation point. 

check price on MACkite

Best Wings for foiling 2023

Best Wing for Beginners

Ozone Wasp V3

Pros: Redesigned soft handles that are bigger and easier to use.
Cons: Soft handles are a conversation stopper for some.

Let’s start this by saying that the Ozone Wasp V3 is not a “beginner wing.” It’s simply a wing that we found particularly suited to learning the sport due to the soft handles, big windows, and fairly neutral shape. Ozone has been at the leading edge of wing development since the sport got off the ground. And that experience is evident in the Wasp V3. The new Wasp comes with slightly bigger windows (a big plus for beginners), soft handles that have been reinforced, and a new triple ripstop material that’s easy to control on the water, and durable, which makes it super easy to travel with. Travel is when we beat up our gear most.

The Wasp features two inflation points. I’ve used Wasps for years and feel like they’re a cinch to pack and easy to pump –  basically as user-friendly as a wing could get. That triple ripstop material is Dacron, and reinforces the leading edge and the struts.

While Ozone didn’t go to hard handles in 2023 (just yet), the brand redesigned its grips. This might be a conversation stopper for some but I really like the design of Ozone’s new handles, especially on the strut. They’re a little wider and reinforced with a stiffer material that make them feel solid, and really easy to find on transfers. The handle on the leading edge has a nifty pad to save your knuckles from scuffs when you drop the wing and surf. It’s little touches like these that show how dialed Ozone has the wing industry right now.

The Wasp V3 comes standard with a waistline leash, but can be modified to a wrist leash aftermarket. The V3 Is available in sizes from 2.4 meters to 5.7.

Stats:
Price (4.3m): $1,099
Handles: Soft, reinforced
Windows: Yes
Inflation Style: Double inflation point. 

check price on MACkite

strike cwc

Best Wing for Light Wind

F-One Strike CWC

Pros: CWC construction packs a punch in light winds.
Cons: Still a huge wing. 

When it comes to light-wind winging, it’s hard to argue with a wing that packs more surface area per foot of wingspan than any other wing on the market (don’t quote us on that). The Strike CWC uses two extra inflatable struts off of the leading edge to add stiffness and allow them to pack those extra square meters of wing into a tighter package. The wing is available in sizes from 6 to 9m. We tested a 7m CWC, and were wildly impressed with the wings capabilities, both in extremely light wind, as well as when it was just a tad overpowered. 

Of note are the wing tips, which feature cut-outs to help the user recover from wing-tip strikes faster and easier. And that’s a big deal, as with such a big wing, wing-tip strikes are somewhat inevitable. On that note, it’s also worth mentioning that bigger is not always better when you reach this size of a wing. In theory, a 9m wing should get you off the ground in just about any puff of wind, but in practice, unless you’re well over six-feet tall, a 9m will likely be far too much wing to handle and keep the tips out of the water, especially while getting up on foil. 

We tested the V1 version last season, and will update this article with testing info from the latest V2 CWC released earlier this month once we get hands on the wing. 

Stats:
Price (6m):
$1,369
Handles: Soft handles
Windows: 
No
Inflation Style: Two-way, two inflation points. 

check price on MACkite

Best Wings for foiling 2023

Best Handles on a Wing

KT Surfing Direct Drive

Pros: The four-meter version is a versatile workhorse.
Cons: KT developed a new hard-handle system that some may find stiff (we certainly didn’t).

KT Surfing has solidified itself as a leader in surfing innovation, both from a shaping perspective – putting boards under the feet of Kai Lenny, among others – and in the wind realm. Enter the Direct Drive. We tested out the four-meter version and found it to be super versatile.

For 2023, KT focused on improving the Direct Drive’s handle system as well as beefing up the leading edge and strut. It seemed to work. The DD is easy to transfer hand to hand, allows one to turn on a dime,  and is a simple package to navigate with overall. 

The handles feature a contour EVA foam grip, which make them that much easier to use. Some may find them rigid, which is understandable, but I appreciated the rigidness (and control) they seem to create which allowed for more powerful pumping when I needed to keep on foil in spotty wind. That stiffness and control also made this wing so maneuverable in tough conditions and easy to sheet in – or drop if need be, when the glide was on. The Direct Drive is available in sizes from two meters to six and it was easily one of our favorite wings of this test.

Stats:
Price (4m): $862
Handles: Hard, EVA foam grip.
Windows: No
Inflation Style: Double inflation point. 

check price on MACkite

armstrong a wing

Best Windows

Armstrong A-Wing V2

Pros: Great for surfing. Power Link bar is handy. Wide, stiff fabric handles were easy to grab and provided quick response. One of the more cost-effective wings on the market.
Cons: Flatter dihedral wasn’t as stable in the air as others. Gets a little busy when you add the Power Link bar and a harness line. 

Armstrong is certainly onto something with their trusted line of A Wings. You can tell that a lot of thought went into the design process, from the overall shape of the wing to extras like the window-placement and Power Link bar that now comes included with all Armstrong wings. The A Wing features a fairly flat dihedral, great for a stable experience while de-powered riding swell or waves, as well as incredible windows strategically placed near the center strut so you can see through them when hauling upwind.

We were lucky enough to try this wing in three different sizes, 3.5, 4.5, and 5.5. Interestingly enough, we were most impressed with the smaller and bigger sizes of wing, over the 4.5m. At 3.5m, the wing was a high-wind powerhouse, and did great in the varied wind conditions that are often found in the San Francisco Bay. And at 5.5m, we were very, very impressed with the low-wind capabilities of this wing, feeling much more like a 6m than a 5m. The wing features a very compact outline as well, that helps it stay out of the water with the bigger sizes.

The main downsides of V2 are the lack of recent updates. This wing is a couple of years old at this point, and as such doesn’t make use of the newer materials that we’re seeing in wings from F-One, Ozone, and Duotone. With that in mind, however, this is a wing that you’ll likely be able to find at a decent discount. Another, very minor knock to the A Wing was that it can get a little busy when you add the Power Link bar and a harness line. With both attached, swapping hands for gybes, tacks, etc. produced a couple of fairly avoidable fumbles.

Stats
Price (4.5m): $1,000
Handles: Soft handles
Windows:
Yes
Inflation Style: One-way, two inflation points. 

check price on REAL Watersports

Other Wings We Loved

Duotone Unit

Duotone Unit V3

Pros: Super stable in the air. Direct response with firm wing design/construction.
Cons: Not as rigid as the Strike. Hard handles are fairly short, not allowing for as much adjustment as others. 

The Duotone Unit V3 was one of our favorite wings in this review for its reliable and intuitive handling while in the air. With a decent amount of dihedral, the wing was one of our top choices for turns, maneuvers, and freestyle winging, though the boom handle on the Duotone Slick gave it the edge in that regard. The Unit is Duotone’s more surf-oriented wing, and while it makes a great all-around wing, we wouldn’t say it’s a surf-specific wing by any means. The hard handles, while relatively light, add more weight than the soft handles on other surf-oriented wings on this list, and the moderate dihedral makes the wing a bit squirmier when luffed than, for example, the Armstrong A Wing. 

As mentioned above, 2023 has seen large advancements in material go down in the wing business, with F-One and Duotone leading the charge among wings we tested. The materials in question provide lower elasticity to better retain the wing’s shape under tension, making for a much more direct-feeling response, as well as more power in lower winds. The materials also (allegedly) help with long-term durability, although it would take a decent bit more time than we’ve had with these brand new wings to be able to speak to that fact. 

As mentioned with the Slick, the choice of a two-way, rather than a one-way valve for inflation is one that we found useful for precise pumping, although the Duotone-proprietary attachment can be a bit of a pain with other-brand pumps.

Stats
Price (4m): $1,069
Handles: Hard handles
Windows: Yes
Inflation Style: Two-way, one inflation point. 

check price on MACkite See the D/LAB Unit on MACkite

Dakine Cyclone v1 wing

Dakine Cyclone V1

Pros: Awesome surf handle, favorite carry bag. 
Cons: Very flat dihedral, windows aren’t great.

Dakine has always been a brand that’s dabbled in the wind, with their range of harnesses and accessories, but they entered the wing game strong this past year, dropping a wing, board, and foil as well as harnesses, lines, and word on the street is that very, very soon they’ll be dropping a 2023 line of updated accessories, new foils and foil boards, and a V2 of the Cyclone wing.

The Cyclone V1 wing is a worthy first go for Dakine at a category that’s very, very difficult to get right, so it’s no surprise that they’ve had a bit of help from their new partners-in-crime, Cabrinha, with the brands joining under one roof in the past year. The Dakine Cyclone wing features a fairly compact shape and not a ton of dihedral, as well as a very stiff front handle, making it a great wing for surfing and riding swell.

The main handles on the Cyclone are also fairly light, being made of fabric, but extended in a more boom-style handle with something stiffer on the inside, making a very solid almost-but-not-quite hard handle. It’s of course not as rigid as a true hard handle, but fairly close, pretty light, and allows for adjustments up and down the handles. The windows aren’t our favorite design, but they’re certainly better than no windows. Overall, a very solid wing, and we’ll be interested to see what improvements Dakine makes with the V2 Cyclone.

Stats
Price (4m): $900
Handles: Hard/soft
Windows:
Yes
Inflation Style: One-way, one inflation point.

check price on Backcountry

Slingshot Slingwing v3

Slingshot Slingwing V3

Pros: Good power at an entry-level price point. 

Cons: None of the higher end features found on other wings. 

Slingshot’s Slingwing V3 is a surprisingly solid wing. Unassuming with a clean design and approachable price-point, the wing is powerful, fairly maneuverable, and exceedingly simple to use. Of note is the wing’s “grutiness” which is great for those learning to foil, helping pull the rider up on foil in the beginning stages of the learning process. 

It’s also a fairly simple wing, with one inflation point, a dump valve on the center strut, and fabric handles that are uncomplicated to roll up without experience, but are long enough to still allow for some trimming similar to a boom, definitely a skill beginner riders should be able to work on from the get-go. That said, for a beginner wing, some windows would be nice from a safety perspective, especially at more crowded winging locations, but are certainly not a dealbreaker.

Stats
Price (5m):
$977
Handles: Soft
Windows: 
No
Inflation Style: One-way, one inflation point.

check price on MACkite

Ocean Rodeo Glide

Interesting Feature: Swappable Handles

Ocean Rodeo Glide

Pros: Removable/swappable handles allow adjustment for different purposes, riding-styles, etc.
Cons: The swappable handles sacrifice some stability. 

Ocean Rodeo’s Glide had a unique claim to fame when it hit the market, being one of, if not the first wing to use Aluula, a material that’s much stiffer and much, much lighter than the classic Dacron used in wings and kites for many years at this point. And it shows. The Glide has a very stiff construction, with the center strut (made completely of Aluula) inflating to a very high-pressure 12 psi. However, it’s also a very expensive wing due to the Aluula, costing around 2,000 a wing (although as of publishing they’re currently on sale).

Another interesting feature on the Ocean Rodeo Glide was that it is the only wing on this list with truly swappable handles. Some of the hard-handle options on this list (North Nova, Cabrinha, KT, Duotone Unit, etc) allow for swapping the handles by unscrewing, in the case of a broken handle, for example. But the Ocean Rodeo is made for quick transitions, and available for purchase (separately) are both a boom and hard handles.

Stats
Price (4m):
$1,719
Handles: Interchangeable: soft, hard, and boom
Windows: 
Yes
Inflation Style: One-way, two inflation points.

check price on MACkite

Best Wings for foiling 2023

Infinity Fly Wing

Pros: Solid wing in the surf, very easy to handle.
Cons: Soft handles.

Dana Point, California’s Infinity Surf has the watermen’s market on lock. The brand custom builds SUPs, prone foil boards, wing foil boards (we love the Tombstone), and has created the Fly Wing, an easy-to-use wing that’s fantastic in the surf, and a great all-around option.

We tested Infinity’s 4.2m Fly and found it to be an ideal all-rounder that works for lighter winds, but is easy to handle when things get over 20 knots. The flatter dihedral on the Fly makes it stable in most all conditions. This isn’t a freestyle wing for jumping. It’s best used for riding downwind or in the surf. When you “drop it,” it doesn’t jump around and feel like it’s going to dislocate your shoulder. And starting at $680, it’s one of the better valued wings in this test group. 

The Fly features soft handles made with a hardy fabric, meaning that it’s not as easy to switch hands back and forth like hard handles. It also doesn’t have windows if you find that to be an issue. Still, we really liked the stability and all-around applicability of this wing. It packs down small and is easy to travel with. You’d be hard pressed to find a better value out there right now in the wing market.

Stats:
Price (4.2m): $730
Handles: Soft
Windows: No
Inflation Style: Two inflation points. 

check price on Infinity

Slingshot Javelin v1

Slingshot Javelin

Pros: Compact wingspan and boom design.
Cons: windows aren’t super useful, not as rigid as the Slick. 

The Slingshot Javelin is a solid wing in the boom category, and Slingshot’s first boom-style wing. But it was overshadowed by the time-tested design of the Duotone Slick for our top-choice boom wing. The Slingshot Javelin features a fairly compact profile, with a decent amount of dihedral and swept-back design reminiscent of the Slingshot Dart, an extremely freestyle-focused wing from a couple years ago. 

One notable feature of the Javelin was the mid-bar tensioning strap that allows the rider to adjust tension on the canopy, though to be honest this was not a game-changer, and I usually ended up with the strap fairly tight without much adjusting. The strap helps the overall rigidity of the wing, but that said, the wing didn’t feel the most rigid out of wings we tested, especially at the wing tips.

Stats
Price (4m):
$889 (without boom)
Handles: Boom
Windows:
Yes
Inflation Style: One-way, one inflation point.

check price on MACkite

North Nova

North Nova 2

Pros: Long, rigid handles allow for lots of micro-adjustments for better trimming, power delivery, etc. Durable construction.
Cons: Handles add a decent bit of weight. 

The North Nova 2 was another wing we really liked, but couldn’t quite give a top spot with a couple of small design gripes. First off, the good. The wing features a fairly flat dihedral angle, great for luffed wave riding, but still felt stable and maneuverable in the air. A major plus on the handling side of things were the longer hard handles, which allowed for similar sorts of easy hand adjustments as is possible with a boom. The wing also features a very boxy profile, which helps keep the wingspan compact for better pumping and less chance of a wingtip-strike.

However, those handles, and the wing overall as a result, were quite heavy which is less optimal for wave riding, downwind riding, etc. The windows were also not as useful as we would have hoped.

The North Nova 2 has since been replaced by the Nova 3, and we’ll be updating this article as soon as we are able to get hands on the latest version.

Stats
Price (3.5m): $585 (on sale)
Handles: Hard
Windows:
Yes
Inflation Style: One-way, one inflation point.

check price on MACkite

Comparison Table

Wing Price (4/4.5m) Size Tested Handles Windows
F-One Strike V3 $1,170 4m Soft No
Duotone Unit V3 $1,069 4m Hard Yes
Duotone Slick V3 $989 4m Boom Yes
Armstrong A Wing V2 $1,000 3.5, 4.5, 5.5m Soft Yes
Slingshot Javelin $889 4m Boom Yes
F-One Strike CWC $1,369 (6m) 7m Soft No
Slingshot Slingwing V3 $977 5m Soft No
North Nova V2 $615 (on sale) 3.5 Hard Yes
Ocean Rodeo Glide $1,719 5m Interchangeable Yes
Dakine Cyclone V1 $900 3.1m Hard/soft Yes
Infinity Fly Wing $730 4.2m Soft No
Ozone Wasp V3 $1,099 4.3m Soft Yes
KT Direct Drive $862 4m Hard No
Cabrinha Mantis V2 $615 (on sale) 4m, 5m, 6m Hard Yes/No
The Best Wings for Foiling in 2023

This was a serious test. The Inertia’s Will Sileo, ahead of a boat wake. Photo: Skyler Fitzmaurice

How We Tested

We winged with them, of course. The Inertia’s Senior Editor Joe Carberry and Gear Editor Will Sileo have spent the past couple seasons on the latest and greatest wings out there. Neither are pros by any means, but both are proficient wingers who know a good wing when they see (and feel) one. And not being paid to wing does give us a certain amount of neutrality, which a sponsorship wouldn’t allow for. 

Overall, we’ve spent a lot of time in the water on these wings, and would stand behind any wing included in this review as an incredible option for the sport of wing foiling, whether you’re just starting out or looking for a wing that will boost you skyward. 

It’s hard to talk about power when comparing different sized wings in varying conditions, so with this first foray into the category we did our best to stick to the features and design elements that made each wing in the review unique. We’ll be putting significant effort into keeping this article updated as we’re able to try new wings this season and continue to ride the wings we’re currently testing. 

Best Wings for Foiling 2023

The Strike V3 is far more than just a surf wing, but it does that job beautifully. Photo: F-One

Buyer’s Guide

Best Budget Wing

You may have noticed that we left a “Best Budget” option out of our awards, above. That’s because, first of all the “best budget wing” is a bit of an oxymoron when the “budget” item in question is likely well over $500 bucks, and also because the best budget wing is undoubtedly whatever is on sale.

With the insane amount of product development going on, and new models of your favorite wings coming out every season, there’s almost always a deal to be had on brand new wings from last season. Sure, they might not have all of the latest and greatest features, but give it another season and those “latest and greatest features” will already be obsolete. The reality is, all of these wings will do what you want them to, which is get you up on foil and enjoying the water. If price is your main consideration, we’d recommend whatever you can find that’s on sale. 

Dihedral and Wing Shape

The dihedral of a wing refers to the angle that the two sides of the wing make against each other. A flatter dihedral (such as on the Armstrong A Wing) is better for surfing and swell-riding, as the wing is more stable while depowered or “luffed”. A higher dihedral wing is stabler in maneuvers and at speed, but when depowered is less stable than their flatter counterparts. 

The wingspan, and aspect ratio between the length and width of the wing also matters. A wing with a lower aspect ratio and therefore smaller wingspan will be more compact for maneuvers and pumping, while a wing with a higher aspect ratio tends to be more efficient in light winds and able to cut through high winds better as well for better upwind angles.

Winging under the Golden Gate Bridge

Our tester, getting after it in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. Photo: Skyler Fitzmaurice

Handle Design

This is perhaps one of the most rapidly changing areas of wing design. A couple years ago, everyone had soft handles, now the majority of wing handles are hard handles, with a few hybrids, booms and holdout softies in the mix. 

Booms make a wing more rigid but add weight for luffing while riding waves or swell. They also provide an incredibly large target for swapping hands during turns, maneuvers, etc., you just might complete a higher number of your maneuvers with a boom-style wing. They’re also a bit of a pain to pack up and travel with, adding yet another detachable piece of equipment to the mix

More and more, hard handles are becoming the industry standard. They seek to bring the best of the boom with the same simplicity and packability of a soft handle. And they come pretty darn close. All hard handles provide the same sort of direct response as a boom, and smaller hard handles also allow for Longer handles like those on the North Nova allow for the sort of trim adjustments that you get with a boom, at the cost of some weight. 

It’s also worth noting that hard handles may have more of a long-term durability problem for wings than other handle styles. Most wings in this review with hard handles do not have detachable hard handles, meaning they need to be packed up inside of the wing when it’s stored in the carry bag it came with. There, the hard handles do provide a bit more of a potential for damage than other options. All booms we tested are detachable, and soft handles, are, soft. 

Soft handles are a controversial topic. If you were to ask the guys over at F-One why they haven’t made the switch to hard handles, you’ll get some info on why the soft handles make a more natural angle with your arm leading to reduced fatigue and a lower risk of injury.

Testing boom wings at Crissy Field

Boom-wing testing day at Crissy Field. Photo: WS

Windows

For some reason or another, it seems like windows are the hardest part for wing manufacturers to get right. With most windows, we found ourselves straining to see through them, or needing to put the wing at such an awkward angle that a quick under-wing-peep is almost easier. Our favorite windows are those on the Armstrong A-Wing and the V3 Duotone Unit/Slick.

The Duotones has two vertically-oriented strips of window material that let you see a very narrow field of view – basically at any angle your wing might be at, whether you’re hauling hard upwind or catching swell on your toe-side. The Armstrong wing has a horizontally-oriented strip right above the center strut, allowing you to see a very wide field of view, that does take some lining up, but being positioned right above the center strut makes lining things up fairly easy. It’s at the perfect position to see through when hauling upwind, as well as riding toe side. 

That said, some wings, don’t have windows, and there’s a few solid reasons why not. While windows do allow you to see while your wing is under power as said above, the lining-up process can be tricky – unless the manufacturer gets the placement right, the windows are basically useless, and there’s a couple of other drawbacks to adding windows to a wing. First is that they do add some weight to the wing itself, and secondly, they are a potential long-term failure point that is fairly hard to repair properly. Written on the Unit wing itself, Duotone cautions the user to “avoid creasing the windows” when rolling up the wing, and that any damage due to such creases won’t be covered under warranty. Yikes. 

The Bag, and Other Accessories

While we certainly wouldn’t determine the best wing based on how easy it was to get the wing back in its bag after a session, these often-neglected details can contribute to that windsports frustration that can turn a nuking session into one that makes you want to tear your hair out. Among the wings we tested, we found the bag for the Dakine Cyclone and F-One wings to be the easiest to use, with wide openings and plenty of room, inside the bag, which is also nice when you need to pack up a slightly damp wing – better for it to have some air than having that wet fabric compacted. 

Other common accessories include a small repair kit for patching pinholes and other small dings, and, if necessary, an adapter for connecting to a regular pump connection. F-One and Duotone were the two wings in this review that required a pump adapter from the classic windsports pump valve, and (at least with the samples we tested) an adapter was included with both, but it’s worth double-checking if you’re switching from a different wing-valve system.

Wing Foil Wing Bags

Sure, it’s not as important as what’s inside, but the bag can be a pain point, so it sure matters. Photo: WS

Info for Beginners

With winging being such a new sport, and its exploding popularity, there’s a lot of people who are new to the sport. Heck, only a few years ago, we all were. Here’s a few tips on wings for those who are just starting out. 

Wing Rules to Live By

There are a few things to remember when using wings. Most of us have a self preservation mode so it (almost) goes without saying, don’t buy a wing and take your foil out into the lineup. Find a forgotten wave if you want to learn to surf with foil and wing – it ain’t as easy as it looks. The best place to learn is open water, a bay, or a lake, with no shore break to beat you up while you’ve got a four meter piece of fabric in one hand and hard board with a carbon-fiber saber in the other.

Winging, and foiling are essentially two separate skill sets. Learn to foil by towing behind a Jet Ski or boat. Then learn to wing. However, they can essentially be done together if you’re willing to take your lumps. The wing allows you to de-power whenever you want so you can simply learn to move with speed before getting up on foil. But flatwater is definitely recommended.

There are places to get wing lessons but they’re generally in wind-centered locales like Hood River, Oregon; Long Beach and the Bay Area in California; and North Carolina’s Outer Banks. While it’s actually fairly easy to learn to wing, a lesson is never a bad thing.

Sizing

As a general rule of thumb for beginners, size up, as it’s better to be overpowered than underpowered. Figure out where you’re going to be learning, and get a wing size that suits the location. For example, 5m is often a good beginner size around the Bay Area, but might be too small somewhere with lighter wind. Or too big for somewhere like Maui. When in doubt, ask around.

Quiver-Building

As you start to build your quiver of wings for windier and lighter days, you’ll notice it’s most common for wingers to build their quivers in one-meter increments. Three meter, 4m, 5m, for example. While that’s not a hard and fast rule, it certainly helps make sure you have all your bases covered without too much overlap. 

Handles

Which handles are best for beginners? Good question. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of the different handle options, but it’s worth noting that those coming from a windsports background will likely find the boom handle to provide the most intuitive and natural crossover to winging. Those coming into the sport completely fresh may benefit from soft handles for their simplicity, and decreased risk of injury should they, say, come within close proximity to your face.

Editor’s Note: For more gear reviews and features on The Inertia, click here.

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