Is Foiling The Future of Surfing?

Jealous, anyone?

I was out surfing the other day in crowded, delightfully dirty conditions when a longboarder who will henceforth be called “Larry” suddenly addressed the starstruck lineup. Larry was riding a 14-foot oak-and-pine behemoth sculpted by one of the first Homo Sapiens and lapping everyone trying to shortboard the three-foot buckle-slappers. 

“I can see the jealousy in your eyes,” Larry announced. “Feel free to take some waves, too, OK? I won’t drop in on you.”

Wow, Larry! Thanks! People sort of laughed and shook their heads at the guy’s ego. Little did Larry know he’d be starring in an invaluable slice of surf journalism as an example of people who are squeezing the last drops of sanity out of surfing. Larry will also never know that his given name translates to a half-full beer, as in “Dude, who left all these Larrys on the table?” 

I’d wager that by now, Larry has switched from his outrigger canoe to an inexpensive, portable, lightweight, future-of-surfing foiling setup. These usually come complete with a small dagger and ankle strap combo, good rhythm, bad pumping and a strong talent for getting in peoples’ way at all times.

Don’t get me wrong, peeps, I embrace change and experimentation; just ask my fiancée how game I am to try out all of the different local taquerias – sometimes on the same night! Loco, I know. But these guys are taking things too far and I’m going to have to strongly disagree with He-Laird in the forthcoming quote:

“A great Hawaiian waterman Brian Keaulana, who’s more like a Hawaiian King, once said: ‘Don’t define me by my equipment,'” notes Hamilton, “…Foiling is…more like surfing than anything I’ve ever done, and that’s why I’m doing it. Bodysurfing, boogie boarding, knee boarding, stand-up paddleboarding, longboarding, tow-in, and foiling – this is all surfing.”

Here’s the thing: I’m all for anyone sliding on water on anything. My nephews spent most of one summer riding waves on a giant turtle until she hit a rock and exploded, effectively teaching the kiddos a dark lesson on a bright, sunny day: don’t ride enormous turtles with 10 other kids in the shorebreak.

But…foiling? I simply don’t think the surf world can take any more additions. Our lineups are packed like sardines, with even more of that fishy aftertaste; unless that’s the runoff. The cheese in my post-session empanada was barely melted this morning. The world is ending and just like our friend the turtle, everything is set to explode.

Well, then, why not foil, you might say? Because, Dear Reader, foiling is the root of every evil, and this watery sin must be vanquished.

I know, I know, blah blah blah, Laird and Kai Lenny, and freedom, and America. But these guys are superhuman aliens, and America is on the planet Earth last time I checked. Lenny suffered a helmet-shredding concussion at Pipe last month, and rumor is he paddled out the next morning in his hospital gown. Hamilton could paddle out on a 30-foot metal ladder and surfers all over the planet would be heading excitedly to Home Depot the next morning. “Yep, finally getting around to cleaning those gutters, Honey!”

Speaking of gutter-punks, I ask all awkwardly bouncing Foilers: Do you really need that enormous fin? What are you compensating for?

When I told a buddy I was helping humanity by spearheading an academic inquiry into the utter depths of aluminum depravity, he calmly explained that foil boards tap into the deep energy of the ocean, and the frictionless boards avoid being disrupted by conditions like onshore wind. As we drove down the highway, he rambled about how foil set-ups allow surfers to get in even earlier and ride waves – especially big swells – longer than ever before. 

“They’re just, like, you know, super sick,” my friction-averse friend said, unable to resist the taffy-like pull of surfer-slang. “Foilers are gnarly, Dude, so you definitely shouldn’t write about–”

Unfortunately, the interview ended abruptly, but as I pushed the stranger out of my Jeep and onto the 101, I realized he’d been brainwashed. Indeed, the next time I saw him, he was urban foiling for tips in a city fountain in NYC.

Admittedly, I may be able to coil my leftovers into one hell of a swan, but I haven’t foiled much myself. I can’t afford a bigger fin, or fit one in my car, and I clearly can’t speak to the sensation of sailing down a monster wave at Nazare or Maverick’s. 

But I’ve been around Foilers. I know their shady games. Recently, I paddled out at my local and suddenly a pack of them began racing around me in shark-like circles, making those strange pumping movements like the other disgraceful species we should banish to the bottom of the sea: Le Surf Skater. 

“That’s unnatural,” I yelled. “You’re giving me vertigo, Foilers! And please stop all that lewd pumping!”

As I gave the Foil Posse the evil eye, one of their ilk revealed a few interesting foil facts. Foilers never have to forage for food when left out in the wild. They perform above average in knife fights and shark attacks (you know, the foil), but are also liable to predators because when out of the water, they strictly watch NASCAR and anything else that’s boring and goes in circles, like politics. “Well, you’d love the piece I’m working on,” I called.

Unlike pack animals, Foilers are typically loners, (this goes back to the whole “no, I’m a foiler” thing and their innate interest in televised fencing). Foilers also get points for their deep appreciation of Weird Al Yankovitch, though they prefer his classics. (OK, one point for the aluminum crew.) 

Foilers, I also learned, are a bit more streetwise than I thought. How so? A desperate, hungry Foiler threatened me with his fin in the lot, and luckily let me go for a cold half-eaten burrito. 

If you’ve ever had someone steal your wave, and then gleefully call “Foiled Again!” then you may have some sense of why, after Burrito-Gate, I got to work deflating all the Foilers’ tires.

OK, enough. I’m going to town on these funky Foilers and the truth is, they’re not all that bad. We, as surfers, are always fixated on the “new” group challenging us for waves. Foilers, on the plus side, have figured out how to paddle less and groove more, and I’m a supporter of suspect dance moves and overt laziness. 

Anyway, another group urgently requires our attention. A species that makes Foilers look like the first goddamn astronauts on the moon. That happened, right?

Finless. Surfers.

I mean, the audacity! Isn’t surfing hard enough?!

Stay tuned for next time, when I explain why the Finless Sinners love Slip and Slides, smooth jazz, Steely Dan and peacocks, and why they should most certainly be dropped in a cage with those fuming Foilers for a steel-cage death match to the finely foiled finish.

Side Note: I have nothing but respect for Kai Lenny. And Laird, all ladders aside.



Only the best. We promise.


Join our community of contributors.