When it appeared on the market few years ago, it aroused interest but also astonishment. Today it slowly but continuously wins all the more fans. Hydrofoil “elbows” among kiters.
When it appeared on the market few years ago, it aroused interest but also astonishment. Today it slowly but continuously wins all the more fans. Hydrofoil “elbows” among kiters. Tomek Janiak, our last year’s World Vice-Champion and European Champion in Kitesurfing’s Masters category. This time he combined it with skimboard. How and why – he tells us in the “W Ślizgu!” interview.
Where does this idea of combining skimboard and kite come from?
The idea of combining „skim” and kite has been known for a while. You can ride kite with different equipment under your feet, provided it has reasonably flat surface and of course some displacement. I have seen attempts of riding air beds, ironing boards or refrigerator doors. The kite drive is also used for more “serious” purposes, e.g. in case of failure, breaking the mast on oceanic yachts or sailing in emergency mode. What is new is adding a kitefoil to a skimboard, owing to which we can expand the wind range to ride with. Basically kitefoil (popularly called “foil”) can be attached to any rigid, floating surface – whether we will ride or not, it depends only on our skills. Skim suits this perfectly, when it comes to amateur riding, because with a kit consisting of kitefoil, skim and three kites (e.g. size 13, 9 and 7 m I’m able to ride at the wind ranging from 7 to 35 knots.
And probably at any weather.
On a windy day I play with skimboard as it was designed originally – by sliding on puddles and shallow water. When the wind gets stronger – ca. 7 knots – I tighten the above mentioned hydrofoil, take the 13-metre kite and have a great fun, while other kiters or windsurfers don’t even think about entering the water. With this kit I can ride up to 35 knots, just changing kites for smaller ones: 9 m and then 7 m. Of course, it’s all about the skills, body weight and wind quality. But... I can detach the kite and go freeride (ride left and right) on skim in these conditions (12-35 knots) or play strapless freestyle (tricks, evolutions). If the minor wave (ca. 1.5 m) appears, I’m also having a great fun. As you see, even such small kit can give us a lot of joy in different forms at such wide wind range, which makes sitting on the beach useless!
So it’s an all-round weather kit, and the handy one, right?
We can pack above mentioned „toys” to a travel bag or a small quiver and set off to a kite holiday in any given spot in the world, without any stress or fear of not being let inside the plane, bus or cab. Isn’t it great?
Is it your original experiment or a common practice?
The skimboard-hydrofoil combination is already known. However, my original idea was to create an equipment I was talking about earlier, so I could have fun in the water from 0 to 35 knots, pack it to a “regular” bag, forget about all luggage problems, travel around the world with light baggage and be able to ride freeride, freestyle, airstyle, wave, kitefoil, racefoil... in any given conditions, depending on my needs and mood.
What is the difference between riding this hybrid board and a regular one?
First of all, if you want to start your hydrofoil adventure, you have to master kite and ride smoothly on a regular Twin Tip board. What is the most unbelievable, is the fun of riding itself – experiencing a third dimension on a kite, some kind of ZEN philosophy. Kitefoil is a state of mind, maybe that’s why it’s not addressed to everyone... and it’s fine, I suppose. I thought nothing would surprise me in kiteboarding. Kitewave has been always – and still is – an essence, but after my first attempts with foil in January, 2013, when “flying” my first 100 metres in the air, I was yelling euphoric, similar to rolling on a nice wave. For those who already ride on directional board it won’t be any major problem – I think it’s about 30 minutes to 2 hours to fly your first 100 metres on both tacks. However, for riders who had no experience with directional board so far it might be slightly more difficult, but not always.
Quite lately, only last year there where first foil championships in Poland. Anything has changed since then? How does foilboarding develop?
This year we’ll host first Polish National Foilboarding Championships in Rewa, so yes, it does develop. Apart from that, we’re planning to organize foilboarding races during other Polish Cup editions, so this year we’ll have a Polish Cup ranking as well.
Are the numbers of flying fans increasing?
As far as I know, in 2013 there were two of us in Poland – Tadeusz Niesiobędzki (who started this game) and me. Now there are about 30 people and we’re still attracting new “levitation” adepts with our passion and enthusiasm. On the rising tide of foilboarding success first Polish constructions are being manufactured. Of course, we can’t compare ourselves to Frenchmen or Americans, where thousands of people are “levitating”. France, the cradle of foil is going through a real boom and the equipment producers are way behind with their orders.
Does foilboarding have a chance to become a separate independent sports event?
It has been already for two years. Now when technology allowed us to produce rigid, more refined foil constructions, it turned out to be the world’s fastest sailing class (VMG speed per 15.5-knot wind). Of course, introducing hydrofoil concept to America Cup catamarans and last year’s spectacular final of this event in San Francisco also contributed to this popularization. Now it’s hard to imagine a modern sailing vessel without the use of hydrofoil working principle.
Is it a direction the kiteracing is heading? Or maybe it’s all about the higher speed?
Of course, from the professional contester’s view performance is a key aspect. Speed and running angles are ca. 15 per cent better, compared to Krace. The truth is that during a race on the same track world’s Krace champion has no chance competing with mediocre KiteFoil contester. Even though kitefoil is in initial stage of its technological development, it is simply faster. I’d even hazard a guess that it’s the fastest and the cheapest sailing class in the world (courses windward and downwind). Oh, maybe AC72 catamarans from the final of America Cup race can sail faster, but only at wind above 10 knots, when they start to rise over water. So, if there’s such an opportunity, it’s natural to ride the faster vessels... But it’s not only about the speed. Foil means also a logistic facilitation, especially when it comes to freeride foils which are mainly split (collapsible). Made of carbon, they weigh 2-3 kilograms which makes the transport much easier. Such foil after preparing inserts can be attached practically to any board – wave or TT – and you can ride on it using the same kites, from 7 knots! Isn’t it fantastic? Of course, it’s not so rosy, the con is that you need a deeper water to ride, from 0.5 to 1 m, depending on the foil.
How do hydrofoils change?
There are new constructions being made all the time and new materials are being used, including carbon, fibreglass and aluminium in cheaper versions. We observe nanotechnology tests. All the more companies consider manufacturing hydrofoils, including few Polish ones.
But don’t you miss water splashing straight to your face, tapping the board against the chop and maximum muscle tense which deflect every unexpected reaction of equipment under your feet?
No, it’s actually the best – you don’t feel chop or wave, your ankles aren’t twisted, knees and spine don’t hurt. Of course, in professional riding, during a race you must work hard as well. To be honest, you can sweat a lot, especially when riding downwind with high speed. The main reason is the level of concentration – you can easily say that you’re riding with your head.
What are your plans for this season?
Well, to be honest, the previous one is not done yet. I try to ride here even in winter, if only the weather conditions allow me to do that (after all, last winter was very mild). In the meantime I organize and take part in training trips, combined with trainings and equipment tests. The next one will be to Fuerteventura, where I will carry out kite trainings on different levels, including hydrofoil. I also plan to test the latest RRD gear. First Polish Cup event starts in May in Chałupy, and since then, almost every weekend until September will be busy for me. In the meantime there will be Polish Championships in foil category, World and European Championships in Kite Formula, European Cup in foil and slalom categories, another Polish Championships – this time in kite and slalom, and many, many other events. Since the end of September I’m starting another training trips series (Rhodes, Sardinia, Egypt, Cape Town). As you can see, I have a tight schedule, but the most important thing is that it pleases me and gives me a lot of fun!
Interviewed by Michał Stankiewicz (W Ślizgu – magazine)