What is Wing Surfing?

A new craze

What is wing surfing and where the hell has it all come from? Also known as wing foiling and kite winging, here’s our guide to this exciting ‘new’ sport..

Essentially, wing surfing is when you ride a hydrofoil board, or a standard SUP, while using a handheld inflatable kite wing (sail) to propel you.

With a standard standup paddleboard (SUP) you can sail around when the wind conditions would make paddling less fun. You can also get some reasonable speeds and even travel upwind. As little as 5-10 knots of wind will allow you to travel faster than you have ever paddled.

With a hydrofoil board you can carve around and blast upwind. And with the addition of some footstraps, it’s also possible to jump. The hydrofoil means that you can pick up waves before they break so you can ride mushy wind swell and still have loads of fun. The kite wing is super stable, and doesn’t pull at all when held one-handed, so when you do get on some swell you have that totally free and ‘surfy’ feeling.

The benefit is being able to carve in both directions, which is always a compromise when windsurfing or kitesurfing on waves.

Where has wing surfing come from?

Handheld kite wings aren’t actually that new. They were originally developed in the mid 1980’s to use with a windsurf board to give a ‘freer’ feeling. You can read more on the history of handheld wings on AWR.

Since then they have been used on beaches with two-wheeled boards, but until the last couple of years have mainly been used with ice skates or skis to travel across frozen lakes.

With the explosion of hydrofoil use in the watersports industry over the last few years, more people are using them on the water again. Last year, most of the kitesurfing brands rushed to bring inflatable kite wings to market with a variety of designs.

Modern kite wings

These days kite wings are inflatable and very similar to a kitesurfing kite in construction. The most popular sizes are typically 4 or 5m², depending on where they are being used, which makes them lightweight and very easy to handle.

They are attached to you by a wrist leash which is perfect for those moments when you need a short rest while out on the water. You can simply sit down on the board, let go of the kite wing and there is no pull at all. It will simply float on the water until you want to use it again. When you do want to get going again you just pick up the kite wing (no hauling a sail out of the water), angle it into the wind and stand up when you feel ready. Easy!

Swing kite wing inside
Swing kite wing top

Why is wing surfing exploding now?

A very good question and a straightforward one to answer. The simplicity of the kit is a major factor, there is no rigging involved like windsurfing or kitesurfing and there is a lot less kit to drag to the beach or on holiday! It’s really easy to setup and use on a crowded beach. You can prone paddle out past swimmers and then start wing surfing in the clearer water.

We have seen surfers trying wing surfing as a crossover sport for those windy days with crappy surf, with a hydrofoil and a wing you can just go out and have fun.

For kitesurfers (ourselves included) we love the different wind ranges that we can now get out in. Both lighter winds and offshore winds that would be too dangerous for kitesurfing are suddenly possible options with a kite wing. There are also a multitude of new launch areas I can use, tree lined lakes, crowded beaches etc.

Wind surfers and kite surfers are definitely seeing the benefits in the kite wing when riding swell or wave. The free riding of surfing is so much more natural and it’s all about the board and the wave with no pull from the kite wing.

Many paddleboarders are buying kite wings for the windy days when paddling is a real chore! Using the kite wing can definitely make those days much more fun and the speeds you can get out the SUP are far faster than paddling, which opens up a greater range and new exploration possibilities.

The evolution of wing surfing

In just the last 18 months we’ve seen huge changes in the kit. Some manufacturers are radically changing their kite wing and foil board designs for this year’s releases and we don’t expect this to stop over the next few years. As different designs are proven and the direction that the sport moves in changes, we are expecting lots of innovative developments and technologies to appear.

We see people using kite wings for long downwinders, using straps on the board to enable boosting off waves and pulling tricks while others are using higher aspect foils to get more glide, or even to race.

It’s an exciting time to get into a sport that is rapidly changing and likely to grow exponentially. Definitely a chance to be one of the first wing surfers!

If you fancy giving wing surfing a try then why not book a Taster  lesson with The Foiling Collective. We can help set you up with everything you need and provide wing surf lessons for beginners upwards.

Wing surf setup on the beach
Slingwing v2 kite wing