Wing foiling can be a steep learning curve where you are required to understand the foil and the wing simultaneously. To learn how to foil, this can only be done in the water. However, for the wing that you hold on to (that fabric thing that requires inflation with a pump), then it’s best to learn on the land first.
Taking a wing to propel your self is not a new sport. Adjusted hand sails were used in early Polar expeditions to shoot across ice and snow on skis pulling a sled. This led to the sport of Kitewinging, which is a popular sport on frozen North American and Nordic lakes, it is also known as winter sailing. The Kitewing, or kite wing, is of similar shape and size to a wingfoil wing, although made from carbon tube and rods and look more similar to a symmetrical windsurf sail.
Static Flying the wing
To start off with, find an open park or beach. Ideally this location has a smooth wind where the up wind obstacles such as trees or buildings are far enough away to eliminate wind gusts. Hold the hand wing and get use to changing your hands around to simulate going left (port) or starboard (right).
Walking Flying the wing
Now walk at 90° to the wind direction. When your left hand is at the top of the handwing handle or boom, walk to your left. When your right hand is at the top of the handwing handle or boom, walk to your right. Walking across the wind like this allows the wind to increase over the canopy where you create apparent wind speeds. That’s the wind speed plus your walking speed. The faster you walk/run, the more air flow is created and the more power you feel in your hands.
Wing Skating Location
Wing skating, or Skate winging, which ever you prefer, is best done on a smooth concrete surface. The ideal location requires two key items:
-Smooth wind. To start with 5 knots is enough because the rolling friction of a skate wheel on the concrete is minimal and you don’t have to launch the board off the water surface. As you progress, you will be able to go out wing skating in stronger winds. Upwind obstacles like trees and buildings will only create wind shadows and gusty wind conditions which can become troublesome.
-Large open carparks or smooth footpaths. Coastal board walks can work well if the wind is directly on shore (90° to beach). You want to avoid areas of stones, gravel or uneven concrete surfaces where the skateboard wheels will catch and trip you over.
Wing Skating Equipment
Hand wing size: You can typically get away with a size, or couple sizes smaller in the same winds compared to Wing foiling. A common size is a 3m or 4m, depending on your wind strength and ability.
The better style of board to get is a “cruiser” style skateboard with large soft wheels. Sector 9 or INSERT BRAND are ideal for wing skating. These also have wider trucks (axle), so they are more stable at speed.
If you have a skateboard background, you will pick up this sport within 5 minutes. Continue to use the board that you are familiar with as you’ll have a familiar feeling under your feet. Be aware that normal “hard” small skatepark wheels will slow you down and become very noisy on the various surfaces. As discussed above, park style skateboards have narrower trucks and less stable at speed.
If you do not have a skateboard background, have no fear. Get use to the board before holding the hand wing.
Wing skate hints and tips
- To prevent scuff marks, place some armor on the hand wing. Take some duct tape and place some strips over both tips and the end of the central strut. This way, when the wing touches the ground, you will minimize fabric and or sewing threads. And although you think “I’m not going to let the tips touch the ground” it doesn’t take long before you have damaged the materials
- Once you have passed the beginner stage, remove the leash. Yes, remove it. You don’t need it. The leash is for the water and in the vary rare occurrence that you do let go of the wing, you can skate, run after it. Taking the leash off allows the freedom to perform a variety of maneuvers that other wise are cumbersome.
- On the water, when you are trying new gybe or tack maneuvers, try it on the skateboard first, the hand position and body posture is very similar to wing foiling and you can easily practice the same move over and over again without falling into the water. Practice makes perfect.
- Don’t stop on smooth concrete / tarmac / bitumen surfaces. Grab a mountain board and head to the beach on low tide, or in the winter find a flat snow paddock or frozen lake to go wing skiing or wing skating.
- Don’t change your feet around when you turn around. Ride heel side going one way, and toe side going the other.
- Keep your eye out for new Wing Skate locations. The trip to your supermarket, local park or boulevard coastal walk may never be the same again.
- Look out for small stones, as it will only take one stone to flip you on your lid.
Start Wing Skating
OK, so you have completed the above and found a location, you have the gear and you have taped your tips. Here’s how you get moving.
Board: At the start, we just want to go slow and mimic the “walking” and “running” hand wing technique. To do this, have your back to the wind, place the board on the ground down wind of you at 90° from the wind direction. In this case, lets say we are riding towards the left and in the natural stance position. Stand on the board with your left/front foot first, followed by your back foot.
Hand wing: Now you are standing on the board, and your left/front hand is holding the boom or top handles, place your right/back hand on the lower handle and pull the handle towards your right/back hip. The further you pull in your right/back hand, the more power the hand wing will make, and the energy will be transferred into your board/wheels and propel you along the concrete surface. Its easier to start with the hand wing directly above your head in the neutral position. By keeping the wing on the left side of you will propel you towards the left, and vis versa to come back to your starting point.
-How to slow down
Now its about at this point we mention that there are no brakes on the skateboard or on the hand wing. Instead the technique for slowing down and decreasing your speed involves the following:
Board: Steer or point the board into the wind. The further you point the skate board into the wind, the quicker you will slow down.
Hand wing: To depower the hand wing so there is less power being generated, extend your right/back hand so the fabric of the canopy is parallel with the wind directions. This can be as easy as letting go of your right/back hand and allow the canopy to fly above your head.
By combining the above two techniques together at the same time will result in slowing down.
-How to go faster
Once you get the hang of the wing skating, you may want to go faster. This can be achieved by doing the opposite for the slowing down instructions discussed above. With the board, head 45° from the down wind direction whilst also pulling in the back/lower hand on the wing.
When you get into the sport, the acceleration from a standing position can be rapid in 15-20knots.
So you have managed to glide across the concrete surface and slow down at the other end. To come back you and either a) jump off the board and use your foot to spin the board back to your starting position or b) go for a gybe.
For the gybe, its best to practice this walking first and transfer this technique to the board once you know what to do with your hands. Essentially you take off your right/back hand first, and then place this onto the front handle/boom position. Complete the turn with the skate board so you are heading back to your starting point. Now that we have turned around, place your back/left hand on the lower handle/boom and power up the wing.
The above is just the basics which will be enough for you to get rolling. Its time to explore and head to all corners of the concrete surface. Winging with your mates is pretty cool. Here are some common moves that you could learn in 3 to 4 wing skate sessions.
-Tack and pass the wing behind your back (leash off).
-Back wing to tack
Complete the above going in both directions, and complete them in light and strong wind conditions. The cool thing about the wing skating is that all moves transition to wing foiling perfectly. So if you are learning how to gybe or tack on the water, try it on the skateboard in 5 knots first to slow it all down and get use to the hand/body positions.
You can also set up a course and race your mates, or have a game of tag (touch with canopy is fair play).