Foils are nothing new in the watersports world. Kiters and windsurfers have experimenting with the underwater wings for decades. But recently, now that the the America's Cup race is now run almost entirely over the water, foils are becoming more and more mainstream. New shapes and new material are combining in ways previously only dreamed of – and the newest foils are offering more performance than ever.
How much? Enough that all Kai Lenny needs for lift-off is a few paddles strokes and a little bit of wind. Watch the video above to see for yourself.
Time for lift-off
If you're like most of the people on the planet, you're wondering how this works. The first thing to know is that Lenny is going downwind – in a pretty brisk breeze – and there's windswell to help him along.
That alreadys gives a little boost to the wattage he can produce with his own body. Occasionally, he'll catch a 'glide' – where a bit of wind swell pushes the board along as fast, or faster, than he can paddle it – letting him gain big ground with no effort.
Pump to keep it going
In downwind racing, it's as much as about technique as it is about fitness. Catching and linking up these glides is just as key to winning a race as paddle power. But the foil is a whole new ball game.
Exploring the open ocean
Once 'foiling speed' is reached, the fin underneath the board – whichhas a cross section shaped like a wing – lifts the board up and out of the water. Once that happens, there's less friction and drag on the board, meaning Lenny can accelerate faster and faster, with less effort.
"In downwind conditions, no normal board can compete," says Lenny. "This is the evolution of the sport – it's way more fun, way faster. I can't imagine going back."
Cruising the harbour
For Lenny, it's an exciting finish to one of the best winters in history for big wave surfing in Maui. "After a level 12 winter, I wanted to make summer just as exciting," says Lenny. "Just as we were wrapping up winter, years of work on this project came together, and it literally took off!"
And now the two biggest questions: firstly, is it hard? "It's deceiving to the eyes," says Lenny. "It looks like a lot of balancing, but it isn't. No more than riding a bike. With speed comes stability."
And question two: where's the hiden motor? "No hidden motor!" laughs Lenny. "That could also be cool though!"
One more funny bit? Lenny and his sponsors at Naish are referring to the board the as the Malolo – which is Hawaiian for flying fish.' Here's to a long and safe flight.