Even a knowledgeable extreme sports junkie could be forgiven for not knowing about foil surfing (otherwise known as foil boarding): an obscure 90s water sport done on a curious looking board that hovers above the water. A foilboard is about the size and shape of a wakeboard, and like on a wakeboard, the rider’s feet are strapped in. But the feature that makes foilboards unique is a submerged hydrofoil, attached to the deck by a vertical hydrodynamic tube. At high speeds, physics take over and the foilboard rises out of the water, lifting the rider with it and eliminating friction at the water’s surface.
This was a cool—but forgettable—sideshow in the pantheon of alternative sports. At least until master surfer Laird Hamilton applied foilboards to big-wave surfing. The advantage of foil boarding is that, since the board doesn’t touch the water’s surface, there is none of the chatter normally associated with riding choppy ocean water at preposterously high speeds. As the quest for being the first person to surf a 100-foot wave continues among surfing’s elite, a foilboard could be the board that makes it possible. Whether or not that happens, Hamilton is determined to bring foil surfing back from certain oblivion.
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