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Hydrofoiling, one of todayís most exciting extreme sports, allows riders to fly high over the water. Like wakeboarders and water-skiers, the hydrofoiler is towed by a boat. The rider is seated on, and strapped to, a seat which is mounted on a pole. The riders' feet are held on a compression-molded ski-like board with side-by-side foot bindings. The entire tower is mounted on a foil that looks like underwater wings. The hydrofoil works on the same principal as an airplane wing. Lift is generated by a combination of speed and the angle of contact with air or water. This gives the rider great lift for awesome tricks, like flips and spins, as much as 20 to 25 feet above the water.
Of all the towed water sports, Hydrofoiling causes the least drag and pull on the body, therefore it is not as tiring. You donít have to be strong or flexible, although if you are going for big air, strength is important. The optimal towing speed for a beginner to hydrofoil is 15 to18 miles an hour. A hydrofoiler can even jump at that speed, but may go anywhere from 22 to 30 mph to increase the amount of air. Unlike wakeboarding, you don't need a smooth, glassy surface, any water conditions will do. This is because the foil rides underneath the water so it is not affected by surface conditions. It just cuts right through waves and wakes. Unlike other water sports, the same hydrofoil a small child would use will work just as well for adults. Any boat can pull a hydrofoil, even a pontoon boat.
How it Works
Sky Ski (www.skyski.com) was started when Mike Murphy, who co-invented the sit-down hydrofoil, struck out on his own, making changes to improve the hydrofoil performance and comfort. Sky Ski markets its product as High Performance Hydrofoils. They added a shock absorbing feature to their tower to help prevent back injuries to riders. Both Sky Ski and Air Chair offer excellent training videos for beginners.
Hydrofoils are not an inexpensive water toy. An Air Chair or Sky Ski will cost between $1000 and $2500, depending on what options you select. While some would-be enthusiasts balk at the cost, others point out that the hydrofoil extends the amount of time they can spend on the water. Hydrofoils also hold their value very well. Used hydrofoils are often available on eBay. Even after a few years of use, people often sell them for almost the same amount they paid for them. Hydrofoilers can ride for long amounts of time because it is easy to ride, and they can use it in just about any type of water conditions. When you consider that a new wakeboard and bindings typically costs about $600, the cost of the hydrofoil doesn't seem exorbitant.
hydrofoil rider community is a very close-knit and active group. Many of the
riders are very committed to spreading word about the sport, and helping to
introduce others to it whenever possible. Several times a year "Fly-In"
events are held at different lakes, where riders gather to learn and teach
tips and tricks. Pictured at left is Geno Yauchler, one of the top
competitive riders, performing a Heli 3 (Photo credit Doug Babcock) There
are e-mail discussion groups, and many web sites promoting the sport, a few
are listed below to get you started. Videos of hydrofoil riding can be viewed on many
of these sites.
Click on the thumbnails below to view the larger image. Place the cursor over the thumbnail to see captions and photo credits.
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