How Billy’s first trip to Cape Town grew his passion for wingsurfing
Billy lives in San Francisco and is the all-round action and sales weapon for F-One in America. In January he made his first visit to Cape Town to see what all the fuss was about – and to push his wingsurfing skills to the next level. Last time we caught up with Billy was when F-One were launching their Swing wing in July 2019 – Billy was just getting to grips with the sport. Nine months later and with a relative wealth of experience under his belt, here are his thoughts on winging around Cape Town as well as details of how he’s truly become a self-professed wingsurf addict.
WSW: What is your watersports background? How did it all start?
I am from the Gulf Coast of Florida and grew up involved in boat and cable wakeboarding, as well as surfing. I was introduced to kiting in early 2000 and that became my focus and passion. In 2016 I started foil surfing, which really piqued my interest as to the possibilities of the foil.
WSW: What stands out from your first trip to Cape Town?
Cape Town brings an amazing group of people together from all parts of the globe sharing similar hobbies and interests. It’s quite a melting pot of pure stoke, which is amplified by the incredible landscapes and beautiful surroundings.
I also experienced my first Braai! To those who do not know the term, a Braai is a South African grill-out and get-together, an evening dinner party of sorts. Do NOT call it a BBQ as we might in America, it won’t go down well!
WSW: You’re a man of many watersports. What did you find yourself doing most? And where did you get to?
If you had told me a year ago that I was going to travel to Cape town and kite ONCE, I would never have believed you. But it’s true, I’ve gone full wing nut, and found myself wing-foiling almost every windy day.
Despite my better safety judgment, I spent the majority of my sessions at the main beaches, Sunset, Dolphin and Kite beach. The energy there was just too fun and dynamic, and I was travelling with a group of kiters who were keen to hit these infamous spots. That being said, I did spend a fair amount of time looking over my shoulder and just waiting for a kiter’s twin-tip fins to appear through my wing.
One spot that I wish I would have checked out more is the lagoon across the road, opposite the Sunset / Dolphin beach area, called the Milnerton Aquatic Club. I was told they just recently opened the Flamingo Wing Foil Center there, and it looks like an epic flat water spot. It’s only open to dinghy sailing, windsurfing and now wingfoiling (no kite lines allowed), so is definitely on my list for next year! I would also like to spend some more time in Big Bay, which is historically a windsurfer’s haven.
WSW: How did wingsurfing fit in with the other sports on this trip?
Even though wingsurfing still has the “new kid on the block” reputation, and thus is met with a fair amount of hesitation or even jeer, I think people are beginning to realise that it really is an amazing crossover of surfing disciplines. We are all trying to achieve the same goal; pushing our bodies and our equipment to maximise each turn and time spent on a wave. To me, wingsurfing lends itself to the largest range of conditions and locations. However, in aggressive conditions I still love having the lightness of a kitesurf board under my feet whilst doing freestyle. When there’s no wind I like to have the freedom that is foil-surfing. Each discipline complements and improves the other.
WSW: What did you take with you and did you find it easy to travel with all your gear?
Hydrofoils are the trickiest part of air travel and you always need to protect the tips with extra padding. Hydrofoil wings have gotten out of control in size and the wingspans of new high-aspect designs can make travelling tricky. Cutting a small slit in a tennis ball and putting those over the tips of every sharp / delicate corner is crucial, accompanied by a large box style rectangular travel bag.
I used the Manera Foil Box Bag, wheeled 747 and a Biggie bag to transport all my foils, boards and kite wings safely.
I packed a 5’0” foilboard, 3.5 and 5m Swing wings, one foil with a 75cm mast, Mitu carbon 5’6”, two Bandit-S kites (7 and 10m), a kite bar, two wetsuits, a surf leash and a harness.
WSW: Tell us about your favourite spots and where were all these shots taken?
We linked up with local surf photographer Anthony Fox for a shoot at Glencairn Beach. This was a unique location on the False Bay side of the Cape, about an hour’s drive from Kite Beach in Blouberg. We were met with beautiful backdrops and a beach-break to ourselves.
Other favourites included Langebaan lagoon, which was a perfect place to work on flat-water foiling tacks and jibes, and a location that seemed good when the wind was funky back in town. I enjoyed wing-foiling the waves at the main kite beach in Table View, but as mentioned earlier it is extremely hectic weaving in and out of hundreds of kiters. Surf-foiling we mostly did at Doodles beach, to escape surfing through crowds of people.
WSW: How long have you been wingsurfing for now? Are you finding that it fits in with your other sports well, or do you sometimes have to foresake another one to wingsurf?
I started wingsurfing last July in Mauritius and have been intensely refining my skills ever since. I’ve been winging for six months as of now and I am slightly (very) addicted!
I still love kitesurfing but have become extremely selective on the conditions I tend to ride. If it is 10 out of 10, solid wind and waves, I usually kite, but in variable light wind conditions I have been mostly winging. I would be lying if I said I have not forsaken kitesurfing for wingsurfing. I have really enjoyed the challenge.
WSW: What did you think of the wingsurfing scene in Cape Town compared to what you’ve experienced at home and elsewhere up to now?
The Cape Town scene is like most locations; there is lots of interest and questions on the beach and many people seem eager to learn, but there are only a few guys out there winging. A select few are frothing to get up to speed and I know will be ripping in no-time. Next year we will see more wings, I’m sure.
WSW: Where do you think wingsurfing is headed?
As with kiting or surfing, I think many subsets will develop, such as racing, freestyle and wave riding. My expectations have already been exceeded and things are not slowing down. I think I am most looking forward to seeing how the wing continues to be fine-tuned into the perfect tow-in surfing tool.
Want more from Billy? Check out our video with him from 2019 here