When we interviewed wave riding wingsurf star Titouan Galea, from New Caledonia for our first issue, we were amazed how small his hydrofoil wings were and how little volume his board has! If you’re just learning or improving, you’ll be riding a board of at least 100 litres and a hydrofoil wing somewhere upwards of around 1400cm square centimetres – to give you a little perspective of how good he is! Here’s a short extract of his interview in WSW Issue #01 – read the full feature here
Interview: Jim Gaunt Photos: Valerie Mouren and F-One
Tell me about the front hydrofoil wings you’re using. My most used wing for waves is now the F-One Escape 530.
Wow, that’s small! It’s perfect for any wave over two feet. As I mostly start from a boat and rarely fall I try to use the smallest wing I can. The 530 holds speed so well on a wave and in certain big wave situations I’m actually finding that it’s still too big. The waves were big the other day, unfortunately we didn’t have a camera, but it was like 12 – 15 foot and I hit over 30 knots of speed. I had so much front foot pressure to try to keep the foil down, so all I could do was go in a straight line. When kite foiling the kite pulls you from the side and you can lean (cant) the foil over to resist the pressure, so the lift sensation is different. When winging on a wave you only have your speed, your weight and the lift of the wave. The 530 was lifting so much! I know that guys like Laird Hamilton and Kai Lenny use wings under 300cm² when riding Nazarre in Portugal when it’s big and now I completely understand why.
You ride a really low volume board (25 litres) which you need to sink under your body when you do a board start. You must need about two metres underneath you to get going again when you fall off. How does that work at wave spots where the reef is shallower than that? I never fall! If you fall off in big steep waves, you have problems anyway, because the wing can be broken easily and if you’re in shallow water where the wave breaks you can’t get up. On a good day there are always people on the reef and either my boat or my friend’s boat is there, too. If I’m in good size waves I never wear leashes. I fell while riding waves at Manawa once and the white water pulled the wing hard and, as a result, my arm. Now I don’t use a leash in waves and if I fall I’ll release all my equipment and let it drift over the reef and into the lagoon where I’ll then pick it up with the boat.
What do you think is the limit for small boards? I dont think there is a limit, it just depends on the wind. In the south of France where the Tramontana wind gets up to over 40 knots, you could start on a one litre board without a problem. I was using a 3’11 board with a volume of 18 litres this summer in the stronger winds because a small board feels really good for jumping. I’m sure I get higher with smaller boards and having less weight and momentum when you’re riding in waves allows for much more aggressive turns.
How many bits of equipment do you have in your quiver that you would use on a regular basis? Right now I have the F-One Escape 530 front wing which I use in waves, and I also use that for freeride kite foiling. I also have the Mirage 800 front wing which I use for freeriding and trying to learn some tricks with a bigger 40 litre 5’0’’ board. I also have another foil for downwind SUP, but for winging I only use a 530 and the 800 front wings.
And Swings (F-One’s wind wing), I guess you use the 3.5, 4.2 and 5 metre sizes mostly? Yes, those three. The 4.2 and the 5 mainly. Sometimes the 3.5 on the really windy summer days.
Is there any aspect that you feel limited by in wingsurfing at the moment? Is there some element of performance that is holding you back? As I mentioned, I just need a smaller foil for bigger waves. For sure we can improve the foils so the turns can be closer to those we do on short surfboards. I feel more limited when I kite or do other sports because with a wing I can start from a boat or a harbour because it’s really easy to set up the gear in smaller spaces. Also, if there’s no wind in the harbour you can paddle out to reach the wind if you’re using an 80+ litre board. If the wind drops you can also float and paddle back. The range of use is huge and I don’t feel limited at all.
WSW is a hub of useful equipment and technique features / videos for wingsurf and other hydrofoil related board sports.