The first liftoff came much earlier than expected. As I kneeled on my Fliteboard AIR, a more forgiving model for inexperienced eFoilers like me, the water suddenly felt less choppy than before. Glancing down, I saw the board hovering over the water like a magic carpet. I was instantly hooked.
eFoiling is one of those activities I always wanted to try but never got around to actually doing it. I’m sure you’ve seen those incredible images/videos of people riding these surfboard-like machines, effortlessly flying above the water and thinking, “I’ll put this on my bucket list!”
I did precisely that. I wrote up a recent article about the launch of Fliteboard's latest Series 3 boards, hoping that one day I'd get to try them. But as it happens, I didn’t have to wait until I grew old to try eFoiling, thanks to Fliteboard and the accommodating crew down at Easyriders in Poole. So, after a long day in the office, I took the train to Bournemouth and walked to Poole along the lovely beachfront to meet the team.
Every beginning is easy
Once I put on my wetsuit, helmet and life vest, I was acquainted with the star of the day: the Fliteboard AIR. I was told there are a few different models, but considering I was a rookie surfer (at best) with some experience with inflatable paddle boards, it’s best I started with the inflatable model as they are more buoyant and forgiving for beginners. Needless to say, I said yes, as I thought even using the Fliteboard AIR won’t help me stay above water for too long.
After a short intro to the different parts and controls, I anxiously made my way to the water, where the helpful team at Easyriders prepared the Fliteboard AIR for me. The battery was fully charged, and the remote was securely attached to my wrist – it was time to go.
We took things easy and started the session by moving around slowly with me laying on my belly on the board. Since I love the water, I felt like a dolphin immediately; moving the Fliteboard AIR around was easy and intuitive. Better still, the team, who were on the water with me, was on hand at every step, telling me where to place my weight and how to best hang onto the board.
At this point, I haven’t fallen off the Fliteboard AIR once, mainly because it has handles and is comparatively wide, making it harder – if not impossible – to flip it over in this position. After a couple of laps around the buoys, I was encouraged to change position and get on my knees, which allowed for better control of the eFoil experience.
And that experience is what makes eFoiling so unique. When you find the sweet spot, going just fast enough and balancing the board just right, you rise above the water, and the roughness of the sea melts away. You glide, feeling weightless but still in control. It’s a spectacular sensation.
It’s like reverse surfing. Instead of focusing on the water, you concentrate on the connection between you and the board. But you shouldn't just stare at the Fliteboard – you try feeling it with your leg, shifting the centre of gravity back and forth, and locating the correct speed/position that allows you to go-go-go.
Get on board, stay on board
Of course, you will fall off the board eventually, as I did not long after I tried to get on my feet from a kneeling position. This is a natural thing; losing balance means you're getting there and are on your way to pushing the board and yourself to where the combination doesn’t quite work anymore. And you need this to set these boundaries of the relationship between you and the Fliteboard.
Thankfully, the remote control is designed so it’s practically impossible for the board to keep going once you fall off. You need to perform a short sequence of button presses to activate the propeller, and once you’re below the water line, the Bluetooth connection is lost, stopping the engine immediately.
Fliteboard, very rightly so, designed the system to be as fool-proof as possible. People will always find a way to break things, hurt themselves, and blame others for all this, but based on my experience, Fliteboard’s safety system is spot on and should prevent most people from doing anything dumb.
But back to eFoiling. After several tries, I felt comfortable standing up fully and accelerating more. Finding the right speed is pretty easy, thanks to the remote’s display. Instead of a dial, you use + and - buttons to increase/decrease speed. The perfect eFoiling speed for me was 5-6; I don’t even know how fast those speeds are. The best thing is, I don’t have to know!
I got comfortable with eFoiling pretty quickly after I managed to find my balance standing upright. I wasn’t quite as good as Fliteboard’s UK Manager Toby Irons, who also attended the session and zoomed around me like the aforementioned speed/balance sweet spot was extremely easy to find, but I felt good. In fact, I was having the time of my life.
After a few more laps around the buoys, I was offered a chance to upgrade my board from the Fliteboard AIR to a Fliteboard, which has a hard fibreglass body, is narrower and allows you to spend more time in the eFoil sweet spot. It’s also more responsive, meaning you need to be more in control of your balance. However, as I found, it lets you experience the eFoiling experience for longer, which is a whole lot of fun.
Another thing I noticed is that eFoiling is a good exercise, especially at the beginning. The best way to eFoil is to relax into it, but until you find your balance, you'll be flexing your legs and bum like there is no tomorrow. This burns lots of calories, not to mention all the other activities you do in the water, like pulling yourself up on the board and swimming after it once you've fallen off.
As a final test, Toby suggested we did a turn while hovering above the water. This is a bit tricky as you need to lean while also balancing the forward and back motion – it's more three-dimensional, so to speak. My first attempt at steering the Fliteboard ended up with me falling in the water straight away, but once I figured out how much I could lean, looping around went like a dream.
Two hours after first laying my eyes on the Fliteboard AIR, I helped carry the board out of the water, marking the end of my session. I felt like a million dollars and had to work hard not to do the hang loose sign to my fellow water sports enthusiasts on the beach. I was pleasantly exhausted and glad I tried eFoiling; I can't wait to do it again.
If you want to try eFoiling for yourself, you can find the nearest Fliteboard Academy on Fliteboard's website. You can also buy one for yourself; either way, I'd recommend taking a class first to get used to the sensation. Hang loose, my friend!