Since I first strapped on a wakeboard back in 1991, there have been a few different iterations of this great sport. Wakeskating and wakesurfing are the two most popular offshoots. However, we may have just gotten our hands on the next big wake variation, the Wakefoil.
The Wakefoil is essentially a wakeboard/wakesurf board with a 24" hydrofoil mounted to the bottom. I put a slash between wakeboard and wakesurf board because the Wakefoil can be ridden as both a wakeboard with bindings on a long line and as a wakesurf board with just some traction, no bindings and with no line (except when you're starting). Since we've only had it out a few times, we've been concentrating on using it with the wakeboard configuration up until this point.
The board itself doesn't look exactly like your modern wakeboard. It's a directional board and the bindings are mounted toward the rear. The rear binding is in a fixed position and the front binding can vary a bit depending on how wide a stance with which you're comfortable. If you're going to use it as a wakesurfer, they make a custom EVA deck piece that covers the area of the board on which you'll stand. You can also mount the bindings on top of the EVA if you're going to be riding it in both configurations.
We've had quite a few riders try out the Wakefoil, from beginner to advanced, and most have had a great time on it. It will definitely take a beginning wakeboarder a little more time to feel comfortable on the board, but I've found that it's pretty easy for most people to get up on it. You start just like you do when you're wakeboarding, but with the board pointed toward the boat a little more. As long as you keep some weight on your front foot, you can keep the board flat on the water surface and it's very similar to riding a wakeboard. The best part for beginners is that you can go very slow (we started at 12 MPH), so it makes you feel safe even if you're not totally in control.
Once you get comfortable with riding on the water surface, you can start putting a little more weight on your back foot, which will cause the hydrofoil to start lifting you out of the water. You have to be really subtle with your movements because it's really easy to over-correct and end up going up and down in an endless loop until you either get control or fall. With just a little bit of practice, you can get to the point where you're floating steadily on hydrofoil. It's amazing how quiet it is once you're cruising.
From that point, there's a lot you can work on. Crossing the wakes is easy since the hydrofoil is running underneath the surface of the water and you will barely notice it as you cross. In fact, you can run the Wakefoil in some pretty terrible water conditions and still have a nice smooth ride, making it a great option once the water gets too rough for wakeboarding. Keeping the board out of the water is a little tougher as you're cutting outside the wake than it is directly behind the boat.
As far as jumping goes, you can do it with or without the wake. It's just a matter of leaning back the right amount and letting the Wakefoil jump out of the water. Landing is surprisingly soft and easy to control. If you want to get a little crazier, you can find a sweet spot where the bottom of the foil skips along the surface of the water. You can even throw the foil sideways for some even crazier moves. I'm sure we've only scratched the surface of what you can do on this thing. I haven't seen any inverts yet (although we did give it a shot), but I'm sure it's just a matter of time. They also make a 36" foil, so you can rise up an additional foot once you're ready.
If you're looking for some variety or just something to do when the water gets rough, I would definitely recommend you pick up a Wakefoil. It's easy for all levels, works in just about any water conditions and can be pulled behind anything with a motor...no fancy wakeboard boat necessary! In fact, I've watched riders pop up at speeds as slow as 6 MPH, so maybe you can get away with a sail boat! This will open the sport up to a lot more participants than some of the other wakesports.
Find out more at TheWakefoil.com and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.