Meet Balz Mueller, the Swiss professional wingfoiler & Foil Freestyle World Champion, in this exclusive interview
Gosh, were we pumped in the office, when we found out that the GWA (Global Wingsports Association) and the city of Tarifa were actually going to stage the first ever Tarifa Wing Pro event after all. Wingfoiling is a brand-new sport discipline, and such an exciting surface water sport, that it became massive hit for Tarifa, and for Spain, to be able to host their first event in this awesome board sport.
Of course, TA-DAH.TV wasn’t going to miss this exciting competition, in which 19 men and 4 women riders took part. Hugely impressive is also the fact, that participants made it all the way down South from all over Europe, including Brazil and New Caledonia (that’s the other side of the hemisphere, dear wingfoil fans)! So, RESPECT to all of them having been so committed to taking part.
Among them, naturally, was the First Couple of wingfoiling, the current Foil Freestyle World Champions: Balz Müller and his girlfriend Eva Wyss. Claudia Peifer grabbed Balz ahead of the competition for a great exclusive interview, in which Balz explains what the sport of wingfoiling means to him in technical terms, how they made it down to Spain and why he swapped windsurfing with wingfoiling – a sport he himself is massively excited about. So, hit that start button hard to listen in on what he had to say…
What is it that makes a committed kitesurfer equally excited to pick up another wind sport – so, we ask why winging? Balz explains quite clearly in his interview what drove him to switch. However, there’s no doubt that wind foiling has taken the wind world by storm. Windsurfers, surfers, kite boarders everywhere have been spotted diving into this new sport, which is simply spectacular to watch. Here we explain the two main disciplines for the wind foiling competitions organised by the Global Wingsports Association:
The Surf-Freestyle discipline includes the expression format where competitors surf waves or swells and perform air and surface tricks using the given water conditions. It is a mix of both wave riding and air tricks.
In the Surf-Race discipline, multiple competitors ride around a course with a start and finish line that combines jibes, tacks and parts of pumping or surfing without wing assistance. The Race Director sets the course according to the given conditions in the competition area. It is called Surf-Race because it includes upwind racing with surfing/pumping downwind.
In addition to the two official disciplines, an event may host an expression session format. An expression session is a non-official show format that does not count towards the world ranking. During the expression session, the athletes compete in a special format that is chosen depending on the conditions to provide a spectacular show (for example Best Trick, Best Wave, Highest Jump, Team contest, etc.)
HOW TO LEARN HOW TO WINGFOIL
Before anything else, you ought to assess your own abilities first: are you already board savvy in water sports? Got any idea how wind works on the water? If yes, then great, you’ve got a head start. If not, and you’re a total beginner’ then read on to wisen up about what you need to know about wing foiling and what you need to get kit-wise.
If you’re a Watersport virgin, meaning you’ve got no experience at all and starting from scratch, it is highly recommendable you start off with an instructor! Check your local or nearest possibility to train with a centre (try lakes or rivers as well, not just your nearest beach with open ocean), or maybe book a holiday according to where you can learn this fantastic new sports discipline with a local sports school. One thing to bear in mind: it would be good to check out places with either on-shore or side-shore winds so that where ever you’ll be taken out on the water, the wind will push you towards the shore. There should be no obstacles in the water (rocks, etc) in order to allow for a relatively easy launch, as well as an easy landing location.
If you’re already a board enthusiast, and might even be a wind surfer or kite surfer, things will indeed be a lot easier for you. You might give it a try, having read up about it prior to you starting it, or even a friend might help to ease you into it. Or a few private lessons might just get you going, rather than starting anew in a beginner’s course. However, getting it right from the start is paramount, as with every sports discipline really, so starting off with a qualified instructor is highly recommendable, whatever your level might be.
Finding the right wing-foiling school or sports centre is easier than you think, as the Global Wingfoil Association (GWA) can help you with up-to-date lists of qualified and recognised schools, as well as instructors, as safety standards are paramount when learning this exciting and somewhat crazy, new sport! It also helps to look up reviews and track records/certifications of any centre to make sure you’re in good hands when taken out on the water.
WHAT KIT DO YOU NEED TO WINGFOIL
If you decide to join a school or sports centre, they often can supply you with gear to start learning. However, if you’re serious about mastering this sport and want to get your own gear, here are some guidelines of how to get yourself sorted with the right kit when you’re more accustomed to the physical requirements when battling nature’s elements like wind, water and weather patterns.
Starting out as a beginner, you’ll probably need to learn to balance on a bigger board first, whilst getting to know what it feels like to control the wing with your body. Another reason why it’s smart to join a school to start off with, as you then don’t have to go through that extra expense of a bigger board that you might not need later on when you’re accustomed to riding a foil.
Choose your board:
For beginners, as a general guideline regards the board, add 30-40 litres of volume to your body weight, so if you weigh 70kg/155lbs, choose a board of 110/120 litres.
As already mentioned, as a beginner you might feel more comfortable on a larger board. The more board-savvy and experienced you get, you might find going for a smaller board allows you to advance quicker. Lots of high-level wingfoil riders use a foil with a volume of less than 50L!
Choose your wing:
A good guideline for a wing to start off with is around the 4m mark for anybody with a bodyweight of 70kg! Wing sizes range from about 2 – 7metres, so if your weight is 70kg+, you can try a 5m wing. Starting out, you might find a bigger wing more useful, to give you more power, but once you get the hang of it, you might find a slightly smaller wing may give you more agility.
How to use your body to steer the wing:
This is where this sport offers a new experience, as your body will be the one connection between foil and wing. You might find training on dry land useful before you head out on the water. Balance is key, so train on dry as much as you can, even if you’ve gained some experience already. Try and focus on learning how to power up and power down the wing, which your instructor will help you master when out on the water. Once you’re more accustomed to how the wing works, you can then focus on mastering the foil.
Choose your foil:
When looking for the right foil for you, consider that you’ll want a good glide, lots of stability and plenty of lift. Comprising of a mast, fuselage and wings, many schools use a taller mast of around 70cm+ is great for learning in order to give good height and helps prevent breaching in swell or indeed ocean chop. To begin with, choose a foil that gets you up without needing too much speed. Slow speed-foiling is safer and more effective when starting out. So, choosing a foil that allows for speeds of between 10-12km is advisable. Being able to ride in a wide range of wind conditions will also be important, so do bear that in mind too when looking for your perfect foil.
Once you’re acing it out there on the water and you’re more confident, you can then look for foils that allow you to accelerate faster, gaining more speed quicker and, very importantly, allow you to turn with increased capability. That’s when the fun really starts…
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