What’s the Difference Between Windfoiling and Kitefoiling?

Hydrofoiling has begun to revolutionize pretty much every water related board and wind sport.

“Foiling” has really taken over wind or sail based activities.

Working in a shop where we cater to all foiling needs, we are often asked what is the difference between windfoiling and kitefoiling? The difference between windfoiling is that the terms “windfoiling” (wind-foiling) refers to windsurfing with a hydrofoil while “kitefoiling” (kite-foiling) refers to kiteboarding with a hydrofoil. 

What is Windfoiling?

Windfoiling is the term used to describe windsurfing with a hydrofoil on a windsurf board. Windsurfing started in the 1960s. Often referred to as sailboarding, windsurfing was very popular in the 1980s and had a pretty dramatic decline in the 1990s.

Hydrofoiling has created a resurgence to windsurfing. Many people who left windsurfing for kiteboarding have returned to windfoiling!

With the use of a foil, windsurfers can sail with much smaller sails in much lighter wind conditions. The “fun factor” has greatly increased for the marginal wind days.

With a foil rig, one can now sail in 6 knots of wind while being fully elevated out of the water with great speeds. This is due to the lack of drag when foiling.

Equipment Needed

Windfoiling requires the following equipment:

  • Windsurf Sail
  • Mast
  • Mast Base
  • Boom
  • Foil Board
  • Foil setup (Mast, Wings, Fuselage)
  • Connecting Hardware
  • Harness

What is Kitefoiling?

Kitefoiling is the term used to describe kiteboarding (kitesurfing) with a hydrofoil on your board. Kitefoiling is responsible for a revolution in kiteboarding as it has allowed kiters to ride more efficiently in lighter wind conditions.

Hydrofoiling with a kite is mainly responsible for the increase in popularity of the use of foils in most boards sports.

Kitefoiling became popular around 2012 and equipment developed fast. The technology fueled by kitefoiling inspired the surge of other boardsports like windfoiling, surffoiling, wakefoiling and wingfoiling.

Equipment Needed

Kitefoiling requires the following equipment:

  • Kite
  • Kite Pump
  • Kite Bar with Lines
  • Harness
  • Foilboard
  • Foil setup (wings, mast, fuselage)
  • Hardware

How a Hydrofoil Works

Hydrofoils work by creating lift in the water. This lift is similar to that of the lift of airplane wings, however the fluid is not air but in the case of a hydrofoil it is the water.

Hydrofoils used for boardsports are typically comprised of two wings. A larger front wing and a smaller tail wing. They are connected by a fuselage with hardware.

The fuselage mounts to the mast. The mast connects to the board typically through a base plate (pedestal system) or compression fit box like the Tuttle Box.

The size of all these components changes how the foil feels. The front wing is typically larger than the rear wing. Larger and thicker wings typically ride slower and are less maneuverable.

Thinner smaller wings typically ride faster and are more maneuverable.

Foil wing size matters depending on what you are trying to achieve or what sport you are doing.

For both wind and kite foiling, it easier to learn on a bigger slower wing. In most cases, if a wing is slower it will foil sooner. This allows beginners to practice at slower safer speeds which will feel more comfortable.

Faster thinner wings are ideal for windfoilers and kitefoilers who want to go fast or race. Racing with foils has become very popular for both disciplines. There will even be foil racing appearances in the future Olympics.

There are many brands and wing styles available now for foiling. Each wing shape and size has advantages and disadvantages depending on the conditions, discipline and style of riding.

Mast length can vary as well. When learning to foil, a shorter mast is easier to learn on. The longer mast is great for advanced riders when it comes to windfoiling or kitefoiling. It allows riders to edge and fly over the chop.

Other Foil or (Foiling) Boardsports

Common Foil Sports Include:

  • Kite Foiling
  • Wind Foiling
  • Surf Foiling
  • Wake Foiling
  • SUP Foiling
  • Wing Foiling
  • E-Foiling

Surf Foiling – A Brief Definition

Surf Foiling has become really popular. It has opened up the realm of small wave riding. Surfers no longer need breaking waves to have long smooth thrilling rides.

The hydrofoil allows surfers to ride rolling swells that would not normally be rideable with surfboard. This type of foiling is often referred to as “prone” foil surfing.

Wake Foiling – The Inside Scoop

Wake Foiling has taken the wake industry by storm. Where wakeboarding and wakesurfing are very dependent on the water being smooth, wakefoiling can be done on choppy waters with no problem.

Flying above the chop has give wakesurfers a whole new way to ride the wake. With wakefoiling, you can easily have multiple riders going at one time. Someone who is wakefoiling can ride the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and even the 4th wake back!

SUP Foiling – How it Works

SUP (Paddleboard) Foiling has also become really popular. The ease of catching waves with an SUP has made it an easy way for people to get in to foiling. Another new thing with paddleboard foiling is their use for downwinders.

This is very popular in places such as Hood River, Oregon where the river current creates large rolling swells. Paddleboarders are starting upwind and riding wind chop with the foil for miles.

Wing Foiling – The Newest Trend

Wing Foiling refers to handheld wings which foilers are using to propel themselves. They are a cross between a windsurf sail and a kiteboarding kite. They are inflated and look like a small kite but do not have lines.

This has started to become popular now in 2019 due to the increase in technology in hydrofoils. This is usually done with an SUP foilboard or prone foilboard. Common wings would be the Slingshot Slingwing, Ozone Wasp, Naish Wing Surfer etc.

E-Foiling – Handsfree Surfing?

E-foiling refers to electric powered hydrofoils. These typically use a large lithium battery and the thrust is controlled by a bluetooth remote. There is a small electric motor mounted on the mast near the fuselage that pushes the foil. Lift is the main brand producing these amazing machines.

It’s like soaring on a magic carpet. With runtimes over an hour, these efoils are great for exploring and cruising. It is one of the easiest ways to learn foiling. Average pricing of efoils is around $12,000 but lessons are offered for reasonable rates if you want to experience it.

Hydrofoiling Olympics – Is it the next big thing?

Kitefoil racing has been accepted in the 2024 Paris Olympics. Men and women will be able to use kites from 7 to 21 square meters and will race in anything from 5 to 40 knots.

This has been deemed the suitable wind range for competition. The parameters have been determined off of the bodyweight of the current ten top ranked men and women in the Formula Kite World Series.

The range of conditions that sail-based foiling is now able to be performed in has really opened up the opportunities for kiting and windsurfing.

Everyone has now seen the America’s Cup boats flying at 50 knots on large foiling sailboats. A sailing hydrofoil craft can achieve speeds twice that of the wind speed!

It is pretty clear that hydofoils are going to hold a place in the future of wind and board based sports.