'Are you going to go out the front?'
'Yeah!!!' I tried to sound as enthusiastic as could, but the apprehension still came through a bit.
I can count on one hand the amount of times I plucked up the courage to go Wing Foiling on the Solent side of Calshot spit. I can't really tell you why. I have kite foiled 'out the front' for four years now. The one big advantage of wing foiling on a big floaty board is that you can always limp back to the beach. Which isn't always the case when kiting. Even so, the Solent can be a cruel mistress and the tide is soon on the Ebb. This means if I do end up down wind it will be a long walk back up the beach.
We came in off the beach and looked at the wind reading on Bramblemet.
'E 20 to 23 knots, that's loads.'
'Why don't you try the Surf if its not windy enough I'll assemble the Fanatic Aero Surf for you'
(Good plan the Surf is already set up for Demo, I can get out on the water a little quicker)
I inflated the Wasp and changed into my wetsuit while Rob fitted the Surf Foil to the Fly.
The water is quite dumpy on the beach in an easterly, so I walk up a bit closer to the shingle bar where its breaking slightly less.
I walk out with the board floating upside down and the foil in the air, just far enough until I can flip the board over safely without catching the foil on the bottom. The Wasp is resting on the water while leashed to my wrist.
I jump up onto my knees and pull the Wasp towards me using the leash. With both hands on the Wasps handles, I quickly stand up give the wind a few pumps and I am quickly foiling off towards Cowes.
It's quite choppy but the Surf wing glides through it well, before I know it I am out near the old 'Dolphin' I softly glide back onto the waters surface while holding the wasp by the neutral handle. I'm still not so confident my foil jybe after the little practice I've managed to squeeze in over the summer in the 'Pond' (the more sheltered, safer feeling side of the spit). I manage a surface jybe and set off again. Looking back up the beach I can see I have done the inevitable I'm quite far down the beach. 'It's OK though I'm sure I can get back.'
I was wrong 'what's going on' I think to myself as I am only just about managing a broad reach. It must be the tide pushing me down wind, unless I am not getting the maximum out of the Wasp as I think I am. I end up in a lull and I'm back on the surface trying my hardest to keep my line. I make it back to the beach and begin the walk of shame.
As if by Magic Rob appears from between the beach huts.
'I don't know what went wrong' I exclaim
'Do you want me to take the wing?'
'No its alright'
'You sure? I can give you a Lift back up I've set up the Fanatic Aero for you'
'No It's fine it's not the Foil'
He has worked out the wind must have dropped slightly and the bigger wing will compensate for that. I'm convinced its just down to my technique.
OK so we had a plan but I am not ready to go back the Fanatic, I have spent most of the summer on the Fanatic and was really eager to get my head around a faster Surf wing. Deep down I also didn't want my frustration to get the better of me. If I got in the van I might well admit defeat all together.
I stubbornly walk up the beach along the shore line towing both the Fly and Wasp behind me in the waist deep water.
I eventually get half way back before attempting another couple of tacks to see test my upwind skills against the tide again. This time I seem to have cracked it a bit more ad only end up a couple of meters back down wind from where I started. Another walk gets me back to where I started originally. Confident that I will stay in the back eddy behind the shingle bank especially now that the tide has lowered I try going out again.
Yes I have cracked it. All it took was a slight adjustment in the angle of the wing to the wind and I could get back up wind, not as much as I have seen on all of the videos I have watched over the summer, but its still progress. I call it a win and quite while I am ahead.
I gather my thoughts while packing up, as much as the Kite foiling has helped it is still going to take time to get my head around the wings. So far its been the same mix of success and failure I have experienced kiting and windsurfing but just as fun and exciting. Give it another year and I'm sure I can give Kai Lenny a run for his money!!!!