Saturday, November 18, 2017

Introducing Foilboarding with Dylan Shewfelt

Dylan Shewfelt foilboardingDylan Shewfelt is one of the kiters you will see months out of the year, day in and day out cruising the bay and giving Cabarete kiteboarding a good reputation. Always helpful and always the first one out and the last one in.  His kite is recognized by all and even more after his recent endeavor to conquer and master the new kiteboarding genre “foilboarding”.

Foilboarding raises eyebrows on the beach, leaving the tourists thinking they had too many mojitos in town. When spotting these riders from the beach it looks like they are floating in midst air only being pulled forward by the kite. Well, they kind of are. But look a little closer and it all makes sense.
Dylan accepted the challenge to figure the new sport out.

LC: Tell us a little about yourself and your kiteboarding background.
DS: I started kiteboarding at the age of 16 in Playa del Carmen, Mexico in 2009 on a little private bay called Xpu-ha, after I had just come back from boarding school in Colorado where I used to do a lot of snowboarding. In my mind, snowboarding was going to be my life!
The moment I got back to Mexico I was planning my next trip to the snow with some friends, but it was not looking promising with having to finishing school and no funds to back the trip on my own. I was on the beach with the family and saw kiteboarding for the first time. I immediately fell in love with the idea of riding on a board powered under a sail, but it seemed impossible. That same week, as fait would have it, some old friends came to Playa del Carmen for a kiteboarding competition, I joined them to hang out and see what it would take to get into the sport. At this competition I was handed a trainer kite by industry professional Dimitri Maramenides, and that was the moment when my first flight took off!
I took some proper lessons soon after and from that day I never left the beach, flying a kite every day. Wind or no wind I was trying to do something with a kite! IN LOVE! That’s all I can say.

Dylan Shewfelt kiteboarding

LC:  How were you introduced to Cabarete?
DS: After my first day of lessons, the school I was with asked me to stay around and give a helping hand around the beach pumping, launching and learning. We were distributors for EH (Eric Hertsens) kiteboarding from Cabarete, in Mexico. I rode these kites from Eric for about 2 years or more. This school I ended up working for and running for a short time made an annual trip to Cabarete. So my second summer with them I went to Cabarete for the first time. It was like a dream to be kiting every single day on a 9m or smaller. Something I was not used to in Playa del Carmen. It was a great experience, and I met a lot of really good people that first year as a young kiter dude!

Dylan Shewfelt kiteboarding

LC: You keep coming back every year, so you must enjoy kiting in Cabarete. What is it that makes it so special for you that you come back for months every year?
DS: I have been to Cabarete 4 summers now, 3 months at a time. I keep coming back because of its reliable winds and laid back attitude! I met some really great people that first summer that are now the closest friends I have. If you have ever been to Cabarete, you would not need me to explain to you why I keep coming back as a kiter and a kite school owner. Its warm, windy, affordable, small and full of sports and sporty people. You can meet anyone from anywhere in this small village. I’m always impressed at who you can find here. People from all corners of the world looking for the same thing; wind and good people to enjoy it with.  It a great place to connect and meet people. Cabarete just rocks!

Dylan Shewfelt kiteboarding school

LC: Give us a little summary of the conditions and what these conditions are suitable for.
DS: The conditions in Cabarete are pretty similar on a day to day basis in the summer months. It’s a thermal wind that gradually starts to blow up in the afternoon, helped by the trade winds through July to September. You can expect to pump your 9m by 1pm and be kiting until 2-3pm before you will want to switch to a smaller sail, or just hold down the big one you pumped up in the early afternoon. That’s what I do!
I kite in Cabarete bay (also known as Bozo Beach where there is a small shore break with choppy water. On the outside you find the reef with waves you can kitesurf and play with. In the summer its not the best time for the waves, but there is always something going on out there! You see everything in Cabarete; kiters with strapless surfbords, twin tips, wearing boots or wake skates. There is no limit to what you can do with a kite in these conditions.
You can enjoy the choppy water and shore break in Cabarete Bay, or kick it to the reef to play on the waves. You can also head down to Kitebeach for a more flat ride with sections of waves on the close-by reef. Keep heading down wind and you will arrive at the surf spot known as Playa Encuentro. It’s a short a downwinder, but if you come to Cabarete you will need to do it once to play in the small section of waves, with not many people around. Not many people set up there to kite, but mainly do downwinders with a group of friends.
One favorite spot for wakestyle and flat water riding is La Boca, it’s the river mouth up wind of Cabarete. It’s another must-do for experienced kiters. Enjoy the flat water at the river mouth and then kick it out of the mouth and ride back down wind to Cabarete for your Presidente (local beer)!

Dylan Shewfelt kiteboarding

LC: You have taken up foilboarding, which is a reasonably new kiteboarding category. Tell us a bit about foilboarding and its features.
- what is a foilboard and how is it constructed?
DS: Foil boarding is something relatively new to us in the kiteboarding world.
I got into foilboarding to try something new and exciting.
It kind of puts you in your place from the first day you try it. It was really appealing to be in the light wind aspect of the sport. It’s a very efficient way of kiting, and the moment you are able to get a kite in the air, you will be able to get on the water and ride. The moment you get some momentum, the board will lift out of the water. You don’t need very much wind because we are not edging on the board against the water to stay up wind, this makes for a lot less drag or almost no drag, and the degrees you can turn up against the wind on the foil is impressive.
The reason the board sits out of the water is because it has a long mast with a rode ( fuselage) and 2 wings on the bottom that create lift. That is what we call the Hydrofoil.

LC: Can you tell us a little about the science behind this construction?
DS: I don’t build boards, I just buy them  It’s a very complex procedure to make a hydrofoil. It needs to have the right angles, size and the right weight to make it work properly. There are now many manufactures getting into the foil game. This will make for interesting progression, to see what will be possible with a foilboard. It needs to be built very strong to withstand a lot of force, but still be light enough to lift out of the water. Most high-class boards are made out of Carbon fiber, and other are made out of aluminum.

LC: The board doesn’t touch the water. This makes people ask questions how this is possible. How?
DS: At the beginning when you first get up on the board you do have the board flat on the water, the moment you get moving  and get some speed the hydrofoil creates lift, this is how the board starts to come off the water. It is like a wing of a plane, same theory. Water or wind (in an airplanes case) accelerates over the curved top surface of the wings and is then forced downward behind them. Since the wings push water or wind down, there is an equal force on the opposite end that will push the wing up. That is what creates the upward force we call lift.

Dylan Shewfelt foilboarding

LC: Do you know where and how the foilboard idea came about in the industry?
DS: A foilboard is a hydrofoil under a board or surfboard. There have been hydrofoils used on boats for about 100 years. The foilboard was first introduced from getting pulled behind a boat (similar to wakeboarding), but they also did some foilboarding on waves.  
For us it appears to be very new, but it’s been around for a while for some very experimental kiters! The moment the industry was ready for the progression and there was a bit more stand still in the kite movement, more and more manufactures started getting into the foilboard production, making it more accessible to the public. The ones that first got into it realized it was a very efficient way to get out on (or above in this case) the water. Making it also extremely interesting for racing since it blows every other board out of the water in upwind and speed ability, with much less effort.

LC: How does it feel when you fly across the water without touching the surface with the board itself?
DS: Foiling feels really amazing! It is nothing like anything I have done before. Its very quiet and so smooth and effortless once you are up and going. It feels very free.
Something special about being able to ride in almost no wind, this makes for a solo session no matter where you are. In Cabarete we get hundreds of kites in the summer, but when I can fly a kite at 10am and go for a foil, I get a Cabarete session all to my self, going anywhere I want with the whole coast wide open!
LC: We hear rumors of how difficult it is to learn.  What was your experience learning?
DS: I got to try the foilboard for the first time in Cabarete with Nick Leason from MHL Custom on one of his boards. It was a wild ride! It was like starting from ground Zero for sure. I was thinking it looks interesting but not very hard, since it does look very effortless when you see it from afar. It took me a few hours before I was able to properly stay up and foiling. From there I ended up very far upwind, I had a hard time trying to foil back downwind! Which sounds funny, because downwind is pretty easy on any other board, jut stop edging so much and down you go! This is where I really started to get the hang of it, applying different pressure and weight, making it go up and down and getting real control of the whole thing. The board is very sensitive, if you don’t have your weight distributed right, you will be riding a wild horse for days!
It is definitely not easy, and probably the hardest aspect of kiteboarding to date.
Some people will pick it up in a couple of days, other in weeks or months! It’s a tricky one for sure!
The weird things about it is, that the moment you really got it figured out, it requires a lot less effort then kiteboarding, and it takes a lot less stress on the body as well. This is for just cruising around and playing. Once you start to push the limits of speed and power, then your legs will feel the pressure of trying to hold that thing down in the water!

Dylan Shewfelt foilboarding

LC: We see foilboarders with a lot of protection. Does foilboarding require more precaution ?
DS: The hydrofoil is like a one meter long carbon or aluminum axe. This thing can shoot up and down, you can go over or back, and if you fall and don’t get away from the board, it could be trouble. Most boards and fins can be pretty sharp since they cut through the water, and you don’t want to kick it or land on it. The board is built to withstand about 3000 pounds of torque, so the speed and amount of power you take into a turn if not taken at the right angle, if you whip out, it could knock the wind right out of you. So I would for sure recommend starting out with helmet, life-vest or impact vest to avoid some miss-haps.

LC: The professional athletes are practicing foilboard racing and constantly beating speed records. How fast can a foilboard go?
DS: I’m not exactly sure how fast a foilboard can go, as this will depend on the ratio of the wings and the size of sail and wind speed I guess. I’m pretty sure you can go about 2x the speed of the wind, this should be true for the lighter winds speeds.
The faster you go and the more power you have, the more twitchy the board gets. If your weight or balance is not exactly right, things can get a bit scary!

LC: The same professionals are aiming for the Olympics. Is the sport on its way there and is it ready for a foilboard category?
DS: The Olympics have a lot of standards and sometimes limit the sport in certain aspects. If a certain amount of people would want it and would push for it, its possible. Where there’s a will there is a way! The question is, would these racers want it to be in the Olympics?!

LC: Is foilboarding a fad or is it a genre you think will stay popular in the sport?
DS: I think there is room for it to stay! It will not die off, as I think it is way to interesting to just go away. Right now there is a lot of talk about it and we are all still figuring out what’s possible with it. It will stay popular in the sport, as this aspect of kiting is allowing us to do many things others are not. So the more options for kiting the better! ☺
It’s the new thing now, until the next new thing comes out. The progression is no over!

Dylan Shewfelt foilboarding

LC: Who can practice foilboarding, is it for everyone?
DS: Foilboarding is not for everyone. You need to be very confortable on the water, have a very good kite control, and if you are able to ride a surfboard it would definitely help. I have taught some people how to foilboard here at my school in Playa del Carmen, and also some people in Cabarete. I would not teach just about anyone, as I would need to see why they want to learn, if they have the head and skills to do it before throwing them on to the flying AXE! 

LC: We see in your video that you are doing tricks and spins on the board. How difficult is it to do these tricks?
DS: I am doing all tricks stuck to the water! I don’t really like the foil to come out of the water and bang it around. So all my rolling tacks and spins are just hovering over the water. Its and odd feeling able to have so much reach around you, since the foilboard has about a meter longer reach then other boards, you have a lot more to rotate on and spin with. It takes some time to get all these things under control. Now having done it for as long as I have, I have forgotten how hard it was!

LC: How do you do a backroll on a foilboard?
DS: There are some crazy people out there like native Mexican Adam Withington throwing some really massive aerials with the foilboard. Its insane!  I like to keep the AXE in the water!! I can do some back rolls and some aerials.  
For the backroll with the foil, unlike a backroll on a regular twin-tip (typical kiteboard with equal sides and two straps, similar to a wakeboard) where you almost finish your rotation before your board leaves the water, you need to really load up the foil and spring it out of the water then start to rotate. If you don’t get it out of the water early enough, you will not get it out of the water at all. In my video you will see I do many backrolls stuck to the water, I like this Flow feel with the foil!

Dylans Instagram here

The kiteboarding school here

Sponsors: Wainman Hawaii, Tona, 69 Slam clothing


Photos by Dylan Shewfelt, copyright 2015



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