Flying has been in my blood since I was a child. My Granddad was probably the one to spark it off for me, having flown Liberators in WWII and then building model aircraft at home in his shed. Since I can remember I always had a keen interest in anything that flew. I remember the first pack of balsa wood and tool kit my dad gave me at the age of three or four, they used to cost £1 from the local toy store. My brother and I soon looked forward to getting another pack every Saturday with our pocket money. We sat at the kitchen table designing and building model aircraft, boats and just about anything else we could think of.
As I got older, along with me the models soon grew in size. I moved onto building radio controlled cars, boats and planes. This was the first time I learned about hydrofoils with my granddad, building a foiling model boat that he then gave me. With the South Downs being on our doorstep I got more and more into flying model gliders. I would hike up there on my own and spend hours soaring the ridge. Still the models continued to grow and grow in size.
When up on the Downs I would watch the full size gliders soaring overhead and always want to try it for myself, when I was eighteen I finally got that chance, and soon I was working towards my glider pilots’ qualification. My first solo flight in a glider was in just under twenty hours of training, which is about one third of the normal time it would take. The feeling of gliding has so many similarities to surfing. Being powered by nature and feeling that adrenaline rush when you hit a big thermal and start gaining height and speed, just like taking off on a big wave.
It was also around this time I had my first go on an Air Chair which was a hydrofoil designed to be towed behind a boat, I don’t remember much but I do remember taking plenty of crashes! Seeing pictures of Laird Hamilton and alike with their tow in foils and one or two others playing in the surf, I made several attempts to build a foil for my paddleboards but for various reasons they never made it to the water.
Over the last few years foiling on all sorts of watercraft has exploded bringing a new dimension to watersports. Seeing the evolving Americas Cup yachts really sparked my interest back up. Early in 2016 I started to build a new foil to attach to my SUP. Low and behold just as I was finishing it that first video of Kai Lenny appeared, showing that it was indeed possible and giving me a huge boost in drive to design and build my own foil. The flowing weekend we took the very crude foil I had built and fixed to a old windsurf board we tested it behind the cable ski and to my amazement it worked and my very first run saw me rise up and flying down the lake, I was now FULLY HOOKED!
I then built a specific SUP board to take the foil and headed into the waves. At that point there was no real knowledge on what and what not to do so learning to SUP foil involved a lot of heavy, painful crashes but that hasn’t detered me. In the last year foiling has gained a lot of momentum in the surf industry and I for one have not stopped thinking about it day and night. I’ve been building and experimenting with all sorts of different designs with the aim to understand a lot more of just what makes a good and bad foil and how we can improve this very new and exciting area of our sport and were it will take us.