Jeremy Riggs Talks About Learning to Downwind Foil
Wrightsville Beach native and Maui downwind expert Jeremy Riggs is working on taking it to the next level and adding foiling to his repertoire. In March, we caught him working on his technique and foil design in the Kahului Harbor with SIC mastermind Mark Raaphorst. Since then, he’s modified a prone board (yes, that’s right, a prone board!) and has started making runs down the North Shore of Maui. Know for his smoothness and style on the big downwind sleds, we can only imagine how cool it would be to see him out there foiling! We just had to ask him about his experiences so far!
How was the first downwind run? What surprised you about it?
The feeling is indescribable. It’s a new sensation and I couldn’t believe my eyes the first few times I got lifted. The water below you seems untouched and there’s complete silence while you’re airborne.
I was anxious on the way up to the (Maliko) gulch. I was so ready to see what was going to happen. I knew it would be tough standing on the prone board but I felt like I would need the paddle to get enough speed for lift off. I felt like a distressed mullet for the first few miles. I finally started to get a few short glides on the foil towards the end of the run. Most flights ended with sudden wipeouts. I was stoked to land a few and paddle away.
Tell us about the board you’re using?
I wasn’t sure what board would work best for downwind so I decided to experiment with something I already owned. My wife won a prone paddle board in a raffle at a Maliko race about six years ago. She wasn’t using it so I thought it would be fun to put a foil on it and try it out. The foil helps stabilize the board so I’ve been using it as a stand up board for now. I’d like to explore the prone possibilities once I get the hang of actually foiling.
Is the technique for downwinding with a foil significantly different?
The technique for foiling downwind seems different. I was going for too much the first time out. With a foil you don’t need to milk the small bumps. You’re better off waiting and setting yourself up for the bigger bumps. It takes a huge effort to catch those bumps so you need to conserve every ounce of energy you have for those moments.
Is foiling the next big thing? Do you envision foiling classes becoming a standard thing in races like the Olukai?
Foiling is fun and very addictive. I see a lot of potential. It’s so early in the game right now and it seems hard to do but I also thought SUP was hard in the early days of the sport. The equipment evolved and SUP grew more than I ever imagined.
I’m sure we will start seeing more foiling divisions for the downwind races.
Would you ever consider doing a channel crossing on a foil board?
I’m not even thinking about crossing a channel yet. I hope that day comes. I’ve got some work to do to get to that level.
Any advice for folks who are anxious to try it?
I highly recommend learning to foil behind a boat if possible. Also consider protective gear. Wipeouts are guaranteed.