Standup river legend Alex Mauer goes all-out in learning to surf a SUP foil.
From River Surfing to SUP Foiling: Alex Mauer finds new passion in SUP
I went to Folly Beach, South Carolina this fall to try standup foil surfing. My trip there came about after watching video after video of elite surfers paddling into and foiling ocean waves. I was envious of how much fun they looked like they were having. I wanted to feel the joy they were experiencing. It looked to me like they were flying.
I wanted an uncrowded beach with small waves and Folly Beach is all that. So, I booked a trip with my wife and her friend, excited to get in the Atlantic ocean and give it a go. However, before I dared put my foil in the ocean, I learned to foil on a lake, spending the summer foiling behind a boat being pulled on flat water.
There, I learned about balancing the foil. If I flew too high, the foil would breach the surface, make the board tilt and cause me to wipe out. I learned how the slightest movement affects the balance of foil in a big way. But once I found a way to steady myself, the sensation was amazing––somewhere between flying and surfing.
Get in Touch with Learning to Fly before Foiling the Waves
Once I had that touch and understood the basics, I started to surf the wake behind the boat on a tow rope. I thought I would never be able to let go of the rope, but one day when I least suspected it, everything clicked and I let go. I found myself surfing the wave so comfortably that I was able to transfer from wave to wave and pump through the water.
“Once I found a way to steady myself, the sensation was amazing––somewhere between flying and surfing.”
The time came for our trip. The surf forecast looked amazing. We had surf coming every day! But even after my “training”, my fear of failure kept me from taking my foil out in the ocean. It was just as well because I needed a little “work” to get my legs right. To do that, I stand up paddle surfed and longboarded for the first few days.
Taking Caution: Mauer Talks about Foiling Safely
When I finally approached the beach with my standup foil, I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t put myself, or those around me, in danger. I picked out a spot to foil that was away from the other surfers because I know how dangerous foils can be to the others in the water. I wore a helmet to insure my own safety.
Considering the talk of how hard foil surfing in the ocean is pumping through my mind, I paddled myself out to an empty spot. I wanted to get familiar with how the board handled with the foil in rolling swells. Then I paddled into and surfed a few waves with my weight heavy on the front foot to keep the board from lifting, in order to give myself confidence in order to “fly”.
There I was out in the Atlantic, where I wanted to be, engulfed in a mix of uncertainty with adrenaline guiding my paddle. As the wave came, I did what is familiar and lined myself up, but what happened next was unfamiliar as my board suddenly began to rise out of the water and into the air. Would I fly or fall?
Learning to Fly: Foiling until your legs fall off
The skills learned behind the boat kicked in. I found the balance of the foil and shot down the line faster than I had ever gone before. I was seriously flying! I couldn’t believe I was doing it—flying on a board above an ocean wave—like I had wanted to since I first witnessed this crazy new innovation! And I was having more fun than anyone in any video I had ever seen online!
“There I was out in the Atlantic… engulfed in a mix of uncertainty and adrenaline guiding my paddle.”
I surfed wave after wave until my legs were jelly. Over the rest of the trip, I found my share of wipeouts and reveled in my share of “flight” time. I learned, with practice, that the easiest way to get out to the line up is to wade the board, foil pointed up, until in chest deep water. Once chest deep, flip the foil into the water, jump onto the board and paddle over the waves to the line up.
I immediately loved standup foil surfing and regret that my fear of failure ever cost me a few days of “flying”.
Foiling: The Hunger for More
I don’t know who said, “Everything you ever dreamed is waiting for you just on the other side of fear,” but I try to keep it in mind. I try to not let my fears control me. I try to have respect for others and nature, and I try to live every day like it could be my last. Still I fall short at times, like early on in this trip; I forget to ignore the fear.
The last day of the trip was a flat day. There was no foiling and I was left hungry for more. I had so much fun out there that on the plane ride home I began planning new foil trips, to places with unique waves I have been itching to ride. Today, I am the biggest foil surfing grom ever. And for today, I’m not giving into fear. I’m going to keep looking to fly in everything I do!
Written by Alex Mauer
Edited by Benito Vila