Energetic and enterprising, Thomas can always find time for local kitefoil sessions between his action-packed traveling and entrepreneurial projects. We’ve succeeded in getting answers to a few questions about the best way to learn his sport, what to do, and what not to do! Discover his advice here and take steps towards getting started on your own.
What is your best advice for getting started in kitefoil?
To begin kitefoil, it’s important to master kite control 100% so you can concentrate on the foil without being distracted. Knowing how to ride strapless in surf is also a great way to reduce the learning curve. This will help you learn how to ride unidirectional boards, and it’s also excellent for perfecting maneuvers. Maneuvers are essential to foiling progression, and although it’s not totally obvious, they are important to master because once you have them down, you’ve got total freedom.
What tuning and equipment settings should be taken into account?
When you initially start kitefoiling, it’s a great idea to have a more experienced rider test your foil. Without the prior experience of foiling, it’s not easy to feel if your foil is rigged correctly and this can cause you to struggle. I’ve already seen one of my friends having huge problems, and after trying his foil I quickly understood why, because it was totally impossible to use. After a few changes to settings and balance, he could finally have fun and progress with his foil. Personally, I prefer the foil to be balanced between the front and back foot with the goal of not exhausting myself; even having a bit more front foot for control.
What are ideal conditions for beginners?
Lots of people make the mistake of trying to learn in really light wind, but this actually makes learning more difficult. It’s important to be powered up enough for easy waterstarts, but not be overpowered as well for keeping control once your board is out of the water. A 12m kite in 15 knots of wind is a standard setting, but it depends on your weight. A good reference is starting with the kite you could normally ride easily with twintip. Regarding the spot, it’s obviously good to start in a place where you have enough depth to avoid being worried about hitting bottom. Starting in onshore wind will make you lose time, because you’ll always be trying to sail away from the shoreline to not touch bottom. Any time lost dealing with these concerns will hang up your progression.
According to you, what is the ideal spot in France for learning?
Ideally, you should start at a sideshore spot. You can get in and out easily, without dealing with the challenge of having to go up or downwind. I like offshore spots as well, with totally flat water. This means you should have solid upwind performance in advance, or a good safety plan in case something happens to you.
Is there a warm-up you recommend to get the most out of the session?
As with all foiling watersports, it’s important to warm up well to avoid injury. Make sure you do different exercises to warm up all your joints, but put a priority on ankles, especially if you ride in footstraps, to avoid hurting yourself if you fall.
According to you, what is the ideal foil setup for beginners?
To get started, it’s important to have enough lift to take off easily, so choose a larger surface area front wing. You will need to adjust your footstrap position to find the stance the most balanced for you. Next, with a TAAROA foil you can entertain yourself by moving the stabilizer forward or backward to change the lift and balance of the foil. The QUICK N’PRECISE system makes it child’s play to change the angle of the stabilizer, and therefore the lift of the foil. As soon as you have a doubt, the best is to adjust your settings little by little.
Take good care of your foil! A foil is fragile, not because you risk breaking it in half, but you need to avoid scratching it, especially on the mast. When you accelerate, you create air bubbles and instabilities that can destabilize the foil, and cause you to cavitate and fall. Scratches aren’t a serious problem to repair; a little sanding or a bit of epoxy and your carbon foil will be like new again.