Choose a recent Wing (2022/2023) rather than one from past editions.
Those who have been wing foiling for two or three years already have a trained eye and will immediately notice the huge differences between a wing produced in 2019 and one recently developed. But those who begin to be interested in wing foiling today may find themselves in real difficulty in evaluating the quality of what the second-hand market (or even warehouse stock) offers. The advice to prefer a Wing of very recent production should not be seen as a mere commercial or marketing promotion, but as a suggestion that can greatly speed up your learning phase. Let's see together the differences between a recent wing and an older one.
The wing was initially designed to be used in light winds and with very large foils. The watchword was not performance, but relaxation. Fly slowly with 10 knots of wind, perhaps pushed by a light unformed wave. The construction of the wing therefore followed this philosophy: very light materials, minimal stitching and reinforcements. However, we know well that human beings are never satisfied, and thanks to the ease of use of the wing foil and its rapid media success, the new wingfoilers began to practice wing foiling with increasingly stronger winds and increasingly smaller foils. The structure initially conceived could no longer withstand either the new stresses to which they were subjected or the inflation pressures to which they were subjected. We realized that the wing wasn't a kite, it had to withstand much more stress. This is why almost all new generation wings have completely different materials, double or triple thick in many places.
And we're not just talking about race performance. The new generation wings have a much wider range of use. What does it mean? That with the same wind, if three years ago we used a 5.0, now we can easily use half a meter less. It can be safely said that one Wing covers the range of two windsurf sails.
Ease of handling.
The recently produced wings have much more compact shapes. The first wings had a considerable wingspan (wing span), with the sail surface becoming much smaller at the ends. It could perhaps have worked well on very small sizes, but it became a problem from 5 square meters upwards, as the tips often touched the water during starts, complicating learning and tiring the user a lot. With the reduced wing span, the new generation of wings is much more manageable, performing and above all simple.
By reducing the wing span and working a lot on the size of the Leading Edge tube diameters, the new wings have gained a lot in terms of real and perceived rigidity. The first wings suffered significant deformations during flight, due to the light structure and undersized tube diameters. Many users, trying to solve the problem, pumped more pressure than allowed with the result of seeing their wing explode after a few rides. Now, already with 7 PSI a wing is rigid and performs at least 50% more than previous models.
Should you choose a Wing with windows or without windows?
There were no windows, they were put in, taken out, put back in, moved, lengthened, removed. There is no real rule and no brand has chosen a real path to follow. We can say this: if there must be windows, at least they are functional and positioned in the right places. During flight the position of the wing changes a lot based on the wind. If the wind is strong and we are overpowered, the wing is held higher, in order to foil. If the wind is light, the position is almost similar to that of a windsurfing sail. If we go down the waves, the wing is really not needed, we can carry it above the head or to the side/behind us in a neutral position. Wing foiling is a very dynamic sport, the position of the body and the fact that the wing is free from any constraints allows its users to have a fairly broad view of what surrounds them. In my opinion the windows weigh down the structure, slightly deform the aerodynamic profile and are of little use if timidly placed there, just for the sake of placing them. If we really want to see further, then perhaps it makes more sense to opt for a wing with a structure entirely in xply or similar semi-transparent materials, which will also leave your credit card semi-transparent.
Choose a Wing with rigid handles, soft handles or a boom?
Here too there are multiple schools of thought and almost all brands have various Wing options in their catalogue, with soft, rigid handles or even the boom. It really depends on your tastes and how much you are captured by marketing.
Soft handles, if thoughtfully designed and positioned intelligently, are a wonderful thing. Be careful, we are not talking about soft dangling handles that some brands proposed at the beginning, or the thousand micro-handles that appeared on the struts of many brands in the early years of wing foiling. We use the term "soft handles" only to distinguish them from the rigid ones, but in reality the "soft" handles must maintain a certain rigidity, must not dangle, and must be three: two long + one short in the centre, in order to always guarantee optimal grip when starting and changing direction. Furthermore, since the ones used at speed are long, they will allow you to slide your hand to better balance the wing without having to let go of your grip. The soft handles are perfect for beginners, as they offer a grip along almost the entire strut, and, last but not least, they will not damage the board or give you any bruises in the event of a collision. Furthermore, the wing is much lighter and tires much, much less. Once in flight you can comfortably control the wing using only three fingers of each hand. Unbeatable feeling of freedom and simplicity. The soft handles are also a favorite of many wavers and freestylers.
The rigid handles are undoubtedly interesting and beautiful to look at. They give the Wing a more technical and high-performance appearance. When you pick up a wing with stiff handles, the first thing you notice is a feeling of general rigidity. The rigid handles certainly offer a better starting point in very light winds. They also raise the wing by 5/8 cm from the water, which is certainly an advantage in larger sizes. On the other hand, they tire your hands and arms much more, especially in strong wind conditions. I don't feel like recommending it to beginners, as this configuration offers its best to an intermediate/expert rider.
And the Boom? The wings with the boom offer the same performance as those with rigid handles, they allow a slightly greater grip capacity but are more uncomfortable to transport. Lately many brands are also including this type of solution in their catalogue. The boom certainly puts much more stress on the wing structure, which requires further reinforcements to prevent it from tearing, as it only has two fixing points compared to the four of the rigid handles. Only time will tell what the definitive solution will be, if ever there is a need. At the moment these three solutions can easily coexist.
And now the most recurring question: what wing size to start with?
Although wonderful and unique, the Wing foil is not magical. Even if the world is full of phenomena, you cannot fly with 8 knots using a 4 m2 wing. The range of use of the wing foil is certainly enormous, and it is true that, once you have acquired familiarity and experience with the board and the foil, the possibility of having fun at 8/10 knots and above is real. But you have to get there step by step. At the beginning you need to consider that you have at least one meter more wing than your friend who is flying happily while you are still floating. Why? Simple, you still have to acquire those movements that you will only master with practice. Time here is subjective, you know, some people learn in a few hours, some in a few days, some in a few weeks. But in the end you will learn to "pump" with your legs, in sync with the wing, your body will feel the foil, automatically perceive that there is little left for it to take off and you will help it with a few pushes. At that point you will be able to fly with a 5 m2 even at 15 knots, all you need is a gust to take off. But before then, a few more horses wouldn't hurt.
If we want to throw down some numbers, considering a beginner with an average weight of 75 kg, the range of use of the wing is as follows:
Wing 3.0 m2 25/30 knots
Wing 4.2 m2 20/25 knots
Wing 5.0 m2 15/20 knots
Wing 6.0 m2 8/15 knots