Those who say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, don’t know too many water skiers. The Lake Ivanhoe Water Ski Club (the unofficially official name) is a group that gathers every Saturday morning on the iconic lake in downtown Orlando and takes laps through the slalom course. Ranging in ages from 45-69, the crew lives for glassy water and putting up big walls of spray. But that doesn’t mean they’re stuck in their ways. Far from it, in fact.
Wake foil boards have been all the rage in towed watersports the last couple years, and that continues heading into 2020. While you’d think riding a board that hovers over the water via a foil would be the last thing slalom skiers would want to try, you’d be wrong. In fact, a wake foil is a great alternative for water skiers because they don’t require boats with big wakes like a wakeboard or wakesurf board do. All that’s needed is something that can pull the rider around 10 MPH to get started, so everything from a PWC to a pontoon boat can suffice. For water skiers, the wake foil offers something fun to do when they’re done skiing, or an alternative should the water be too rough to ski in the course. Foils aren’t affected by choppy waters, so they can be ridden in all conditions.
When we approached the group with an opportunity to meet up with Slingshot pro foil rider Louis Floyd, five guys jumped at the chance: Mike Chadwick (owner of Orlando’s famed Ski World shop), Mike Cortese, Tom Lodge, and Gary Markman. None of them had ever properly ridden a wake foil before, and only Chadwick had ever tried it. Floyd came equipped with Slingshot’s Hover Glide Foil V3 setup – a board and mast/foil combo suited for learning the basics. Of course, getting up on a small slalom ski is much different than a large board with a mast and foil attached to the bottom. This proved the biggest challenge for all of the skiers, but with some help from Louis, each was able to stand up on the foil and start to ride it. Whether they rode for ten feet or ten minutes, the reactions were the same – lots of laughs and big smiles.
Much like you would on a wakesurf board, the key to getting up on a foil board is to put your feet in place on the board and have the captain put the boat in gear (with almost zero throttle). This pushes the board against the rider’s feet – and once that pressure builds, the driver can slowly accelerate, allowing the rider to stand up on the board. Where foil boards truly differ from any other towed water sport – and make them really unique and fun – is the hovering action. Put weight on your back foot a bit, and the foil will engage, causing the board to rise out of the water and hover. Weight forward, the foil dives and the board goes back to the surface. First time riders often buck back and forth as they try to find the proper weight distribution and balance, and the Ivanhoe skiers were no different. This just provided everybody in the boat with more laughs at the expense of whatever old dog was trying the new trick.
Again, with some tips from Floyd, several of the skiers were able to ride a ways. Chadwick, the most accomplished waterman of the crew, picked it up the easiest, thanks in large part to his experience on surfboards. At the end of the afternoon, and each skier having tried the foil at least once, the reactions were all the same – they wanted to do it more. For those who rode longer and felt the unique hovering sensation, they wanted to go longer and figure out how to arc bigger turns, while those who struggled had that determination of wanting to do better with something new.
If you’re a skier, or a boater with a penchant for trying new things, give the wake foil a try this summer. Chances are you’ll struggle at first, much like you did when you first learned to ski, wakeboard, or anything else. But you’ll get hooked, and you’ll want to do it more. And so will everybody else on your boat.
For more info on Slingshot wake foils, click here.