Retail Buyers Guide: Hydrofoils 2019
Interviewee: STEPHANE MOCHER
What do you reckon the potential of the hydrofoiling market is? Niche, overall boardsports users, mainstream?
Hydrofoiling is a niche market at the moment but we expect a bigger demand in 2019 because WINDSURF CLUB is more and more interested in offering lessons to a larger audience.
The demand for this kind of service since January is real. People understand that this new sport could be dangerous at the beginning, and this consideration is a good point to build strong foundations for the future.
Where do you foresee the largest audience? Surfing, SUP, kiteboarding, windsurfing? And why?
We foresee the largest audience to be surf and SUP because there’s no need for a perfect wave to ride, but it does require a warning regarding safety to avoid injuries. Also, if the spot is crowded, then practice is impossible!
Windsurf foil remains for people specialised in windsurfing fins, for more than 33 years, now we are seeing a kind of ‘windsurf revival’ for places which have low wind, like lakes.
Brands that developed the foil technology are now offering boards, and vice-versa, board brands are now proposing their own foil devices. Should we consider the product as a bundle (board+foil) or is there room for separate markets? (setup ready boards on the one hand, and foils)
There is room for separate markets, only if board manufacturers and foils manufacturers talk the same language: Beginner foils and foils for Pros need the same attention. A very good balance for learning quickly and riding very fast.
At SELECT, we have the experience to explain the necessary information to provide features to ride easily and safely. The tricky point is the crazy budget of R&D for both parts!
Bundle kit is a yes, only if the foil is good, not a piece of plastic supplied with the board in order to deliver a bundle at a low price!
The use of premium materials (carbon and such) keeps prices in the most upper range. Are quality foils made of cheaper materials (PVC, plain fibreglass…) an option?
The use of premium materials like carbon is necessary to create the best possible performance: the goal is to fly as quickly as possible and for that, mast fuselage, and wings, need the best design. It means fine profiles with sharp trailing edges to minimise drag; these features are essential to perform in very low wind.
Today, it’s impossible to manufacture efficient foils with basic material: plain fibreglass or aluminium. The lake stiffness needs to increase thicknesses of all profiles: drag increases a lot! This kind of foil requires two to three knots of wind more than a foil in carbon for flying! This is crazy if we have to consider the need to fly in very low wind conditions in windfoil schools.
Working on early flying windfoil for schools is the priority but the task is not easy! We have been working on beginner and intermediate foil since year one. The job is very hard for launching the right stuff at a reasonable price.
For surf and SUP, this kind of foil doesn’t need the same high-end material. The stress on that parts is very low compared to the windfoil. A foam core (with fibreglass 80 % + CARBON 20%) technology is enough for this segment and the price is much more in line with the SUP and surf market.
(Board design, surfing & SUP) Which is the most likely to succeed: hybrid boards which can be used with and without the foil, or specific foil boards?
The market needs to prioritise good hybrid boards to keep things simple!
In the future, the skill of riders will increase and so will the potential for specific boards, but there’s no hurry for that!
The safety factor could be a major impediment to the sport’s growth: how do handle the safety concerns?
Safety comes first. There’s only one way to handle safety concerns: Lessons and advice!
Any piece of advice to retailers who would like to engage in the foiling business?
It’s impossible for retailers to engage in the foiling business without lessons directly managed by the shop or a dedicated School.