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Former PWA world wave champion Scott McKercher needs little introduction, but if you have been following his latest adventures, you’ll know that outside of running his board company ‘SMIK’, he’s been frothing on all things foiling. Read on as Scott charts his journey form reluctant foiling participant to fully fledged fan and why he thinks foiling’s evolution is happening at ‘back to the future’ speeds!

Words  Scott McKercher  //  Photos  Two Goat Media / Ben Pallant, Two Goat Media / Mathias Moerman, Scott McKercher

I have to admit I was perhaps a little reluctant to embrace the foil fever that’s infiltrated not only the windsurf, but surf, stand up paddle and yachting worlds. This was probably due to the fact that when it first appeared on the radar and the Severne boys were mucking around on the river, poor old James Hooper (Severne shaper) came a cropper (eating it in Oz slang) with one foot out of the strap. Thus the foot in the strap being wrenched, snapping metatarsals and straining ligaments, leading to a large majority of that summer spent in a moon boot with no sailing.

I equated this to my mountain biking philosophy. If I hurt myself wave sailing from going hard it’s kinda ok. It’s a bitch, but if it was sustained doing something that I truly love, I can live with that. But injuring myself from some novelty sport, that I would be freaking pissed about.

Thus, when James did this, I had a similar outlook towards foiling. Plus!!!, there were two cobblers (Aussie fish with a painful sting) stepped on by others on consecutive days walking out to foil depth which somehow mentally scared me away from giving it go.

Well, the cliché of “a life lived in fear is a life half lived”, certainly comes into play here. There’s not too many entirely new sensations you get to experience in one lifetime, and it has to be said that foiling certainly falls into this category. I’m aware I’m at the absolute entry level, but it parallels when I first learnt how to windsurf. “I’m really excited just by going along in a straight line.” The frictionless sensation whilst being elevated is such a cool feeling. Especially when you’re flying along in 12 knots of wind doing 20 knots. And this is with a 5.0 wave sail with little to no pull on your arms. After a whole lifetime of windsurfing, it’s all brand new again.

Then there’s gybing. It’s a totally new skill set that needs to be learnt. I’m an absolute kook again and it feels awesome. Looking back, it’s like when I got my first short board when I was a kid. Clear as a bell I can remember the joy I got from flying across the Swan River on my first short board, stepping down from a Windsurfer One Design. Windsurfing was new again and it parallels once again what’s happening here.

My experiences are only very limited and based solely from the SUP oriented crossover foils and boards, which Ben Severne enlightened me as to how unstable my setups were compared to designated windsurf foils, which again fuels further excitement for what’s possible. The design elements looking forward have so many factors to change – fuselage lengths, masts, wings front and back, rake – the mind boggles. Because I’m pretty sure right now I’ve only been riding the equivalent of a flexi polyester wave board from the 80s in terms of what’s going to be coming in the future.

Obviously, guys like Balz Müller and Wyatt Miller are at the forefront of windsurf trick/jumping foiling and the racing scene is already becoming firmly established in the PWA.

Balz is like Che Guevara, he’s a revolutionary of doing things that no one can even get close to comprehending. Which gets me to thinking that maybe Ben Severne does have a DeLorean and dragged him back from the future.

However I’m at an age where freestyle is beyond my comprehension, let alone throwing a foil into the mix. I’m also a wave sailor, with my limited mind only seeing what it can come to grips with. And my mind is seeing tiny waves with 10-12 knots all of a sudden becoming a whole world of fun. That’s a way off yet, but I can see it.

This is because I went on a little trip with Robert Teriitehau last week to Phuket, Thailand on a SUP / prone foil mission and my eyes were opened wide to the fact that I’m the arms spread, wide legged gumby stance windsurfer equivalent of a foiler. Robert’s SUP foil surfing was next level with high speed fizzing driven turns, roundhouse cutbacks and hitting the lip without the board touching the water. My jaw was agape. And this was from a 53 year old ex pro windsurfer that has a serious froth for foiling.

Robert wasn’t the tallest of the big guns back in the day, but as he explained, he got to where he did by not being a heavy or lanky slalom machine like the other racers, he was in the top 5 (with Bjorn Dunkerbeck/Anders Bringdal/ Patrice Belbeoch for example) because he was fit and extremely tuned into his constantly refined gear. He understood the tuning refinements that were infinitesimal made massive differences. And it’s this sensory knowledge along with the ability to translate that into what the next step will feel like that’s going to be at the forefront of the foil evolution.

I can’t see any reason why marginal condition wave sailing isn’t going to take a similar course. The equipment evolution is happening at light speed, or even at DeLorean speed where we’ve jumped into the future, skipping time on an evolutionary scale. However, I’m getting way ahead of myself here whilst still really stoked on the joys of sailing in a straight line and learning how to gybe. And this has always been the joy of windsurfing. It’s so much fun whatever stage you’re at! Woohoo!

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