Hydrofoils: brief history

Foiling and e-foiling have long been one of the most popular types of water activities. But let's take a closer look - how did it all begin and how does a hydrofoil work?

Over a century of foiling 

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Hydrofoils actually have quite a long history. It began in the second half of the 19th century, when the first patent for the creation of a hydrofoil was issued. In 1869 the Parisian Emmanuel Denis Farcot claimed that "adapting to the sides and bottom of the vessel a number of inclined planes or wedge formed pieces”, will have the effect of lifting it in the water when moving and reduce the draught.

It is considered that the first successful use of a hydrofoil was credited to Alexander Bell, the inventor of the telephone. The first working prototype was made in Canada in 1908, it achieved a speed of 72 km/h. The fourth successful prototype could go at the maximum speed of 114 km/h, which was 2 times faster than a “high-speed” steamship that could only achieve a speed of 48 km/h.

Over the 20th century, the Soviets and the Americans did a lot of research on hydrofoils for both military and civilian purposes. Examples of this are the Soviet passenger riverboat “Raketa” with a top speed of 70 km/h and the USS Pegasus with a top speed of 89 km.

In the 1960s, the hydrofoil was integrated into water sports: the ingenious human mind combined hydrofoils with water skis and other devices in order to “fly over the water”.
Nowadays, a huge number of foils have been designed and produced: for surfing, SUP surfing, kite, windsurfing etc.

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Into physics

Hydrofoils are basically underwater wings that function similarly to airplane wings: as speed increases, hydrofoils generate lift which equals to the weight of the boat which lifts the hull out of the water. This significantly eliminates friction, allowing the hydrofoil to operate at higher speeds.
In order for the foil board with the surfer to rise above the water, it is necessary to accelerate to a certain speed. This can be done using a boat, jet ski, sail, kite, paddle or an e-foil itself.


The "progenitor" of modern foilboards is considered to be a kneeboard - a board that uses foil to dampen blows when conquering waves standing on the knees. A little later, the inventors thought of putting water skis on the foil, equipping them with a seat. But the jet of water formed between the skis, hitting directly on the rider, spoiled the whole impression of the riding itself. Skis have been replaced with boards.

This is how the classic sitting hydrofoil appeared - a small chair, fixed perpendicular to the board, with a meter-long fin that goes under water. And then the seat was also removed, leaving the board literally flying over the water surface. And they began to give it a starting impetus in every possible way.

In 2009 the first hydrofoil with an electric motor was designed. It was a project from Sweden called Evolo. In 2017, the Lift Foils, a small company from Puerto Rico, developed the first commercially available electric-powered hydrofoil surfboard which went into production in 2018. The board had “an electric motor, propeller, and carbon fiber foils and carbon fiber mast below the waterline”.

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Later on many other companies produced their own e-foils: Levitate Foils (California), Fliteboard (Australia), Waydoo (China), Takuma (France/Japan), Foil (USA), MSLR (Canada), Flying Rodeo (Slovenia), ArtFoils (Russia), PWR-Foil (France) and so on.
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