The iQFOiL, the new Olympic windsurfing class, will make its debut at the Olympics in Marseille in 2024. The Tokyo Games haven’t taken place yet, but already the top Olympic windsurfers in the world are making the transition and splitting their time between the RS:X and the iQFOiL.
The new Olympic class is bringing a lot of fresh energy to the sport, which is awesome. Windsurfing broadcasts are starting to look pretty sleek too, thanks to drones and a certain fast-talking Englishman who gets paid in beer money (bless his soul), so all of that energy is starting to make a real impact. We’re sure you’ve noticed: Kids everywhere are dropping their game controllers and lining up at the local uni to enroll in Aerodynamics 101.
From getting into the footstraps to being on the uphaul, I truly learned to windsurf on the Kona. And these skills have obviously transferred to foiling!”Bryn Muller
Story: Jerome Samson | Photos: Magi Foster, Niko Lyons, Luc Smitz, Elena Giolai.
We’re going to blow your mind now: some of the most promising talents in the iQFOil class are not coming from the RS:X talent pool, but from the Kona class! That’s right, the Kona class, with its flowery board, groundbreaking sail-size system, and no-excuses tight tactical racing, has groomed world-class windfoil racers.
Now, this could be purely coincidental of course. Those guys and gals could just be natural-born racers who would come out on top on any kit. But we kinda like the idea that the time they spent racing Konas has something to do with their performance on the foil, so let’s stick to that version if you don’t mind.
One of those top talents is Huig-Jan Tak, from the Netherlands. Twice a world champion in the Kona Class (2016 in Islamorada and 2019 in Garda), he finished in 3rd position at the iQFOil’s first world championships (in Garda too) earlier this Fall. These weren’t technically ‘world’ championships because of the Covid-19 situation, but still nearly 200 of the very best competitors in the world showed up, including top RS:X and PWA names.
Master interviewer and Kona ambassador Daniel Nordlund reached out to Huig shortly after his incredible finish in Garda, and here’s what he had to say:
“After all the racing that week, I barely made it into the finals (in 11th out of 12 spots), so I had nothing to lose. During the final series, my racing got sharper with every race. When I made it from 5th to 1st in one single tactical maneuver in the semi-finals, my mind opened up and that set a new standard for my sailing in the final. What a feeling to end up on the podium!”
Huig wasn’t the only Kona man in the iQFOiL fleet in Garda: Kona Boards designer Sam Sills (UK) finished in 6th overall, and Sil Hoekstra (NED) in 22nd (he was runner up at the 2015 Kona Worlds).
“The iQFOiL class is new, but I have a racing background in multiple classes, and that’s a tremendous help” Huig added. “The Kona has taught me a lot. I love the stoke in the Kona class, the tactics and the tight racing. I have never experienced that anywhere else. It is a fantastic environment to learn tactics and strategy, and a great preparation for foiling.”
Clearwater in the USA has an incredible team of young iQFOiL talent too, and all of them developed their windsurfing skills on Konas. Noah Lyons (3rd at the 2016 and 2018 Kona Worlds) and Alex Temko (World champion in 2018 and 3rd in 2019) are leading that squad and dominating the US windfoil racing scene at the moment, but their younger teammates are hot on their heels. Evan Thomas is one of those young up-and-comers:
“I started out on Konas,” Evan said recently after a long windfoiling session at home in Clearwater, “and it’s definitely helped me with tactics and strategy. The slower speed helped too. Racing on the IQFOil is often way too fast to try to learn new tactical skills.”
“On the foil, we do planing starts, but I love the bobbing and weaving around that we do on the Kona start line too because it adds an interesting element of boat handling to it. Plus the Kona board is much more comfortable to lounge on in-between races – the iQFOiL board is like sandpaper!”
Evan’s teammate Bryn Muller is another top Kona racer (she placed 4th at the Kona worlds in 2018 and 5th in 2019) who has transitioned to the iQFOiL this year:
“I truly learned to windsurf on the Kona,” she said, “from getting into the footstraps to being on the uphaul, I learned it all on Kona. These skills have obviously transferred very well to foiling.”
“I would say that Konas are more tactically demanding than foiling too, because tacks are less expensive – so you have the option to do more of them to take advantage of wind shifts. I’ve also developed some skills on Konas (like tight mark roundings and going all the way to port layline to then come back and tack on the mark) that I use all the time when I race on foils. At the end of the day, it is all just sailing basics. How to get around a course the fastest!”
The ‘bobbing and weaving around’ on the start line that Evan talks about? Bryn calls it the ‘HEY HEY HEY HEY HEY’ moment because there’s always someone backing into someone else. “I miss hearing it,” she says, “although there’s still plenty of screaming in foiling – it’s just a bit scarier there because you don’t hear anything else around you, and it’s all happening at a much faster pace.”
Bryn recently taught her mom to windsurf on a Kona, and her dad picked it up as well. Her older sister came to visit recently and, yes, you guessed it, hopped on a Kona as well. “I love simply going out and sailing around as a family!”
The youth team in Clearwater is diving big time into windfoil racing, but the club hasn’t forgotten its roots and plans to continue to organize Kona races regularly to keep everyone’s racing skills sharp and give the kids on the team a chance to race with their parents and the rest of the local Kona community.
Where else are you going to yell ‘HEY HEY HEY HEY HEY’ at your mom and get away with it?