Does e-foiling take away from surfing?

At this point, most of us have seen the photo of Mark Zuckerberg cruising on his $12,000 e-foil in Hawaii earlier this week. For a large portion of the American population, this might have been the first time seeing an e-foil. To have Zuck be the overly-sunscreened face of this “sport” is really such a shame. The real crazy part about this picture is that in the original photo, he is actually riding next to Kai Lenny, the current wunderkind of foiling. The juxtaposition of Zuck wearing way too much sunscreen with the deer-in-the-headlights look in his eyes vs. Kai Lenny, the bronzed & toned waterman of Hawaii really made me stop and think – does e-foiling take away from surfing?

When I first saw a hydrofoil surfboard (exact same as e-foil, but with no motor), it was under the feet of Laird Hamilton – the notoriously insane waterman and pioneer of pushing the limits of watersports. Interested in how they work, I read about the need of force, balance, and the transfer of energy in order to glide in the ocean along waves that were uncatchable before. The hydrofoil’s popularity hit a massive spike once Kai Lenny got his hands on the boards, and he started ripping up massive waves, doing backflips, and charging in ways that most of us couldn’t even dream. Then, much like most consumer products and outdoor gear, someone came along and tried to take it to a new level by putting an electric motor on the foil. 

Normally I’m all about advancing sport and products – it’s how we as people progress. But what makes surfing sacred and riveting to me is that it takes effort. Whenever I go surfing with friends who have never gone before, their first comment is always about the paddling and how exhausting it is. Surfing takes practice, patience, strength, conditioning, balance, focus and passion. So for people who have never “fallen over the cliffs”, swallowed a gallon of saltwater, or talked to themselves out loud as they try to out-paddle an oncoming wave – to have them hop on an e-foil and cruise around, makes me think it’s taking away from surfing.

Obviously, there are some exceptions here as there are epic watermen and waterwomen who charge way harder than I do and still cruise on an e-foil for some leisurely fun. And even worse, if someone offered an e-foil to me right now, I would immediately get out of my desk chair and take them up on that offer. I just think that this is another product that allows people to take the easy way out without truly experiencing the joy of the real mother-nature-powered thing. The folks like Bethany Hamilton, Kai Lenny and Laird Hamilton have earned their e-foil sunset cruises. But, when you see a billionaire with spf200 covering his face looking like the poster boy for KookOfTheDay while riding a $12,000 e-foil...it makes you think twice.

At the end of the day, all that matters is that you get out there and charge hard however you can. Meet your moment, get wet and stay active.

Kai Lenny on Vimeo

Kai Lenny doing a backflip on a hydrofoil