Maui’s Ian Walsh is a professional big-wave surfer and the winner of last year’s Pe’ahi Challenge. In the last year the 35-year-old has discovered foil surfing … and has quickly become addicted.

We checked in with Walsh to get his tips on how to best learn to get that friction-less feeling.

Check Your Ego at the Beach

Ian preps for a session at home on Maui. Photo: Courtesy of @fishbowldiaries

“You are going to be a kook at first no matter what level of surfing you already have,” Walsh tells ASN. “It takes time and plenty of spills. But once you are up the feeling is incredible.

“And for me now those horrible days when I didn’t even want to look at the surf have turned into three-hour sessions.”

Find an Empty Beach

Leaving the crowds behind. Photo: Courtesy of Ryan Johnson

“Head to a beach where there isn’t a single other person,” advises Walsh. “All you need is the smallest whitewater waves. You don’t need to go to a normal surf break at all, and that’s one of the foil board’s biggest benefits. You can go somewhere with no surfers and do your own thing with no one out.

“As you improve you can try different methods and locations.”

Don’t Overthink the Equipment

Kai Lenny riding open ocean swells on hydrofoil

If you are going to get a first lesson, Kai Lenny isn’t a bad option. Photo: Courtesy of Red Bull

“For my first time I went out with Kai Lenny and just jumped on his boards,” says Walsh. “It was probably an aggressive set of equipment for a first-timer.

“I’ve ridden different craft since and there are much more forgiving foils out there which are easier to learn on. Down the track you can move to more performance style equipment that allows for tighter turns. But my tip is find something simple and don’t overthink it.”

Forget Everything You Know

Walsh may be one of the world’s best big-wave surfers, but foiling is a whole new ball game. Photo: Courtesy of @fishbowldiaries

“Everything you are used to doing on a surfboard you need to forget about,” Walsh tells ASN. “Initially just focus on going straight and forget about doing turns.

“Just try to get the board out of the water planing and keep control. Keeping your hips under your body is key. You don’t want to go down into a squat position, as that way you get less leverage and less stability.”

Minuscule Movements

Kai Lenny and Ian keeping it simple. Photo: Courtesy of Ryan Johnson

“Unlike on a surfboard you don’t want to roll the board onto the rail to engage a turn, because that’s when the foil gets all wobbly,” instructs Walsh. “The important body movements are minuscule ones of your shoulders and your hips. Those tiny movements accentuate the turns. You need to slow everything down.”

Going Friction-less

Ian Walsh at Pe’ahi about to feel some friction. Photo: Courtesy of WSL

“Once you get the hang of it, foil boarding feels like you are riding powder and cruising along,” continues Walsh. “It’s a totally different feeling to surfing because there is no friction of the surfboard on the water.

“As soon as you are up and planing, it is so quiet. It opens up a totally different method of enjoying the ocean.”

Don’t Listen To Me

Don’t listen to Ian, listen to Ian. Photo: Courtesy of Red Bull

“I’m always up for taking advice, but personally I like to learn a new skill by just feeling it out,” explains Walsh. “Don’t fill your head before trying with what you should, and shouldn’t, be doing do too much.

“Jump on, give it a go and you will instinctively work it out.”

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