Wing foiling: a new wind sport is blowing across Truckee

Ruben Sanchez demonstrating the foiled wing gybe.
Supplied/Tina Smith

What are they doing out there “surfing” over flat water with that shiny sail?

If you visited Donner Lake this summer, you may have seen ‘foilers’ going back and forth on the water, most often starting and ending at the sailboat launch on the north shore. .

A new community of wind enthusiasts from a variety of water sports backgrounds – windsurfing, kitesurfing, surfing – has embraced this new sport called “wing foiling” and it is moving towards Tahoe like a western weather storm.

“The rush is incredible! Wind, water, speeds…” said Ruben Sanchez, a local electrician and foiler from Donner Lake. “A windy day foiling can be just as exhilarating as a powder day in the backcountry.”

Sanchez is one of a growing group of North Tahoe residents who are passionate about this new sport.

The wing, or portable inflatable sail, is used to harness wind power which in turn powers the foiler wing’s travel, seemingly like magic, a foot or two above the water while still standing on a board. This magic is driven by the inverted T-shaped “foil” (hydrofoil), which is located under the board and gives the board lift much like an airplane wing by turning the water flow down and by creating higher average velocities on its upper surface due to Bernoulli’s Principle. With enough speed, the rider gets “on the foil” and runs in a crosswind path above the surface of the lake.

Dirk Warner and Pablo Bori play with friends on Lake Tahoe.
Supplied/Ruben Sanchez

Unlike kitesurfing and windsurfing where the pilot is attached by a harness, the kite is hand-held and extremely fluid. If the wind gets too strong, which is common, especially in the High Sierra, the foiler simply lets go of the portable inflatable sail to reduce power and minimize the risk of falling.

Beginner boards are big and bulky, so standing on the board is a lot like standing on a stable, floating paddle board. More advanced boards are smaller and partially sink allowing for improved performance including more technical tricks, higher speeds and even jumps.

The sport offers other benefits for Tahoe’s adrenaline junkies who love the water. Most find it surprisingly easy to learn and safer than its sister sport, kitesurfing, because the power of a kite is far from the power generated by a high-flying kite.

A wing foiler simply walks to the edge of the water and takes off without needing to clear an area of ​​people and other hazards before attempting to launch a large powerful kite. There is also no risk of tangling hundred foot kite lines in the many pines as one kite has no ropes and can be easily released and relaunched. Wing foiling equipment is simpler (wing, foil, board) and gives the wing foiler easy access to high speed travel over water in lower wind conditions than most wing foilers have. kitesurfers.

Dirk Warner at Sherman Island.
Supplied/Ruben Sanchez

Currently, there are very few resources for the sport available locally, and there is nowhere to buy equipment or take lessons in our area.

Because of this, Truckee wing foilers like Sanchez have found themselves traveling to places where the sport has a wider audience. The Columbia River Gorge (Hood River, Oregon) and Maui’s KiteBeach as well as places a few hours drive from Truckee such as Sherman Island near Sacramento (“The Delta”) and Crissy Field near the Golden Gate Bridge are places for sports popular wind turbines where the wing the foil has already taken off.

These places are known for constant strong winds and equally strong communities of people who love sports. However, increasingly, as wing foiling continues to grow in popularity in Truckee-Tahoe, more and more enthusiasts come together, often in Donner Lake, to share stories, help each other develop their skills or just hang out.

“I love the positivity of wind sports, the more the merrier,” says Dirk Warner, a Lake Tahoe water sports veteran. “The kite finally brought many newcomers to the windy beaches with great enthusiasm. Old people cruise and young children grow up.

“Hydrofoil gear has come of age, and on a good day on Tahoe, my kite takes me upwind to countless waves just waiting to be ridden downwind,” he said. added. “It’s so much fun.”

Dirk Warner “plays” on Lake Tahoe.
Supplied/Ruben Sanchez

If you want to learn more about wing foiling, feel free to stop by the sailboat ramp on the east side of Donner Lake where you will find the local foilers to be a friendly and welcoming group.

There are also several helpful websites and apps with instructional videos. Here are some reliable resources if you want to learn more about wing foiling:

— Duotone Wing Academy – app available on the Apple App Store

— Complete Wing Foil Beginner Guide by Damien LeRoy – available on YouTube


The foil and the wing can be done separately to start.

The two most common ways to start foiling are to be pulled behind a slow speed motorboat and to rent an e-foil. For both activities, choose a calm day with flat water to increase your chances of success. By eliminating the wing first, it is easier to become familiar with the dynamic movements of the foil.

The wing can be learned separately starting with lessons ashore.


In addition to a wing and a board with a foil, the beginner wing foiler will want to have safety equipment.

The following should be considered:

– helmet

– combination

— impact vest

— face and eye protection

— knee and/or shin guards


New foiling equipment costs between $3,000 and $6,000. Second-hand equipment is readily available, especially in places with a high density of foilers, as different equipment is used at different levels of ability, and people upgrade their equipment as they become more proficient in the sport.


Donner Lake

Boca and Stampede Reservoirs

Kings Beach

Lake Forest in Tahoe City

Kyle Railton at Sherman Island.
Supplied/Ruben Sanchez

Joshua Kreiss, MD, M.Phil., is a neurologist at Tahoe Forest Hospital and an Oxford-trained anthropologist. He is interested in the intersection between the human brain and culture and the ways in which we learn about ourselves as individuals and as a society.


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