BURNING BRIDGES

Few of us are in any doubt that having a foil in your arsenal means you’ll get more opportunities to discover previously untapped location potential, and more water time generally. But, as Guenther Oka discovered along with Brian Grubb, Meagan Ethell and Jeff Langley, it’s not just what you get to ride in or on… it’s also what you get to ride under.

Words: Guenther Oka
Photos: Tyler Soden


My background stems from wakeboarding. I’ve been on my board for almost 20 years and the past six years I’ve been competing at a professional level. With all this time behind me I have learned to be creative and draw my own lines outside the box of what others can see or expect. Some of us started to pick up the foil as a fun hobby to do when it was windy or when we wanted to kick back on the weekends. When I realized the potential foiling offered behind a boat and how consistent the boat wave was, I really began to pursue it. As we come to a new era in towed water sports, the foil has helped me continue to look at things from a new perspective. 

Going to Lake Underhill and seeing this bridge for the first time, I didn’t think much of it. I was helping with a wakeboard photoshoot and we were just shooting outside of the bridges and using it as a backdrop. My first thought when I saw it was that I’d be able to wakeboard in between the two bridges, but the channel was too narrow and the concept came to a halt. It was only after I began foiling more that I realized the potential it really had. Just outside of Orlando, the bridges span about 1500 feet long with one bridge running to the east and the other to the west. It leaves a small gap in the middle where the A24, my boat that I foil behind, was able to fit almost perfectly in between. The supporting pillars are what I was the most interested in. They would act as a natural obstacle course and something that added spice to our everyday foil sessions. As we moved further behind the boat, the rollers would space out allowing for us to maneuver in between the pillars. It sounds good on paper, right?

💎 Premium Content Ahead! 💎

This is a premium magazine feature, usually only available to our subscribers, but you can access it for free when you join our mailing list!

*You will receive our weekly Friday Pump newsletter, plus the latest features, gear tests and giveaway announcements.

Due to the varying water levels and my eye-ball-approach to the spot, I needed to get out with a crew to see if it would actually work…

I rounded up Brian Grubb, Jeff Langley, and Meagan Ethell, our Orlando locals and fellow foil enthusiasts, along with Tyler Soden and Shane Bonifay to make sure they captured the magic. With the weather starting to line up, we dropped the boat and the Seadoo into the water and headed to the bridge. It was a tight fit with the boat and it took some focus on the driver’s end to keep the boat straight so it would not crash into the pillars. Once we got the first practice run out of the way, I knew we were looking good. Grubb would be the guinea pig first in the water and he did not disappoint. As a 20+ year Red Bull team veteran, Brian Grubb has seen it all. Grubb picked up foiling before the rest of us and knows his way around the wave better than anyone. Once up, he immediately dropped back a couple of waves and went to town. As I drove the boat, I tried to keep an eye on him and the path in front. I could just barely see his figure bobbing and weaving around pillars and ducking every 50 feet or so to avoid hitting his head on the supporting beams. As the run ended and he pumped back to the boat, our shouts of excitement echoed underneath the bridge signaling that the rest of the day was bound to be epic. He continued to blow our minds by pumping all the way outside of the bridge and then flying back under to catch the rollers far behind the boat. He definitely set the bar high for the rest of us. Meagan Ethell, a 6x women’s world champion wakeboarder, went next and navigated her way through the first row of pillars while drawing some fun lines under the concrete beams. She flowed through the pillars with a relaxed look and it was refreshing to have a lady’s touch in the mix. The combination of these two foiling made me eager to have my first shot at it. 

“As we moved down the bridge, we had to duck lower and make more precise movements to avoid smacking our heads.”

We took a small break to review the shots you see in this magazine (long live print!). The symmetry that was being lined up and the raw urban feel of the photos got me even more excited to get out there. Once I was up, my first thought was “don’t fall”. My second thought was “holy shit, these pillars are coming in hot”. The rest was autopilot taking over and looking three steps ahead to find my way through this concrete maze. It was an unreal experience as we could make a few turns in-between pillars before putting on the gas and lining up the section we would soon be shooting through. We found the sweet spot on the fourth roller where there was a gap in the beams above. You could post up on that wave and straight-line it down the bridge watching the supports fly by with ease. It was like something out of a dream. I’ve seen clips of people shooting piers, but this was cranked up another notch because they didn’t stop coming. As we moved down the bridge, we had to duck lower and make more precise movements to avoid smacking our heads. The combination of everything added up to one of the most exciting days on the foil that I’ve ever had. 

“Once I was up, my first thought was  don’t fall’. My second thought was  holy shit, these pillars are coming in hot’…”

 

Jeff Langley got it after me and continued the hype by finding new lines. He worked on the inside of the pillars on the second wave and found some awesome rhythm while going back-and-forth. The sun began to turn golden and Langley kept the session going until his legs gave out. Grubb and I capped off the evening with a doubles session. It was like a game of cat and mouse as he led the way, and I tried my best to keep up with him. It got a little tricky as we both shot through the same pillars at once, but we maintained most of our control. Seeing him draw a line and me trying to follow suit right behind him was insanely fun. As the sun went down, it was time to pull the vessels and head home. We all made it out unscathed and, most importantly, with our foils intact. It was an eye-opening experience to say the least. The foil opens a whole new door for exploring unique bodies of water and turning an average session into something extraordinary. I encourage you all to take a second look at a bridge or rivers you cross on the way to work or to the beach. See what lies underneath and make something happen. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now subscribe to the world's best foiling magazine!

To get the latest premium features, tests, gear releases and the best photojournalism in the world of foiling, get yourself a print subscription today!

Related Articles...

Wing Wahine

A generation of foilers coming into the sport with the wing as their primary focus are starting to show up and shine. We speak with Christina Naish, Mona Mutzenberg and Rio Imperato – three young females who fully represent the new school.

READ MORE

Autonomous Adventures

Paul Davies on Autonomous Adventures with Fliteboard

READ MORE

The O.G – The Tom Carroll Interview

Little introduction needed to one of surfing’s most influential and stylish riders ever, who’s now a huge proponent for foiling and the opportunities it provides. Friend and journalist Paul Burnett sits down for a chat…

READ MORE
The Foiling Magazine quote

"I had a good time reading issue N°1, everything is high quality from the content to the paper!"

Julien Salles – Brand Manager, Manera

"It’s a beautiful thing to see how far foiling has come!"

Damien LeRoy – Pro Kiteboarder

"What a rad publication."

Ivan van Vuuren – Signature Foils

"The magazine looks insane. Very stoked to be part of it."

Caio Ibelli – Pro Surfer

"Foiling Magazine is incredible."

Chereé Thomson, Brand Coordinator, AK Durable Supply Co.