Off Piste

James Casey and The Lost Boys crew kit up for some tow-foil fun and go big game hunting beyond the friendly shallows of their local North Sydney haunts. Prizes were won, but a freakish tangle nearly ended the session early…

Words: James Casey
Photos: Sam Brisby


Tow foiling really opens up a very special world, waves that loom up and maybe never even break you can ride for hundreds of meters at a time. To me it is the heli-skiing of the surf world, riding open bowls with just you and your mate whipping you in. On this particular session we managed to explore a few different off piste areas. While most people surfed the beach breaks or easily accessible point breaks, we went out to some of our favorite deep water breaks. Conditions were about as good as they get, light offshore winds and a solid south swell meant just about all our favorite spots were working. We assembled a crew from the Lost Boys Foil Club, including Paul Burnett (who was only just back from a prolonged stint on the sidelines due to injury) and photographer Sam Brisby, a good mate of mine who conveniently had time off work…

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We met up down at the boat ramp and assessed the conditions. The wave closest to the boat ramp (and normally the smallest) was looking solid, so I went with my production 4’6 Pilot with my GoFoil setup, the 36.5” mast with the TKR80 with a longer pedestal and flat tail wing. I like the longer pedestal in larger waves as it allows more drawn out turns and less twitchiness – nice in smaller stuff but not so nice when it’s bigger. It was only my second go on the TKR 80, a wing built specifically for towing, kiting and racing and I was still figuring it out. It turns differently with a bit less drive than the previous series of wings, but you can certainly pin the ears back when you get on a bomb.

I had a few waves but decided I was better off swapping out to what I knew with conditions being so good. I went back to the beach and left everything the same except switched out the TKR80 for the NL100. Straight away I felt the comfort of the drive and control in turn, maybe a bit less speed but the high-speed turns are what I love so I was immediately happy with my change of equipment and the boys on the ski agreed. I got a couple toying with the peaks and flirting with the barrels but not quite able to get deep enough. It’s tough getting barrelled on a foil without the ability to stall. The Takuma boys at Teahupoo showed us it is possible, but that is one of the premier barrelling lefts in the world. 

We got a few more waves at the spot closest to the boat ramp and traded out with PB. He got a couple but fell in the impact zone a couple of times. It meant we got to work on our pickups, almost coming unstuck on one occasion. We tried to drag PB out of the impact zone using the sled, as there wasn’t time for him to get set using the rope. This was a bad idea. One of the clips undid and the sled somehow got stuck under the impeller. As we went over a wave my foil board (which was on the sled) got caught on a strap and basically meant the ski wouldn’t accelerate forwards. A mid-sized set loomed as we tried to figure out what was going on. A quick squeeze on the throttle didn’t do much so Brisby jumped off, allowing me to see what was going on. Somehow the tail wing had got caught on a strap as the sled flipped up. I didn’t have time to fix it with the incoming set so gave the throttle a long squeeze and barely made it over the set. Had it been larger, we would’ve been in trouble. Once out beyond the break I unhooked my tail wing and reclipped the sled. A disaster avoided and lessons learnt…

We swapped back and ventured out the back to more of a point break setup. This is probably my favorite wave. It has many different faces but in a south swell it runs down the point and in a more east/northeast swell it becomes a football field of peaks and a-frames… my version of foil heaven! Today the swell was from the south so it was a point break style with a steeper, slabbier section and a longer more drawn out wall. The beauty of the foil is you can enjoy both on the one wave. There were a couple of sections to be had and I managed a few turns. All in all it was a super fun.

“THIS IS PROBABLY MY FAVORITE WAVE. IT HAS MANY DIFFERENT FACES BUT IN A SOUTH SWELL IT RUNS DOWN THE POINT AND IN A MORE EAST/NORTHEAST SWELL IT BECOMES A FOOTBALL FIELD OF PEAKS AND A-FRAMES … MY VERSION OF FOIL HEAVEN!”

We had swapped out a few times before some of our fellow Lost Boys came around the corner and said one of the outer reefs was well worth having look at. We took their advice and zipped around the corner to see some fairly solid lumps capping out to sea. The tide was coming in so it was slowing down, but the winds were still good. After a bit of a wait we managed to time it right and get three or four of the larger sets. It really is amazing how fast you go on these big and almost unbroken waves.

I am yet to see anyone that can fully handle the speed of these larger waves on a foil. The boys using the Lift foils seemed to be able to handle the speed, but I am yet to see many turns with mainly survival lines going on. I feel there is still a way to go in foil design to truly handle and attack these larger waves on foils. I for one am pretty excited to be a part of that evolution… 

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