Red Letter Day: Hotel Heavener



Words: Jeff McKee
Photos: Steffen Vollert
Location: Lake Maitland, Florida
Date: Monday August 14th, 2023

Inviting himself (and his friends) to stay at his good pal Chase Heavener’s place, Slingshot Wake Marketing Manager Jeff McKee and the whole crew scored a classic session, just a (literal) stone’s throw from Chase’s porch.


It’s been six years now since I left my hometown in Central Florida and re-located to Charleston, SC. At the time I left I had just learned to foil on Slingshot’s first generation “Wake Foil” release in 2017. I was basically the guinea pig for Slingshot to test the market and see if boaters would adopt this new water sport on lakes and behind wakeboard / wakesurf boats. Lake Maitland holds a special place in my heart as it’s the first lake we foiled and discovered we cold surf the foil with no rope. Again, no one was doing it and the only real reference I had to what was possible was what the Slingshot Kite team was doing with them while being towed by a kite. At this time I was running one of maybe two serious wakeboard / surf boats on the lake. My good friend Chase Heavener was a retired pro wakeboarder who made his career on Lake Maitland, but after retiring spent much less time on the water. He lived in town, and was basically “over” the boating lifestyle. He had been there and done that wakeboarding, found wakesurfing boring, and when I shared foiling with him for the first time on a long rope behind a jetski on a 15” mast, he seemed to have enjoyed it but the lightbulb hadn’t really gone off still.

However, Chase was in the process of building a house on the lake and within a few years of my departure from Florida, the completion of this house and his relocation to the waterfront seemed to pique his interest in giving foiling another shot. Fast forward to today and he has logged more hours foiling on Lake Maitland than possibly the hours he put in over his whole pro wakeboard career. On top of that, he has started an entire scene of foiling addicts. On the average day there are at least three to five other boats foiling on the lake, but when the Black Nautique pulls out to the center of the cove, they all give way to the foiling master!

For this particular session I rang Chase to ask if I could bring a small crew down to stay at his house and spend a few days riding the latest Slingshot Phantasm gear with his crew, and as always, Chase accepted the invitation I made for myself! One of the best perks of living in a different city now is that we are welcomed to the “Hotel Heavener” as we’ve proclaimed it, which is a one-of-a-kind waterfront house that feels as if you are living literally ON the water. It’s as picturesque as it gets and perfectly set up for multiple sessions a day behind the blacked out Nautique G23 that produces an endless line-up of perfectly spaced rollers to slice and dice to your heart’s endless content.

Along for this trip I brought Slingshot photographer Steffen Vollert and kite foiling legend Fred Hope. Fred had all the new Phantasm front wings and stabs for us to try out, so the first morning we were nearly as frothy as the cappuccinos Chase served up on his back patio. With the boat just 50 feet away from our morning coffees, we spread out all the new wings Fred had muled to Florida and began to geek out on all the factors of the equation to decide what really makes the perfect wake foil setup. Obviously everyone has their own flavors, but the overall consensus seemed to be that for the most advanced riding it was the 82cm Phantasm Mast with Slingshot’s new PTM 899 front wing and PS 340 “turbo tail” spread over the 653mm fuse. It felt faster and free-er than anything I’d ever flown behind the boat, turned on a dime, but also pumped very efficiently and flies surprisingly well at slow speed (5-10mph) while getting up to cruising speed.

Chase and Fred put on a hell of a show together for their first ride and we proceeded to make countless laps around the cove in front of Chase’s house switching boards and foils back and forth, riders jumping in and out of rotation, and really just using the inspiration from having two of the best wakefoilers in the world (Fred and Chase, in my opinion) show us all what was possible.

It's amazing that the foil journey has already been over six years behind boats and yet there is still so much to uncover. “What we knew then” vs. “What we know now” are drastically different, and I imagine things will continue to evolve quickly over the next several years as well. There are not many opportunities in life to be part of the “first generation” of a sport, but seeing the way foiling has transformed Chase’s life (as well as my own) over these years is really powerful proof that the future is bright for foilers and foiling around the globe. I know it’s certainly changed our lifestyles and travel habits.

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