STATE OF PLAY: Paul Cooper

“Assisted” foiling is unquestionably now a thing. Is it changing up foiling for good and for the better? It appears Paul Cooper is firmly in the yes camp.

Words Paul Cooper
Photographer Matt Leong

Growing up on Kauai I was always into water activities. It led me to a professional bodyboard career for a few years after high school. I then moved to Oahu when I got a job as a flight attendant for Hawaiian Airlines. Then I got heavily into shortboarding and snowboarding.

My foiling journey began in 2017. Once I saw the possibilities of it I knew it was something I had to do. My wife and I just bought a house fronting one of our favorite waves to shortboard. Knowing how limited are the days that this wave would be good, I saw foiling as a way to be in the water every day. At that time the gear was pretty terrible and since the community of foilers was slim to none there wasn’t much help in figuring it out. It took me a good month till I felt I wasn’t gonna die. I am grateful however for the slow and inefficient gear. It really forced me to really get a grasp of what the foil needs to feel like to be at its best. My cardio is far from world-class, but I will surprise most with how long I’m able to stay up on foil.

Early on I really focused on strapped riding. I ended up creating my own straps made specifically for surf foiling. That’s how One by One Foil was born. The control I felt as well as the ability to do aerial maneuvers made foiling that much better. The timing of when foiling came into my life was such a blessing. Lockdowns and zero travel meant my usual snowboarding addiction would have to be put on hold. I was surprisingly OK with that since foiling and more specifically strapped foiling really curbed my need to snowboard. There are so many similarities between both sports.

To be able to work with a legendary shaper Glenn Pang (Majek) has been a dream. He’s so creative and willing to think outside the box with board design. He’s also a great foiler and has been frothing on foiling for years now. Last year I joined the Unifoil team and I feel like my riding has come full circle. I have all the tools in my quiver to push what can be done in the water.

I was lucky to witness a lot of early adopters of the Foil Drive system and was able to try it out. I was excited seeing the possibilities that this type of system brings to the table. When I got my Assist Plus I was really stoked on the level of foiling that it’s capable of. It took some dialing in but once I found the perfect placement of the box It really made everything feel so balanced.

Now that I’ve been able to ride the Gen2 it has completely blown me away. To be able to utilize the motor when needed and still do everything I was able to do on a foil without it is such a game changer. In the same way foiling originally opened my mind up to so many different waves and spots the Foil Drive has taken that to another level.

So much is possible. Hard carves and aerial maneuvers can be done as if it wasn’t even there. I am rarely seen without it and have utilized it in so many new and different ways. I love being able to get up at will and stay on foil for a long period of time. I’ll shoot outside and swoop into waves way before they even hit the reef and break. I was able to do some downwinding with it as well. To be able to do the Hawaii Kai run on my small prone board without worry was amazing. I’m excited to push the limits with it and do things that were originally thought to be impossible. I think a channel crossing between the islands on a prone board sits somewhere in my very near future too. What a world.

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