A man who needs little introduction if you’re suitably immersed in the sport, Erik Antonson is the host of (and the brains behind) The Progression Project podcast. His recent collaboration with Unifoil sees the arrival of the new ‘Progression’ foil range. We dropped Erik some question to find out more…

Hey Erik, so tell us how you first got involved with the team at Unifoil…

I've always been a huge fan of Unifoil. It was the Hyper 190 that really set in foil brain for me. I couldn't believe how much ride time you could get in a session of terrible waves. A few months later Cliffy came on the podcast. After the show we stayed in contact, pinging ideas and tuning thoughts off each other. When he came on last year, after the Vyper came out, I was joking on the show and said I'd love to help design a foil with him. He said he was into it, and I had the recording so he couldn't back out… and that started the project.

Tell us about your home conditions in Florida?

We live in Jax Beach, which is North Florida. There's an amazing foil crew here. Mike Pedigo, Brian Finch, Austin Tovey and a ton of other rippers. It's become a hotbed for foiling because of the epic foil conditions. Let's take this week for example, a pretty normal week for us. We've had a small, 2ft, 11 second swell in the water all week. Monday, proned the local sandbars. Tuesday, towed an inlet. Wednesday, proned. Today, towed, and tomorrow a hard north wind comes through and the downwind will be on at the beginning of the swell and then the winging will be epic over the weekend. It’s a terrible area for good surf from a surfing perspective, but it’s incredible from a foil standpoint. Knee to chest high consistently and then bigger swells with storms or hurricanes.

Did you start with an existing model from the Uni range as an influence, or was it a ground up, fresh design?

It was ground up, but we did some early foil section testing on designs we knew worked to limit variables.

What’s the Progression’s USP, and who’s going to love it?

That's a wide range of folks. We were lucky enough to get some of the pre-release foils here in Jax, my thought was I wanted a few of the guys I foil with every day on them so I could see how they really go in the wild. Unifoil agreed, they've been so supportive of my ideas during the project, and I've been able to watch five guys ride them, from beginner to world class. I think what drew all of us to foiling is that feeling of an infinite playground. I had that at the beginning. Then I started chasing performance and riding smaller, faster foils, and maybe I was doing some better turns at times, but I wasn't as stoked as I was the year before. But once you feel that performance you don't want to go back. That's why the design started with glide and pitch. Glide gives you more time on foil for less cardio and stability in pitch means you can push the foil harder. The trick was loosening it up once we found the section, but we were able to do it. That's a long way to answer the question, but most folks who get to try it are frothing! From guys in Australia to Hawaii, prone surf to downwind. And on the wing the glide just gives you more time to complete your tacks or gybes… it just makes it easier. More than a few folks have called or DM'd me to say they just did their first tack on the 170. It might be easier to say who it's not for… that's going to be folks chasing the top 1% of speed or performance. If you're comfortable at 95% performance and being on foil way longer, you'll probably love it. I towed on the 170 today and I'm going to downwind it tomorrow.

How difficult was the foil design process, what was the aspect that most surprised you?

The process was a blast for the most part. It was like Christmas every few weeks. Protos were always in the mail. And since we independently designated and tested all the sizes, that was a lot of foils. The only times it became difficult, and I'm not sure that's the word, I guess it was more like it felt like work, was when there was a deadline and the waves were good and I had to test sizes or tails that weren't optimal for conditions. Testing and foiling are different things. Dave Kalama and I just discussed that on a recent podcast.

As far as what surprised me the most, it was when we had the first real 170 proto and I kicked out of a wave and it just kept going. You have a sense of when you need to pump on exit, that feel of speed, but it just seemed like it took so long to get there. I tested it that day by having my wife lap me up to the pier, about 1.5 miles, and I did six single chips back to the house with different tails and shims, feeling it out. I did that again when the 140 came. There's no better way to test a foil.



Were there any major stumbling blocks along the way?

The tail has been the most difficult for me. I wouldn't say it’s a stumbling block, but since tails are about tuning and feel for the session, it’s so hard to commit.

Yeah, the front wing is only half the story. How significant was it developing a tail to match the front wing?

I'll approach this question in a different way. I look at tails like I look at fins on a surfboard.  My favorite surfboard is a 6’6 mid length that I ride as a thruster, a twin, a 2 +1 and even a single fin sometimes. I think that's why I love it so much; you can change it for your mood, conditions and the lines you want to draw. I see tails the same way. That's one of my favorite things about Unifoil is that they set the standard for the tail and there's a massive selection out there. I ride the Progression with about five different tails right now depending on the conditions and what I want to do. Like today I towed with the OG Unifoil race tail chopped to 13. It slowed the roll a bit but the glide was absolutely insane. I'll probably downwind that tail tomorrow. Gear teaches us and the tail is the cheapest and easiest thing to experiment with to add some new feels into your quiver.

What’s the key advice you would give anyone thinking of designing their own foil?

Work with Cliffy! That guy is a genius at this stuff. It's one of those things where the more you learn the more you realize you're just scratching the surface. But one of my guiding principles in life is to just dive in head first. Learn through the mistakes. So just do it. Look at what's out there and think about how you can improve it or tweak it to make it fit the way you want to foil. And then buy good carbon!

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