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Stoke Foil Boost

You may not have heard yet, but it seems like the time is now: the machines are taking over… The age of ‘assist’ is upon us and even the most diehard devotees to the world of prone and downwinding are realizing that there’s a place for a little extra power in their lives. It’s not a ‘cheat’ but more a way to expand the possibilities and access yet more hours on the water. (But, yes, if you are struggling to get onto waves with your prone foiling, or struggling to paddle up for your downwinders, the Stoke Foil Boost also has you firmly in its sites.)

Before moving onto a closer look at the Boost and the test, let’s address the gold-plated elephant in the room: the entry fee to the assisted world. If you’ve checked some of the clips on your socials and then logically followed through to check the ‘assist options’ on the market then you have no doubt gone to check the price and quite probably fallen off your chair… It’s not a cheap world, but equally you have to remember that you are essentially buying all of the important elements of an eFoil, just without the foil and board. With this in mind, the Stoke Foil Boost is – by some distance – the cheapest route into the world of Assist foiling. But “cheap” still doesn’t leave you much change from €3k/$3k…

So, once you’ve maxed out your credit card and the courier knocks on your door, what have you got? Well, first impressions of the Stoke Foil Boost are excellent. There is a chunky EVA zipped case which, on opening, presents you with all you need to embrace the Assist world slotted into its own molded compartments. It is as you would imagine an assassin’s rifle to be presented. The rifle comparisons don’t end there as when it comes to inspecting the battery and motor the system feels weighty, refined and beautifully engineered – there is no doubting that it’s a very solid system. Of course the offset of the Assist world is the fact that you are strapping a battery and a motor to your foil and all of those grams which your foil and board producer of choice work hard to minimize, are immediately eaten up. That said the Stoke Boost comes in at 3.8kg which is chunky but lighter than many options. And the weight is on the top of the foil so in reality it doesn’t affect the swing weight or the performance of the foil once you are up and riding.

When it comes to assembling the Stoke Foil Boost, there are some key elements to get in place, then once these are sorted, it is a very easy system to set up prior to your session. First up is setting it up correctly for your mast. The mast mount is universal so will fit any mast. Provided are different sized rubber pads that secure the foil to the mast, there are orange and blue pads and it’s a case of attaching the Boost to the mast and tweaking them to get the best fit. We were riding with a Takuma mast and ended up with the thinner orange pads at the front and the thicker ones at the back which provided a perfect fit. Attachment is through two bolts (which remain attached to the clamping plate so can’t be dropped on the tarmac or in the sand) so once you are happy with your rubber pads it takes seconds to attach (or you can just leave it on the mast of course…). Once you’re happy with the attachment then you need to run the ‘receiver’ cable to the top of your board. Again, spend some time doing this right and it’s an easy process from then on. The cable is fed through cable guides either to the tail or nose of the board when you can then run the cable to the receiver which attaches with 3M Dual Lock. As we discovered at our expense, on a prone board, you need to have the receiver on the nose of the board so it isn’t underwater when you’re sat on the board… It’s also worth investing in some more Dual Lock strips if you’re going to be mixing it up using different boards.

Once the system is set up you can attach the battery. This locks into the motor unit and is then screwed on. Once secured the system feels super-sturdy with zero play. The controller can be attached to a paddle or to a wing handle, or is provided with a wrist strap for using prone. It is simple to use with an effective one lever providing you with the power. One click to unlock, and then you can throttle on the power. When you have it unlocked you can set how long the Boost is active for (we changed ours to 20 seconds) but it’s nice to see a safety feature so you can’t accidently start the motor while you’re walking to the beach with the foil on your shoulder…. Once you are in the water, if you are sat waiting for a wave and can see a set coming, then you can unlock the system beforehand so you’re ready to go when the wave arrives.

In terms of setting, there are four: Paddle Assist and then Low, Medium and High. One thing we would say is that it isn’t always super easy to see which setting you are on when you are out in the water, so set this on the beach before you head out if you want to be tuned in and ready to go. Connectivity is excellent providing the receiver is above water which can be more challenging on a low volume board and in chop but – as we’ll come on to – a bit more volume is definitely not a bad thing.

If you’ve got a long paddle out then you need to decide whether to go under standard arm power or to use a bit of motor… Once you’ve started using the motor option a bit it is hard to return to arm power though, so be warned, as you’ll be burning through some of that precious battery…

We rode the Stoke Boost primarily in the prone environment so will reference that here, but the functionality is obviously transferable if you’re taking it out on a downwind mission or with the wing. The first thing to note is that it takes some getting used to – you need to completely reframe what you think of as a ‘catchable wave’. If you are trying to take waves that you would usually paddle into then the wave is going to be too steep so you need to either go earlier or wider. Plus of course you can go out on days when you would not have dreamed of before which is what it is all about. Once you see the wave (or bump) it is best to slowly engage the motor to begin moving forward, I also found it more intuitive to begin paddling a bit here. Once the wave begins to pick you up you can engage the full ‘boost’. After a couple of sessions I found that the High setting actually provided too much power, and Medium was plenty – the Boost does really take off when you power it on! It’s impressive… Once you feel the wave beginning to pick you up, the key thing is to keep the motor on, if you kill it too early then you will stall, so keep the motor running until you are completely on the wave and have popped up. At this point you can come up on to the foil (and no need to go full monkey-arms, a gentle lift and you will glide up) and as soon as you hear the motor leave the water you can release the throttle.

Once you are riding, you quickly forget the Stoke Foil Boost, and can surf as usual. We had our motor around 15cm down the mast so you need to keep above that height. We also used a 75cm mast generally so the space you have to ride the foil is reduced compared to a usual session, but providing you stay high-ish (which you usually would) then it is fine. Once the ride is over you can either pump as far out as you can, or you can just bring the Boost back into the water and power back on… Once you are foiling, you need much less power to keep yourself riding, so I would say it’s definitely worth the benefit (versus the power used to save your paddle back out off the foil).

The Stoke Foil Boost marketing claims to offer around 50 boosts per battery. In reality it’s not quite that simple as you rarely use the full ‘boost’ with each use but you will use the boost to get back out (and probably a bit when you are done with paddling!). Also, when you are starting out and getting used to it you will burn through the battery more quickly than once you have it dialed in. After a few sessions though, we were comfortably getting over an hour out of it and – if we had been more conservative and less lazy – you could easily have 90 plus minutes. Of course with other disciplines you would use more or less according to conditions and skill level.

Overall, the benefits of the Stoke Foil Boost are significant. Whether you are just starting out or looking to expand your foiling options, it simply means that you can get up on the foil and riding (without the motor) much more easily and in a wider range of conditions… That said, it’s not as easy to master as you think and it definitely takes at least a couple of sessions to get used to the ‘extra dimension’ you are dealing with. Also, I would definitely recommend going big on the board front until you have it dialed in…

So, does the Stoke Foil Boost do what it sets out to? It definitely does. Can you motor around on it for hours on end? No. But that’s not what it is designed to do. Overall – there is definitely a time and a place to use the Assist option, but if you are keen to get into the game the Stoke Foil Boost does exactly what it needs to in a refined and beautifully engineered package. Be warned though: it’s addictive…

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