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Mastering the art of pumping foil: tips and advice

July 29, 2021
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When you first start foiling, it can be a little intimidating. Pumping foil is a gliding activity that requires a certain amount of skill. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you succeed in your first dock start flights and progress in pumping foil. Note that pumping foil can also be practised as wing foil, paddle foil or surf foiling.

Understanding how foil pumping works

Before you start, it’s important to understand how a hydrofoil works. It works in a similar way to an aeroplane. You need to create speed to obtain sufficient lift to move.

The pump allows you to generate this energy using your own movements. By keeping your speed constant and adopting the right pumping technique, you can save energy during your sessions.

In this webinar with Marc Menec and Antoine Poirier, both engineers, we take a closer look at how a foil works.

Foil pumping techniques to get you started

In all transparency, technique can take a little time to acquire. It will vary according to your foil, the water surface… A simple rule is to make yourself as light as possible when you go up and as heavy as possible when you go down. Make sure your glide is optimised. You need to make the movement well, even if it means going slower, rather than trying to get speed by pumping badly.


You may need to pump either when practising dockstart, or when coming out of a wave in surf foil or bump downwind to connect another one or even in wingfoil to ride in freefly.

In the case of the dockstart, I invite you to follow our specific article on this subject. It’s a good way of learning to pump from a dock.

Whether you’re wingfoiling, surf foiling or sup foiling, the technique is similar: you start pumping when you’re already in the air.

The first step in pumping is to get out of the wave or bump at the right moment. In surf foil, try to get out where the wave isn’t breaking to avoid any turbulence. In downwind and wing foil, it’s a bit easier because you’re not normally in breaking zones.


The more speed you have, the easier it is to maintain the movement and amplitude of the pumping. We therefore advise you at the start not to go for too fast turns when you come out of the bump or waves to avoid any loss of speed. Don’t hesitate to lengthen your curve. This will help you maintain a good initial speed and start pumping in the best possible conditions.


Pumping is a combination of two movements: a succession of lightening and pressing of the body combined with a sequence of delayed flexion and extension of the front and back leg. The key to pumping lies in the coordination between the movement of your lower limbs and the transfer of mass.

Your front and back legs will alternately flex and extend.

When your back leg extends, your front leg will bend slightly to allow your hydrofoil to rise. This is the push phase.

You then press down on the front leg while trying to get heavier and use your weight to create more speed and point your foil downwards.

Take a look at this pumping sequence from the last AFS Team trip.

Try to be light, to let the foil rise by pressing on the back leg. You then need to lighten up. Once the foil is well up, reverse the movement by pressing on the front leg and lightening up on the back leg.

You can also use your arms to help you during the lightening phase.

Don’t hesitate to watch several videos to analyse the movement and project it for yourself when you ride!

What about the rhythm to adopt when foil pumping?

Frequency or amplitude? It’s not yet an exact science, but it would seem that pumping with a wide stroke is less energy-consuming than a very rhythmic stroke. Amplifying your movement will allow you to take advantage of the rest phases provided by the increased lift of your hydrofoil when it is close to the surface.

The rhythm can also be dictated by the equipment you use. If you’re using a big foil with a long fuselage, the pumping will be more focused on inertia with a lower frequency. On the other hand, if you’re using small wings and a short fuselage, you’ll need to add a certain cadence and frequency.

The Lost In The Swell team is in the middle of a learning process and has put together a few pumping tutorials.

Don’t hesitate to share your best pumping flight time with us on our social medias!

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