• Jen Booton

Legendary Surfer Laird Hamilton HydroFoils a Monster

Storm Dennis sends 40-foot-plus waves to Nazaré

The World Surf League’s Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge may have come to a close, but enormous waves continued to pound the legendary Portuguese surfing spot this week and big wave surfer Laird Hamilton took advantage by testing his new hydrofoil equipment.

The world-renowned waterman is known for pushing the boundaries of crossover board sports and influencing surfing innovations such as tow-ins, paddleboarding and foiling. As the North Atlantic continued to be affected by Storm Dennis, the second-strongest nontropical storm on record for the region, the 55-year-old flew down the face of a massive water tower.

“One should practice,” he wrote in an Instagram post, “so if mother nature delivers and you are fortunate enough to be in the vicinity you get the chance to ride.”

Hydrofoils lift riders above the water and let them ride the air pressure much like an airplane wing. As the blade-like underwater foil picks up speed, the objects it’s pushing, such as a board or a boat hull, create lift that reduces drag against the hull and reduces the power needed to sustain speed.

In surfing, foils have become popular because they can pick up speed even when there are small or nonexistent waves. Since the board itself is not touching the water, there is significantly reduced friction, much like the high-speed catamarans in the America’s Cup.

Another pioneer of this discipline is Kai Lenny, a seven-time World Stand Up Paddleboard Champion and big wave surfer for the World Surf League’s Big Wave Tour who was inducted into the Surfers’ Hall of Fame last year. Lenny competed in this month’s Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge and his Team Young Guns, which also included surfer Lucas Chianca, won the team distinction. Lenny additionally claimed the Men's Wave of the Day with a dazzling performance of back-to-back aerial 360s on 40-foot-plus waves.

Lenny has been designing foils for years and has referred to them as opening up “a whole new realm” for big wave surfing.

Check him out on a foil in this video shot in Australia: