From Swells to Flight: The Adventure of Pump Foiling

One of the only downsides to wing foiling is that it is very much at the mercy of the wind. If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere like Capetown, blessed with some fantastic wind conditions, then wing foiling is undoubtedly the sport for you. But if you’re inland or on a sheltered coast, the conditions can fluctuate; making it difficult to get out on the water as much as you would like. 

If you’re looking to fill that watersport-shaped hole while the wind has died down, then why not try pump foiling? Pump foiling uses a similar board and foil as wing foiling, only without a wing. The rider uses their body weight to create an up-and-down ‘pumping’ movement by pushing downwards on the board; this force generates the power needed to create movement and upward lift. Once you’ve managed to nail the movement and the takeoff, you can start pump foiling in almost any water conditions; including lakes, rivers, and the ocean.

Much like any new sport, pump foiling does take some getting used to. So, in the beginning, please don’t be disheartened if you find yourself wiping out more than flying. However, it is all about getting the right technique to maximise glide. 

Getting started

To successfully pump foil, a good starting technique is crucial. Failing to do so can result in being unbalanced, causing numerous wipeouts, and lots of swimming. Therefore, we highly recommend that ambitious discoverers equip themselves with proper safety gear, such as helmets and impact vests. It is essential to dedicate sufficient time to perfecting the technique of getting onto the hydrofoil and maintaining balance and control.

A favourite starting method for pump foiling is the dock start. This technique starts with you standing on the dock, the hydrofoil placed in the water, keeping the board above the water. 

A successful dock start comes from the correct foot and body positioning when stepping from dock to board. It’s crucial to ensure that your body weight is centred over the board while maintaining a low centre of gravity (remember to bend your knees!). If done correctly, you will glide on the hydrofoil giving you some time and speed to start pumping. Dock starts are not easy, so please don’t be disheartened if you don’t get it on the first few tries.

Pump foiling is not limited to docks, and you may see some pump foilers using bungee cords, winches, and boats to tow up onto the hydrofoil. The momentum allows the rider to get up and out of the water. These methods are great for learning the technique of pumping, however, we would recommend trying to master the dock start. Providing you with the flexibility to be creative with your foiling starts, dock starts can later lead to beach starts, rock starts, and more. 


The term ‘pumping’ refers to the movement that the rider has to make to generate momentum and lift to allow them to fly across the water. The required technique is broken down into three sections:

Mechanics and movement

Successful pump foiling consists of two key movements: a shift of body weight combined with controlled flex and extension of your leg. Successful pumping relies on coordinating the motion of your lower limbs with weight transfer, we call these the push, and the drive phases.

The push phase consists of alternate flexing and extending your back leg. Start by bending both knees. Then with your back leg on the board, push downward. This is where the magic works, by pushing the hydrofoil into the water the counter pressure will cause it to rise; consequently keeping you above the water. 

Next, is the drive phase. This is all about forward momentum and focusing the movement on your front leg. Once you have completed the push phase, shift your weight to your front foot. Lean forward, bringing your chest towards your knee before you drive your front foot forward (not down). Follow this by bending your back leg again to raise the board back up, which should lead you back into having both legs bent to repeat the push phase. 

With practice, these will become one smooth movement. If you’re looking for a little more forward momentum, you can swing your arms within the drive phase. However, as a new discoverer, your arms may be preoccupied with stabilising your foil. 

Rhythm and speed

Each pump foil has its unique rhythm, frequency, and lift that you’ll need to adjust to. This is influenced by factors such as the size and shape of the front foil wing, length of the fuselage, and stabilisers. Generally, larger equipment requires a lower pumping frequency, while smaller gear requires a higher frequency.  

Pumping speed on a hydrofoil is like changing gears on a bicycle. When you want to go faster, smaller and quicker pumping movements will accelerate the hydrofoil. To maintain speed and be efficient, take deep strides and put in a lot of effort, allowing for more recovery between each movement.

Efficiency and control

Efficiency and control play a vital role when pump foiling on hydrofoils in the UK. Make sure to take deep breaths and remain calm during your ride. Keep your head raised and look ahead to your destination, avoiding the temptation to gaze down at your feet. Work in harmony with the hydrofoil, allowing it to do its job, rather than forcing movements. Pump foiling demands technical skills and physical prowess, so conserving energy and staying mentally attentive to your actions is paramount to mastering the sport. Stay focused, maintain control, and relish the experience!

Practice really does make perfect with this sport, so if you’re looking to get started we recommend making sure you’ve got the right kit first. Choosing the right board and foil will ensure a smoother pump foiling discovery. That is why we have developed the ENSIS HIP HOP PRO. The HIP HOP PRO is our first board designed specifically with pump foiling in mind. The stiff carbon construction is comprised of a wide nose, rocker and flat hull, to make the rebound easy in case of touchdown. Additionally, the bevelled rails provide a secure and comfortable grip which is essential for smooth dock starts. Described as “a magic carpet that allows me to fly over water and have fun no matter the conditions” by ENSIS team rider, Balz Müller, the HIP HOP PRO is ideal for all rider levels, whether you’re totally new or an expert. If you’re looking for the ideal foil to go with your HIP HOP PRO, we recommend the ENSIS STRIDE 1900, PACER 2000, or PACER 2400.

We recently caught up with ENSIS team rider, Michael Näf about what they think of the new HIP HOP PRO, here is what they had to say: “The HIP HOP PRO is unique with the concave rails like a snowboard, the rails are bevelled and comfortable, perfect for carving tricks and handling the board. The nose rocker is great for rebounds, so recovering from touchdowns with the foil are super easy. The tracks are really convenient and slide in from the back and the board is super strong and direct.” – Michael Näf

If we piqued your interest enough to try pump foiling, we would love to help you on your adventure. Our team of foiling experts are ready to answer any questions you may have, alternatively please feel free to pop in and visit one of our amazing retailers at their stores located across the globe. If you do give it a go, please don’t hesitate to tag us in your photos and videos on social media. We would be stoked to see you all out on the water.