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Colorado’s lakes and reservoirs are no stranger to traditional wakeboarders—that is, folks riding behind powerboats on boards with bindings and boots, not unlike snowboards—in the summer. Without coastal swells, riding a boat’s wake is one of the best ways to catch a wave, and it provides all the fun of surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding combined. But what if you don’t have your own Mastercraft? Until recently, that meant you were left on the shore. Fortunately, with the recent advent of eFoils—which are essentially motorized wakeboards with a twist—you don’t need a boat.
Featuring a built-in electric motor that propels the board above the water, eFoils don’t look like a typical wakeboard in one very obvious way: at full speed, the board doesn’t actually touch the water. Instead, below the board is a motor that moves the apparatus through the water and two “wings” that generate lift.
Born around 2016, eFoils have enjoyed a surge in popularity, primarily with surfers, kiteboarders, and wakeboarders looking for a way to move under their own power. Coloradans have been getting in on the trend, too. Colorado Parks and Wildlife doesn’t specifically track the registrations of eFoils yet, but it says there are more than four times as many registrations for motorized crafts that list eFoil manufacturers for the 2022 season than there were for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. With that in mind, we put together a primer on everything you need to know to get going.
The Way Things Work
A foil consists of a board atop a “mast,” which sticks down into the water. Below the surface, on the end of the mast, are a pair of wings, one in front and one in back. Not all foils are electric; in fact, traditional foils are often used instead of surfboards in the ocean or wakeboards behind a boat. When paired with wind or waves or the pull of a boat, the wings create lift, not unlike wings on an airplane, pushing the upper portion of the mast, the board, and the rider above the surface of the water by up to three feet.
An eFoil takes the same traditional foil design and adds a motor and propeller behind the wings, allowing riders to move across the water without a wave to push or a boat to pull the foil. According to Logan Augspurger, a pro shop specialist at Action Water Sports in Arvada, eFoils can go as fast as 30 miles per hour and have rechargeable batteries that will keep the rider moving for more than 90 minutes. “Once you get the hang of it,” Augspurger says, “it’s like you’re flying over the water.”
Give and Take
Part of the fun of riding a boat’s wake on a wakeboard or nonmotorized foil comes from the ability to do tricks, flips, spins, and catch a little air. That’s not as easy, Augspurger says, with an eFoil, mainly because of the extra weight added by the battery and motor. On the other hand, being able to go out without a boat means motorized eFoiling is something you can do without having to make nice with that colleague you don’t really like just because she has a boat.
The pastime isn’t particularly gear-intensive, beyond the basic board-and-mast setup. You can find most of this equipment at boat shops across the Front Range, including Tommy’s Pro Shop in Golden and Action Water Sports.
Rental fleets and independent lessons are still difficult to find, so the best way to, ahem, test the waters is to look for eFoil dealers, like those that sell the popular brand Lift. Many of these dealers offer demos or lessons, so you can try before you buy. Along the Front Range, Front Range Foils in Boulder and Action Water Sports offer demos as does Blue Sky Foils in Fraser.
Obviously, you need an eFoil, which will run you between $5,000 and $13,000. According to Augspurger, most come with all the necessary parts: the board, mast, wings, motor, and rechargeable battery, as well as a handle that attaches to the board. Boards also come with a hand-held device that lets you control the speed and monitor battery life.
Personal Floatation Device
In Colorado, a life vest or something similar is a requirement for all boaters, including eFoilers.
Getting on Your Feet
Think of eFoiling like learning to ride a bike with training wheels. “Start by lying on the board on your stomach in the water and playing around with the remote to get a feel for the power the motor has,” Augspurger says. These boards are back heavy because of the mast; as such, riders need to remember to keep their weight forward, toward the nose of the board. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the board from a prone position, try getting up on your knees (remembering to keep your weight forward). As you get more comfortable, practice standing up. Staying in a crouched position and keeping one hand on the nose of the board, move one foot forward and keep one foot back. Then, very slowly, stand up on both feet. Steering works as it would on a surfboard, skateboard, or snowboard. Lean from side to side to tilt the eFoil, causing it to turn one way or the other.
Be prepared to fall as you learn. Most eFoils are designed so that they’ll automatically shut off when the controller is released or hits the water, so no need to worry about it escaping. Many also feature a protective shroud around the propeller, both to protect you if it doesn’t shut down quickly enough, and to protect the propeller from objects in the water.
It’s also not a bad idea to consider wearing a helmet, especially as a beginner, a more advanced rider who rides more aggressively, or someone riding around other people. Specialized surf helmets are great, but motocross and skateboard helmets work, too.
Rules & Regulations
Keep in mind that when you’re taking your eFoil out for a cruise, you’re not going out in a kayak or SUP. These crafts are motorized, which means they fall under the same rules and regulations as power boats, depending on the body of water you’re on. If motorized craft aren’t allowed, your eFoil probably isn’t either. Augspurger says you’ll likely also need to register your eFoil with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which currently costs $35.25 for boats less than 20 feet.
There are plenty of great spots to hop aboard an eFoil around the Front Range. Augspurger’s favorites are Cherry Creek and Chatfield reservoirs, but he says just about anywhere that allows motor boats will be fine. “As a beginner, though, consider going somewhere less crowded and with fewer waves,” he says. “Once you get the hang of it, they’re designed to crush through the waves.” Below, five other locations within two hours of Denver that allow eFoils.