General Science

This Surfboard Lets You Walk on Water

posted: 07/10/17
by: Jason Ginsburg

Want to surf but don't want to learn to surf? A Puerto Rican company has just what you need.

The company, Lift, is weeks away from release of the eFoil, a surfboard that floats over the water like a hoverboard from Back to the Future--though unlike Marty McFly's board, these most definitely work on water.

The eFoil is a motorized carbon-fiber surfboard, with a battery-operated foil that propels it through the water. The board itself stays at least a foot above the surface. The motor is silent, operated by a wireless hand controller, and can reach speeds of up to 25 mph.

Image: Damien Leroy for Lift

For the prototype, "[m]y team and I took some parts we had in the shop, cut holes in them, bought some parts off the shelf and pretty much duct-taped pieces together," writes the board's creator, Nick Leason, on the company's blog. The first board traveled 50 feet. "Nothing compared to the sensation of flying over water carving smooth, bottomless turns. It's a feeling so unique; it kept me coming back for more," Leason writes.

Hydrofoils use underwater wings to lift a vehicle out of the water as it moves forward, which reduces drag and increases speed. The technology has been used in boats and planes, but nothing this small. "We couldn't just buy parts and assemble them. We had to design and build everything from the ground up," Leason writes, while admitting that "[p]itching a flying surfboard" to investors was "no easy task."

Even the battery (which lasts for about an hour of use) proved to be a challenge, since it has to generate a lot of power while exposed to water. Leason and his team chose custom-built lithium batteries, like the ones used in electric cars.

There are other safety precautions as well. The handheld Bluetooth controller shuts the motor down if it's separated from the board by more than 10 feet, and if it's submerged underwater. So there's less chance of a runaway board hovering into trouble while if its rider falls off.

Since waves aren't needed to propel it like a regular surfboard, the eFoil can be used on lakes, rivers, or other calm bodies of water. Leason says a novice can be "surfing" ("foiling"?) in just five minutes. The first eFoils should be available to the public by the end of the summer. The cost? $12,000.

"To harness the power of a wave and surf like a bird, although extremely rewarding, is difficult," Leason writes. "So I set out to make it easy."

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