Texans are flying across lakes and beaches in summer's coolest new watersport – eFoiling
The trendiest watersport of summer 2023 is taking people to new heights – about two feet above water, to be exact.
EFoiling (also referred to as electric or motorized surfing) lets riders glide or “fly” above the water using a battery-operated surfboard. A real-life magic carpet ride of sorts, the electronic eFoil board (which gives the sport its name) is propelled by a vertical, airplane-like wing underneath that lifts it and its rider above water at varying speeds – as if they're levitating – no waves required.
While the watersport is still fairly new, eFoil operators recently have popped up on lakes across Texas and on beaches all along the Gulf Coast, from Texas to Florida. San Antonians will have to travel, but a drive to Lake McQueeney just outside Seguin will bring locals a chance to try the sport without buying the gear.
Allen native Gavin Rudolph, in fact, launched a second career as an eFoil instructor and owner of Foil Gulf Coast in Orange Beach, Alabama. His business, which opened last September, offers eFoil lessons geared toward tourists looking for unique recreational activity while on vacation.
“It’s great for those that want something more exciting than renting a jet ski, going parasailing, or renting a canoe or kayak,” he says. “I don’t think you can have more fun at the beach in two hours.”
Rudolph, 33, grew up sailing at White Rock Lake, Lake Ray Hubbard, and Lake Texoma, and raced sailboats in college. He discovered eFoiling last summer while running a sailing camp for kids in Atlanta, he says, and he was hooked within 10 minutes (and saw business potential).
One of the watersport's big appeals? Riders can choose their level of adventure.
They can lie on their bellies, kneel, or stand up on the board. Riders control the board speed using a handheld remote. It typically hovers between 8 and 12 miles per hour at a cruising pace, but adventurous riders "fly" at up to 30 miles per hour.
The faster the speed, the more the board will lift above water – if the rider can maintain balance. The challenge is addicting for many who try the sport.
“It was so much fun,” says Rudolph of his inaugural runs. “My competitive side and my watersports side was like, ‘I’m going to figure this out.’”
Not only did Rudolph figure it out, but so did his parents, one generation older.
Barb, 58, and Glenn Rudolph, 60, both longtime residents of Allen, retired from careers as educators and relocated to Orange Beach in 2021. Together they and their son take turns giving eFoiling lessons to those who book sessions online.
Barb and Glenn typically meet students at their house on nearby Arnica Bay, while Gavin - who’s also a middle-school math teacher in New Orleans - will meet new riders all along the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Alabama. They offer lessons in the Houston and Beaumont areas too, depending on party size.
Barb says many participants are surprised at how much progress they can make in just one lesson.
“Although eFoiling still requires a level of fitness, flexibility, balance, and athleticism, it is easier on your body than water skiing, knee-boarding, or wakeboarding," she says. "You can go fast and push your limits, take a ride in the Gulf, or stay in the bay cruising around looking for dolphins.”
Most eFoil boards are produced by a Puerto Rico-based company called Lift, which launched the eFoiling concept in 2015. Lift currently has nearly two dozen demo partners in Texas, most of which operate near lakes. The sole location near San Antonio, at Lake McQueeney, offers both demos and resale.
The boards themselves aren’t cheap, ranging from about $9,000 to $12,000. The steep price to own one makes a $275, two-hour lesson from the Rudolphs (or their $650 “Beach Party Package” for six) seem pretty reasonable.
Gavin Rudolph’s tips for first-timers?
“Take your time and don’t try to rush anything. The board will move at your pace,” he says. “You don’t have to stand up right away. When you’re out there just relax, breathe, enjoy it, take in the scenery. It makes the whole experience a little more calming and a little less work.”
Barb’s suggestions are similar.
“Bring your sense of adventure, positive attitude, desire to learn, and have fun,” she says. “We will teach you the rest.”