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Side by side of a man wakesurfing and wake foiling

Wakesurfing vs. Wake Foiling: What's the Difference?

Whether you are just getting started wakesurfing, an experienced enthusiast, or someone simply interested in getting into the watersports industry, wake foiling is an exciting new way to enjoy your boat. While these two activities might sound similar, they each present their own unique set of features that offer distinct experiences for aspiring riders and more experienced riders.

Just because you are a master at wakesurfing, doesn’t necessarily mean you will be good at wake foiling and vice versa. Learning the differences between the two will help ensure you have an enjoyable experience. Read on to gain further insight into what sets these two activities apart from one another. 

Two men riding wakefoils together

What is the difference between wakesurfing and wake foiling?

Comparing the Basics of Wake Surfing and Wake Foiling

Let’s talk about the basic difference between the two. 

In wakesurfing, your front foot is your gas, and your back foot is your brake. Your typical rider's feet shoulder-width stance has your chest open to the wake riding down the line in the classic endless summer surf stance. 

While wake foiling, you want to have a much more vertical stance. You want to have your chest opened up to the boat and you never want to face the wave. When you face the wave, you increase your chances of breaking at the waist making you move toe-to-heel. This makes it very difficult for you to stay on the foil board and not fall (make sure you are wearing a life jacket). You want to be chest forward, feet planted, and maintain low speeds, and that is going to control your lift and give you more stability over your wake foils. 

Comparing Deep Water Starts with Wakesurfing and Wake Foiling

Let’s talk about the difference between deep water starts. 

On a wakesurfer, getting up is basically a gradual version of a wakeboard start. It is getting you up on plain and how fast we can get you into the pocket. 

So, in the same way, a wakesurf board start is a gradual version of a wakeboard start. The wake foil start is an even more gradual, slower speeds approach to getting up to foil usually around 4MPH. When getting up on a wake foil, the more gradual your pull on the rope is, the less lift you will create. This will make your start easier and more stable. 

Understanding the Differences in Stance and Body Position for Wakesurfing and Wake Foiling

Next up, we are going to talk about the different rider stances and body positions between the two. 

For wakesurfing, I feel that I like to have my front foot planted and I am moving my back foot around to either drive down the wave or move it forward to get my weight forward to be able to bleed off speed in a bottom turn or get that surfy freeride feel. 

When you are on a wake foil, you need to have your back foot always planted over the mast. You can make minor adjustments with your front foot but more than anything, you are more leaning with your chest and not breaking at the waste. This will allow you to get your body positioned over the front of the board or move a little back to create more lift or to drop back. 

Your main difference is that on a wakesurfer, you are adjusting your body position on the board. On the wake foil, you are adjusting your body position over your fixed stance. 

Woman riding a Ronix wakesurf board

Adjusting Position on the Wave on Surf Style Boards and Wake Foils

Your position on the wave is also different between wakesurfing and wakefoiling. 

On a wakesurfer, the wave is your friend. You are looking for that push and energy the wave throws out. If you take a bottom turn to get out of the pocket, you are going to come back in to find that pocket, to find your push, and to find your stability. 

On a wake foil, the closer you are to the boat, the energy of the wave will increase. When you feel that rush of energy towards the boat, you are going to need to get your weight back over your front foot to decrease lift and regain control. 

Fundamentals of Turning on a Wake Foil and Wakesurfer

Now it is time for the fun stuff, bottom turns. 

One of the best aspects of wakesurfing, in our opinion, is long drawn-out bottom turns, making them fluid and flowy. Really trying to feel the energy of the wave from your edges using your lower body and weight displacement. You are a lot more toe-to-heel driven on a wakesurfer. 

When you get onto the wake foil, you will quickly realize things fundamentally. Such as, instead of heel-to-toe, you are a lot more back-foot-to-front foot weight displacement. Keeping your weight over your front foot will decrease lift while leaning back increases lift. This means all your turns are more gradual, a lot more drawn out, and slower. In the same breath, you are also directing the board from your upper body movement rather than your lower body movement as you do on a wakesurfer. 

Fine Tuning Sensitivity on a Wake Foil

One difference between wakesurfing and wake foiling that we would like to talk about is sensitivity. 

With wakesurfing, wakeboarding, and waterskiing, you develop these sensors. You understand the fundamentals. 

With wake foiling, you have a whole new sensor awareness that needs to be developed. A lot of people say that the learning curve for wakefoiling is steep. However, we like to look at it as if you are just fine-tuning that sensitivity and once you have that sensitivity dialed in, it is what you are going to enjoy and love most about foiling. 

Man riding a Ronix Wakefoil

Conclusion: Understanding the Differences Between Wakesurfing and Wakefoiling

In conclusion, wakesurfing and wake foil surfing are two entirely different beasts with different strategic components and require lots of practice. After reading this blog, you should have a better understanding of the difference between foils and surfers. Just in case you missed something, here is a little recap and a few other bonus differences. 

Wake foil surfing can be done in any water condition, any waves, and behind all types of boats. Whereas with wakesurfing you need the right boat, the right equipment, the right wakes, good waves, and the right weight and push to allow you to stay in the pocket. Wake surf foils are designed to rise above the water at specific lower speeds, creating lift and giving you the feeling of flying above the water. Wakesurfing is surfing an endless wave behind your boat. Wake surf foil boards have a mast and wings attached to the board, whereas wakesurf boards have only fins. 

Our team here at Wakesports Unlimited is made up of watersports enthusiasts with decades of water sport experience in the boating industry. We live for this and are one of the only shops that only specialize in this industry. 

Reach out to us any time with any questions you may have about wake surf foils, wakesurf boards, gear, rope, or other equipment by calling 858-277-5757, emailing us at, or visiting us on our website

Let’s get behind the boat and we will see you all out on the water. 

-Wakesports Team

For more information, check out our other blogs:  

The Ultimate Guide for Beginner’s: Wakefoiling 101” 

"How To Wake Foil

"Surf And Wake Foil Buyers Guide"

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