Aluminum SUP foils vs Carbon SUP foils - Which is better?
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Aluminum SUP foils vs Carbon SUP foils – Which is better?

Aluminum SUP foils vs Carbon SUP foils – Which is better? The Answer…we love them both. Here’s why.

We are firm believers that foiling will connect watersports like nothing else in history. As hydrofoils
become more and more popular in stand up paddleboarding, we are hearing more and more questions from people excited about investing in a SUP foil but unsure which option is the right fit for their needs.  One question people ask regularly is: What is the difference between Aluminum SUP foils vs Carbon SUP foils construction and which option they should choose for surfing. We’ll break down the basics to help clarify the main differences.

Aluminium Benefits:

  • Significantly lower cost
  • User-friendly performance
  • Affordable multi-mast learning system
  • More impact-resistant than carbon
  • Better for teaching, loaning to friends
  • Modular wing compatible
  • Weight adds stability smooths out your ride and makes learning easier
  • Weight adds momentum.  That’s a good thing for smooth turns and pumping.

Not buying that weight offers a significant advantage? 

Check out why the best sailplanes (gliders)  in the world use water ballast to increase performance with weight.   You would think lightweight offers optimal performance.  Like everything else in the world…It seems things are not exactly what you might think at first glance.  Here is another fun fact.  Your standing on your foil. It’s lifting it’s weight and yours at the same time.

Drawbacks:

  • More work to carry to the beach
  • Masts can bend under heavy load
  • Requires regular maintenance to prevent seizing and corrosion
  • Less Stiff or, less “slip” than carbon
  • Weight limits jumping and freestyle ability

Summary:

An aluminum foil favors ease of use and stability over speed and high performance.  The largest benefit of Aluminum construction is obviously cost. For example, you can get a complete Fsurf foil setup a starter mast for less than a grand. That’s still not cheap, but as foils go it’s a very affordable price for a great all-around setup. The ability to have different mast lengths for learning progression is HUGE, and it’s really only practical with aluminum construction. Shorter masts are also a good long-term option for foiling in shallow water.

Aluminum is heavier, but the added weight can actually be a good thing. Weight adds stability and makes for a less “twitchy” foil, which is particularly nice for entry-level or free-riders who prefer the description “user-friendly” over “high performance.”

One drawback of aluminum construction is the regular maintenance required to prevent parts from fusing together, corroding and seizing up. The maintenance is simple- a quick rinse after every use and disassembly and protective lube between ever few uses- but forget it just once and you could have irreversible consequences.

 

Carbon Benefits:

  • Lightweight, easy packing to the beach
  • Stiffer and stronger, better for high speed, jumping, and high torque situations
  • More “slip” than aluminum
  • Less “cavitation at high speeds”
  • Fewer maintenance issues
  • Less sinking weight, easier for strapless starting
  • Requires extensive skill to enjoy

Drawbacks:

  • Higher cost
  • More fragile- doesn’t like rocks
  • Prone to snapping if it gets tumbled in the waves
  • Multi-mast learning system is cost prohibitive

Summary:

Pretty much anyone who transitions from aluminum to carbon will tell you the same thing- it has a cleaner, faster and more efficient feel as it slices through the water. Top speeds are higher, upwind angles and efficiency are greater and agility is improved. For performance-oriented riders, carbon is the natural progression for those who can afford it.

A high-performance carbon foil can feel “twitchy” and super sensitive compared to a heavier aluminum, but once you get a feel for the difference, you’ll describe it as agile and responsive.

We normally only recommend learning on a carbon setup with a full-size mast to advanced riders who know they’ll progress quickly and are willing to take some abuse during the learning process. For everyone else, the aluminum multi-mast is by far the best way to learn.

Carbon is stiffer and stronger than aluminum, which is important for aggressive riding, jumping or heavy riders that could bend an aluminum mast.  On the downside, carbon is more fragile and susceptible to impact damage.

Maintenance is still important, but carbon is less prone to corrosion than aluminum.

Slingshot hoverglide wake foilThe Takeaway:

You have to put in the long yards to learn to SUP foil. It’s not easy with an Aluminum set up.  Carbon is ridiculously harder to learn.   Instead of getting all stoked on which is better.   We recommend getting into it on a budget, learn it, and then before you get all excited about getting a carbon set up.  Maybe try some aftermarket wings and dial in your foil for exactly what you want it to d0.

 

So how does Aluminum Hydrofoils vs Carbon Hydrofoils stack up for you?

Don’t forget to JOIN the FREE FOIL ACADEMY to dial in your tips and tricks covering all sports categories: KITE, WAKE, WINDSURF, SURF & SUP. 

Bryan Trullinger
b.trullinger@7-nation.com