Meet Sarah Spalinger, a flying girl who flies over Swiss lakes in all conditions, even on the flat and without any wind. But how does she do it? Her secret is pumpfoil! In fact, and this is not common but, Sarah started foiling by pumpfoiling back in 2021. Equipped only with a board and a foil, Sarah has turned her local spot into a foil pumping playground. A force of determination, Sarah has even become a role model in the sport: at the German Pumpfoil Masters in Berlin, she finished first in the freestyle part and second in the technical part (including guys); and she also had the chance to showcase pumpfoiling at boot Düsseldorf, the biggest watersports show in Europe. Spotted by Maurus Strobel, CEO of Indiana Paddle & Surf Co, Sarah joined the brand’s Adrenaline Ambassador team. And while she wasn’t really drawn to wingfoil at first, her experience in dockstarting eventually inspired her to take the plunge. Sarah Spalinger tells us how her pumpfoil experience helped her learn to wingfoil, talks about her Indiana quiver, and gives us all her advice if you too want to get into pumpfoil!
Hi Sarah, first of all tell us about your journey as a rider…
I really started to pumpfoiling in May 2021 after having bought my own setup. Since then I am about once per week on the board (also in winters, but less frequently) just 10 minutes from home, trying out new tricks, riding with friends, drinking beer and talking about life, or enyoing a few downwinders. So far I had the opportunity to participate in the 2nd German Pumpfoil Masters in Berlin, where I scored first in the freestyle part and second in the technical part (including guys). I love that gender didn’t play a role, we were all a big family. Plus I had the chance to showcast pumpfoiling at the biggest watersports show in Europe, boot Düsseldorf. I am doing it just for fun, but love learning from each other and sharing the stoke of trying out new things.
When and how did foiling come into your life?
It was October 2020 when I first saw a guy trying to surf on water, as I left the water on my home spot after a good swim. He had a small surfboard mounted on a foil and managed only a few pumps at best, but I was stoked. The immediate tries weren’t successful at all, but I kept thinking about it. Only a few months later I met ‘the guy’ Zeno. He was all about pumpfoiling and shared a few first tries on his board. In May 2021 I practiced with my own setup and quickly progressed.
Most riders start foiling with wingfoil, and then move on to pumpfoil to fill in on windless days. It seems to me that you did the opposite! Did you start with pumpfoil before wingfoil? What attracted you to this particular discipline?
Yes haha! When I saw wingfoilers a few years back I thought they were kind of weird looking. I didn’t see the appeal of holding up a wing, but I wasn’t a wind person to start with, so I tried to avoid windy areas and go for the true wave surf. As I realized how cool it is to combine surfing with foiling, I gave wing foiling a go. I haven’t had the chance to wing foil a lot, but had been out in up to 40 knots in Sardinia, and foiled with seals in South Africa. That was super spectacular!
Did knowing how to fly pumpfoil helped you to learn wingfoil? Are they complementary sports?
Yes it definitely helped. Pumpfoiling is hard on the quads, and wingfoiling strenuous on the arms. So they complement each other on the muscular level as well. And Wingfoiling helps to strengthen your weak side, if you force yourself to change the backfoot when riding.
What tips do you have for getting started in pumpfoil ?
First of all: motivation. You will need to put your mind into it if you want to succeed. Then, I recommend starting with an easy and stable setup. Nowadays there are plenty of different setups to choose from so it can be daunting. However the long and flat frontwings – usually designed to glide long and ride even longer – are great for an easy launch. You don’t need as much speed, and simply jump on it from a dock that is about a mast’s length or a bit less even. If you are a heavier rider I’d suggest the Indiana frontwing 1100p, if you are less heavy and more into the glide, choose the new 1396 P.
You’re one of Indiana Paddle & Surf Co’s Adrenaline Ambassadors. How did you get involved?
After reaching a good level, Indiana welcomed me to their team as an adrenaline ambassador. I was so thrilled!
Can you tell us about your Indiana foil and wingfoil quiver?
I am loving the Indiana hp line, and sticked with it since more than a year! I use the 72cm LD carbon mast, and the 1200hp frontwing. I combine it with the shortest fuselage (so far still alu) and the smallest 336 hp stabilizer available. It just gives it a more playful feel. If you want more stability go for the 72cm LW carbon mast. For wingfoiling I used my pumpfoil setup so far, and chose the newest Indiana boards (starting with around 90 litres, now 70 litres). Now I am looking to invest into a new setup that has a smaller fronting, as I love to get more speed while wingfoiling. The new Andi Wiedmann line looks and feels great.
At Indiana, it’s not just about the equipment itself, it’s also about great accessories to make it easier to practice. I’m thinking in particular of the pumpfoil bag, which lets you carry your entire board and foil in a single backpack. Can you tell us about it? Are there any other Indiana accessories you’d recommend?
Yes I am thrilled that they think about the practical aspect of foiling. As I ride my bike everywhere I go, and like to live on ‘human power’, I love the pumpfoil bag. Everything has a place in it, even in winter carrying neos and tea bottles. Furthermore I like their apparel, they have cool T-shirts, caps and ponchos. Plus I drink my coffee at work from their nice coffee cup and dream about the next water ride.
And finally, what are your future foil projects ?
I’d love to get more into downwinding, surf foiling and learing new tricks (like jumping an ollie, landing it and continuing driving!). Surf foiling and downwinding is a bit tricky at the part where I live, but it’s always possible to adapt, this is what I love about foiling. A friend I met in Berlin and I were thinking of organising a surf safari, where you foil your way around lake Zurich, using ferry waves and pontoons along the lake, or even different lakes. Not sure if it’s possible to organize, but it’s such a cool idea theoretically, that it could resemble the x-alps from Red Bull, but just with pump foiling.
What a cool idea! Thank you Sarah for your answers!
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