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February 4, 2020


To foil, or not to foil, that is the question. Finn Mullen muses on what he has learnt in trying to find the answer. 

Words Finn Mullen  //  Photo Katie McAnena

Marketing these days tends to be all about ‘life-changing’ products or experiences – the ‘must-have’ or ‘must-do’. Rarely though does anything ‘life-changing’ come from five-star luxury or something shiny. A better chance is trying something so far from your comfort zone that you’ll need a sniffer dog and search team just to get close to finding your favourite chair and slippers again. But such extremes are tricky to obtain without going to ….extremes! I’m sure I could bring back all sorts of tales for the dinner table by heading off to Indonesia and going feral for a month or four in search of a grinding left-hander, but I’d come back with likely no job, no partner and chronic dysentery. That’s a little too ‘life-changing’, unless you’re an aspiring off-grid anarchist with a love of Dioralyte.

Practically most of us aren’t looking to hack our ‘normal’ lives to pieces with a chainsaw, talk to fairies or digest volumes of self-help, but a little bit of altered perspective with some fortunate and unfortunate adventures close to home, that’ll do nicely.

I like riding waves; the conditions, especially on European coasts, vary enough to keep it interesting and through time help us build a ‘happy place’ in the surf. It’s at this point I would like to introduce you to the great vanquisher of familiarity – the foil! You’ve seen the videos, you’ve heard the hype, but nothing can prepare you for the sensory awakening that occurs when you foil for the first time, rising like a tasered meerkat on top of a wave, trying to balance on a highly engineered axe that you know has the capacity to render you infertile. But it’s not the precarious danger that inspires, it’s the shift in perspective with which you view your saline world. I’m not a wave snob by any means, I’ve surfed a lot more small waves than big ones, but even so, a foil is like a corrective lens to what you deem ‘surfable’. This is where until you try it, anything anyone tells you sounds like they have been paid to say it. I recently had a session where I had to get out binoculars just to check that the wave was actually breaking it looked so bad from the beach. That wave still felt on the foil like I was trying to commit to a ride so scary it would set me up for life in product endorsements for energy drinks. It was also the best wave for my level – i.e. one foot for level one. It was raining too with a cold onshore breeze, just to complete the anti-fantasy. I was the only person in the water and there were lots of people in cars, some with boards on the roof, looking at me and wondering I’m sure what I was doing. Your first time doing anything is never pretty, but if you do want to change your life, learning is a great place to start. SUP International

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