Pics: Wyatt Miller, Brian Casero, Christopher Curran, @k2asass, @iwasphotographed
Wyatt Miller is currently grabbing attention across various social media platforms with his futuristic windfoiling exploits. An accomplished windsurfer, in standard mode, as well as foiler WM has just taken on a new role heading up the windsurfing department for the brand. We caught up with Wyatt to get the goss.
Firstly give us a brief background on your windsurfing life to date.
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and started windsurfing with my dad around the age of 11. I started teaching windsurfing summer camps when I was 16 and got my first sponsors when I was in college at age 20. Nowadays, I split my time between my windsurf resort (Pro-Windsurf La Ventana- http://prowindsurflaventana.com/) in La Ventana (Baja California Sur, Mexico) and Hood River, Oregon (The Gorge).
I have been on most of the freestyle podiums in the USA for the last decade. I started windfoiling four seasons ago and just last month I became the brand manager for Slingshot windsurfing (http://www.slingshotsports.com/slingshot-windsurf).
Where do you base yourself now and why?
I have a windsurf resort in La Ventana, Baja California Sur Mexico. The wind is super consistent from November to April. There are not really any other places in North America with mid-winter windy seasons and it’s only a 3 hour flight from most of the west coast, so it’s a great destination.
I spend the summers in Hood River, the conditions are absolutely amazing and a lot of the North American windsurf industry is based up there.
Talk to us about the windsurfing conditions you find in your ‘hood – what’s great and what’s not so great.
Hood River is WINDY! I pretty much only use my 4.0 and 4.4 and often wish I had something smaller. The water is warm, 18C and getting warmer by the day. There are about 15 spots to sail along 70 miles of river. We have some flat water spots, but usually we are looking to the overhead to logo high swells produced by the opposing current and wind direction. The fact that the river is always moving upwind means you never have to try and beat upwind, in fact if the wind dies you can get stuck upwind. You have good jumping on both tacks and no large predators. There is not really anything not to like about it, it can be gusty but gusty 4.0 is not so bad.
Do you travel to windsurf much? If so, where do you normally head?
I’ve spent time in Maui, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Margarita, Bonaire and other windsurf hot spots. I went to Dominican Republic, Cuba and Colombia the last couple years as part of my non-profit, “Beyond Boardshorts (http://beyondboardshorts.com/)” that focuses on getting windsurf gear to low income windsurf kids in the Caribbean. I usually do at least one trip in the spring (this year it was to compete in the Defi Wind, France). I drive from Hood River down to my windsurf resort in La Ventana and back every year and the surfing and sailing locations up and down the Baja Peninsula are some of my favourites in the world. And of course, I always make time to sail in San Francisco when I’m back home.
Where’s your fave windsurf spot, home or away?
My favourite windsurf spot in Hood River is called The Wall. It’s a narrow section of the river just below a massive dam. The water is moving really fast which builds huge swells and for some reason it is really smooth in between the rollers. It’s such a good place for big jumping and epic swell riding with overhead waves in the river.
In Baja there is the legendary wave sailing spot called Punta San Carlos. I do clinics there every October on my way down to open my resort. With a good south swell you can have a mile long wave with multiple sections to hit and perfect side-offshore winds. It’s like a skatepark for windsurfers.
When did you first come across foiling and what made you want to get involved?
I have been foiling for about 3 or 4 seasons. At first, my buddy Tyson Poor got a kite foil and we just put bolts all the way through an old beat up board. It worked but it was not easy, the foil just wasn’t in the correct location. Then I saw the designer for Slingshot, Tony Logosz, ripping our home spot in The Gorge, Oregon. He looked like he had it totally dialed and was jibing easy. He hooked me up with one of his boards and foils and that’s when it really started to take off for me.
At which point did the foiling switch flick and you become addicted?
When I landed my first backloop at my place in La Ventana I was pretty hooked. We don’t always get ramps big enough for backloops there. With the foil, all of a sudden I was able to do them in small 1m swell in winds that I would need my 5.6 to use my freestyle board. The foil really just made windsurfing in less than exciting conditions super fun again.
What do you prefer: foiling or standard windsurfing? Which do you find more fulfilling?
When the conditions are good I still prefer normal windsurfing. I can do a lot of tricks and boosting backloops and pushloops along with all the freestyle moves is just too much fun. The second the wind lightens up or just gets flukey instead of being bummed I keep the same sail I was on and just switch to the foil board and I am having a blast in minutes. I have been learning a lot of new tricks on the foil and each session I get noticeably better so at the moment it’s the foiling that is more fulfilling.
We’ve seen some pretty sick vids of late with you stomping big moves on the foil. How long has it taken you to get here skill wise?
Well, I have been landing backloops, forwards and shuv-its for the past 2 years. And I had another season or two of part time foiling before that. But my buddy Bryan Metcalf-Perez who is a ripping freestyler only had 5 days on the foil and he was landing big backloops just the other day. So, if you have the freestyle skills already it’s a pretty natural progression. One of the things that really surprised me is that a shuv-it is just the same as on the regular board. I landed the first one I ever tried. I was going into it wondering what would happen if I tried a shuv-it and it was just completely surprising how natural it felt.
There aren’t many riders pushing this side of windfoiling. Is it something you’ll be continuing to showcase?
I am surprised there aren’t many more guys pursuing the big moves on the windfoil. I get a lot of inspiration watching all the crazy stuff Balz Muller and his brother Jacob are doing. I think now that I have posted some videos we will see a bunch of other guys throwing down, it’s a pretty natural extension of the sport, and at the moment I feel like I can jump higher in the given conditions than I can on my normal kit. I will definitely keep working on it. I want to get a pushloop here soon, but to be honest it’s a bit scary getting on top of your gear like that. It’s great to see the recent progression, considering that windsurfing foils have been around for 30+ years. (http://www.slingshotsports.com/slingshot-windsurf)
Your kit is probably under a lot of stress during big moves. Have you broken anything?
If you are going to be jumping you really want the carbon version. I bent a couple masts and fuselages on the aluminium gear. So far the carbon stuff from Slingshot has really held up. I haven’t broken anything.
And what about near misses? After all a foil is quite large and hard should it all go pear shaped.
I definitely think about it a lot. A few of the big backloops in the photos I did on a real small sharp wing. Now we have produced curved wing tips on the foils that make it a lot less dangerous as far as puncturing yourself. The mast is still super sharp and sometimes when I over-rotate a forward, all my momentum is headed towards the trailing edge of the mast which is not so good. The pushloop is going to be the sketchy one to learn.
Is foiling the future of windsurfing? We hear in the States that it’s all that’s being talked about, whereas in the UK it’s catching on slightly slower.
I definitely think it is the biggest thing to boost windsurfing since the short board. I think a lot of people have given up windsurfing because it’s so hard to find good conditions and boring conditions are well…disappointing. But with the foil you hardly need any wind to have a super exiting session. Being bad a jibing again is fun, when you finally get one foiling all the way through you scream your head off just like you did on your first normal jibes. Two years ago everyone in the States said foiling was stupid, then a ton of those people got foils last summer and this summer it is really taking off. Everybody who comes down to my windsurf resort learns how, and quickly. Most people are getting 100m rides their first hour. I think it’s the easiest foil platform to learn.
What’s your opinion on windsurfing in general (globally)?
Here in the States it has dropped off significantly, the parking lots used to be full on the good days. Now there plenty of parking spaces on all but the best days. I think it’s more popular in Europe and holding steady there. The Europeans just have a lot more of a sailing culture and I think all the sailing clubs and schools drive a lot of interest.
And what about those sailors who have no interest in flying? Do you think things like the renaissance of one design longboard riding is set to grow again after Cobra’s recent announcement regarding the Windsurfer LT?
Somehow I don’t see old school longboarding bringing windsurfing back. I think foiling is the future. I can only imagine that pretty soon we will all have electric foil boards and be ripping around every body of water without a sail. If you could motor up and then kill the motor, pump and ride swell and then give it a little juice when you needed it from the electric motor it would be so fun. I think the all water-sports enthusiasts will know how to foil in one way or another.
Tell us about your new role with Slingshot – how did that come about?
The Slingshot designer Tony Logosz absolutely rips on a windfoil. When I was a kid I wanted one of his Logosz Design windsurf boards soooo bad. The guy has a huge history of being at the forefront of windsurf design. He was developing foiling gear in its infancy and testing it here in Hood River and making it look so fun. He started hooking me up with gear and I was helping with the testing and just trying to get as good as him (he still has some moves on me). They really needed a windsurfer who was in touch with the market and the consumers and since I had a great working relationship with Tony it was a perfect match. I’m really excited to be part of the team, Tony is seriously a genius, he is living like 5 years in the future and the amount of products he comes up with keeps it really fun.
What are your main areas of responsibility?
I help test the product and decide what products should go to market. I am assembling a national and international team and working on the branding. I guess I am just trying to steer the whole brand in a fun and profitable direction. One of the big reasons I signed up is that Slingshot is to focus on the freeride and freestyle side of windfoiling which is where all the fun is. I saw the rest of the industry just re-making Formula racing with massive wide boards and tons of beating up wind. With Slingshot it’s all about fun and usability and I think that’s what the consumers are really into.
How do you plan on growing the windfoiling side of the brand?
I think with Slingshot all the pieces are there to have good growth. Since they have been doing big things in kite and wake the distribution is already set up. The products are next level thanks to Tony’s forward thinking. The goal now is to get the boards in schools and with some star instructors. Buying a whole kit set up is a big leap and a lot of people aren’t sure they are ready to go all in with foiling. If we can just get them up and going once, they are going to find it so fun and easy that the barrier to entry will drop away. Once the products are under your feet they really sell themselves.
Slingshot products are very progressive in terms of performance. Is this hard to convey to newbie foilers? How do you go about doing this?
I think when you look at the super short wide boards they just make sense, despite the strange shape. People ask me all the time about putting a foil in their old slalom boards. It works, but when you think about having the wind pushing the big long nose around, the super short boards are obviously a better idea. Also, when you think about the up and down motion of foiling you don’t want a long nose pearling into the water or into swells. A dedicated foil board is the way to go, it just feels so good to have no swing weight up front and all the boards are wide enough to uphaul and slog home if the wind dies completely.
What’re your plans for the rest of 2018?
I will be in the Gorge all summer testing, working on some video projects and signing our international team of foiling freestylers. We are working on some great new freestyle shapes for jumping and higher winds. Tony is always coming up with new moves and we are just starting to figure out what tricks are possible on the foil. Then, I will head down to Baja for my wavesailing clinics with Solo Sports in San Carlos October 6th-20th (http://www.solosports.net/). And, then to La Ventana to open up my windsurfing resort and teach all our guests to foil. I get a lot of insight into the products and the consumer needs while teaching down there.
Find out more about Wyatt and Slingshot foils at: http://www.slingshotsports.com/slingshot-windsurf