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Winging It, and Wondering What to Call this New Watersport

Bay Area legend Chip Wasson recently penned an article for Bay Watch, a newsletter for local kiting, about the latest trend in watersports. The sport is so new and novel, we’re not even sure what to call it yet. Have you tried “winging,” foiling, SUPing, or other new(ish) watersports? Do you get excited when a new trend hits the water? Please comment below. 

Around the Bay Area, and increasingly around the world, you may have seen an unfamiliar little wing scooting across the water, held by a rider atop a hydrofoil. Just as most people have made the transition from the windsurfer to the kiteboard, there is a new thing buzzing around the waters, colloquially called the Wing Ding by those in the know. The wing arrived about two years ago, and has really taken off over the past year — reports say wings are outselling kites 30:1 in Maui. Just take a look at Crissy Field: These gnats infest the Bay, whereas only two years ago you would have seen primarily kites and some remaining windsurfers smattered into the mix. So, here is the question we are trying to answer: “Why is the Wing Ding getting so Ding popular?”

“Wing-dinging,” if that’s what we’re calling it, is almost a combination of windsurfing and kitesurfing. Instead of long lines to fly the kite, riders hold the kite/wing by hand. Chip Wasson seamlessly marries multiple sports somewhere outside the Golden Gate.
© 2021 Abner Kingman

The Wing Ding Offers Broad Accessibility

Anyone can lift a wing into the air and catch the passing breeze. If the breeze is too strong, or they are uncomfortable with the power, they can simply hold on to the front of the wing with one hand and let the wind pass by. Once the kite is in the air, it is game-on in terms of focus, concentration and power — until the kite is safely landed. For many, there is something nerve-racking about having a kite in the air constantly offering pull, power and the potential for catastrophe. With the Wing Ding, all of this anxiety flies away. This allows broad accessibility to those who might not be up for such an adrenaline-inducing experience as the kite. If one does not like what is happening with the Wing Ding session, they can simply lie down on their board and paddle to safety. Very comforting indeed!

The Wing Ding Offers Simplicity of Equipment

Much of the beauty of surfing is that all you need is a board and a leash. There is a certain freedom in that simplicity. In terms of equipment, the Wing Ding is not quite as free as surfing, but it is closer to freedom than the kite or the windsurfer. The windsurfer becomes an unwieldy, large piece of equipment once the sail is attached to the board. The kite is unwieldy because of lines, bars, tangles, danger, unpredictability, injury, potential death, etc. The Wing Ding is two detached pieces of equipment that can be put to rest at any desired moment. This is comforting to the masses and promotes participation.

Chip Wasson says, “Cheese!” following the Ronstan Bridge to Bridge race in 2017.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Tim

Wing Dinging Seized an Opportunity to Grow Locally

In the Bay Area, there is a robust fleet of people racing on foils and kites, as well as windsurfers. In 2020, when COVID hit, racing was canceled, and what could be considered “The Crissy Field Effect” kicked in. The local kite-racing fleet seized the opportunity to shift their focus from speed on the race course to learning something new and dynamic. Windsurfers also started to switch over, as the wing is very similar in sensation to the windsurfer, and Lord knows those windsurfers were ready for something new. Crissy was so conducive to this sport as there was a focused wind and water population primed to try it. Crissy also has great setups with waves, swell and ship wakes to play and innovate on. Once the kite and windsurfing groups started to participate, the rest of the water world started to take notice, and new participants started to fall into line.

The Wing Ding Offers Ease of Launching

One needs ample, safe space to organize lines and launch a kite, and in most situations, riders need help from another person to launch and land the kite. The Wing Ding can be safely put into the water from anywhere. A boat and a rocky shoreline are perfect places to slip into the water, safely paddle for a bit, and sail away.

Wasson depowers, or unsheets, the wing by holding it out, and focusing on the wave ahead.
© 2021 Abner Kingman

The Wing Ding Offers Access to the Sensation of Flight

Everyone wants to fly, right? The Wing Ding offers a safe way. This foil flight can come in many different forms: One can ride a larger, slower, fatter foil and be able to foil up in very little wind with a larger board. One can also ride a smaller, faster foil and board that require more wind and speed. There is an entire world in between these ends of the spectrum that offer up different kinds of riding, be it waves, flat water, wakes of ships, light wind, heavy wind, etc.

The Wing Ding Offers Something Novel

I find that people who are interested in contemporary motion sports like windsurfing, SUP, or kiting are interested in what is new and emerging. The Wing Ding gives those who have been in the wind and water world for a long time something new to sink their teeth into. I love to learn something new and enjoy the trajectory of being a rank beginner at something, then travel through the process of becoming proficient at something dynamic and new.

A Wing Dinger enjoys some down-swell action a few weeks ago near the Golden Gate.
© 2021 Randall von Wedel

The Wing Ding Offers a Sense of Addiction

The Wing Ding is definitely addicting for all of the great things that it embodies. However, it is this writer’s opinion that the Wing Ding is simply another tool to have in the shed, another skill to have for any appropriate situation. Many people are swept away with the Wing Ding and profess that they are selling all of their kitesurfing or windsurfing gear and only Wing Dinging from here on out. I urge these people not to be so myopic in their pursuits. The Wing Ding is just another thing, albeit a great thing that’s experiencing a surge in participation and enjoyment. We must keep in mind that every passion has its bell curve, and we must maintain our arsenal of skills to use at any appropriate given circumstance. Let’s not lose sight of all of the fun, fulfilling things that life has to offer!

3 Comments

  1. David L Lyon 2 months ago

    I don’t know anybody who is wingfoiling who calls it a wing ding.
    But Chip knows what he’s doing so I could be wrong.

  2. matt andrews 2 months ago

    Lots of wing foilers here on Maui and lots of ding dongs too, but no wing dings.

  3. Tim Henry 2 months ago

    Thanks Chip for this article, and point taken about windsurfers. (“Lord knows those windsurfers were ready for something new,” you wrote.) I consider myself in the category of a full-blown mowing-the-lawn windsurfer who’s been doing laps at the same spots, on almost the same gear (or same type), for well over a decade. 

    For me, I’ve rarely had the time and money needed to take on a new sport. And now that I’ve finally attained that magical confluence, I don’t have room for even one more piece of goddamn gear. Assuming that it’s not windy at my home in San Quentin, the average trip to the East Bay includes two boards and at least four sails — as well (of course) as all of the accoutrements, such as mast, boom, harness, wetsuit, etc. By the time all of this goes into my 2003 Subaru Impreza wagon — which is much bigger than its modern counterparts — there’s barely enough room for me to drive. The idea of more boards, wings and sails is a frightening proposition. (I also have minimal storage at home, and a 75-stair climb to the house. A season of windsurfing requires a whole side sport/exercise routine of moving gear around.) 

    With all that said, man, foiling looks so cool. I can’t wait to feel that sensation, whatever it is. What’s most alluring is that you can foil in 10-to-12-knots of wind, offering more days on the water. Foil windsurfing in October, during the nicest weather of the year? Yes please.

    I guess my next car will be a van.

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