I just got back from an AWESOME trip in the Tuamotus on Discovery aka The Cabrinha Quest, and one of my goals for the trip was to learn to ride my foilboard strapless. Given how much of a challenge it had been learning to ride the foil in the first place, I was fairly intimidated about losing the handles, even though I ride strapless surfboards almost exclusively (aside from foils).
I'm happy to say that some warm water and a no-wind day made it easy to get over what turned out to be a very minor hurdle. We took my Alpinefoil XLP out behind the dinghy one day and I was up on the foil strapless in seconds, and the next day when the wind filled in I was back out with my 12m BRM Cloud. I got at least one more day in on a smaller kite and started getting close to some foiling gybes – which are, just as on a surfboard, much easier strapless than strapped.
In terms of technique, there's not much to it.. Start with the foil in the water. Use your rear arm as a lever to pivot the board up so the foil mast is nearly parallel with the surface of the water, and the board is perpendicular to the water. Place your feet on the board and use the kite so that you can apply some pressure with your feet to keep things aligned, just like you would when water starting when kiting on a surfboard. Then just power up and go. I got up the first time. It might be a bit harder throwing big turns unstrapped with the foil, but the freedom to move around the board more than makes up for it. I love riding strapless.
I'd love to hear from others about their experience ditching the straps on a foil board. Such a killer trip and I'm stoked to do more strapless free-foiling soon!
Photos (except for top) by Lono Humphreys