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Need for speed + Reef encounter = Onboard Alpinefoil repair


Two weeks ago I arrived on board the Discovery aka The Cabrinha Quest in Takaroa for ten days of tropical warm water kiting. I was super stoked to have my quiver of Boardriding Maui Cloud kites and my Alpinefoil XLP along for the ride, and as soon as we made the overnight crossing to Manihi I was in the water the next day in perfect 7m foiling conditions.

yeah I was psyched to ride!

I spent two hours ripping around the lagoon, well aware of the dangers lurking below. I gave all the coral a wide berth, carving massive tacks a mile or two upwind and then back down, circling around the boat, stoked to be alive and on the water on my favorite gear.

I was making one last run back to the boat. The light had changed. I was thinking: don’t ask for too much, it’s always that “one last run” when something happens… and: CRUNCH

I hit the edge of a patch of shallow reef, stopping the foil dead in its tracks and tossing me into the shallow water. Luckily it wasn’t gnarly sharp coral, and I didn’t get more than a few scratches. Immediately I had a very bad feeling about the foil, however. Check the video - you can see the shaft stuck into the edge of the reef. The board was floating a several feet away, the foil mast still attached but missing the fuselage and wings. It was getting close to dark and so I recovered what I could and dragged back to the boat.

It was too dark to find anything that evening but Seon and Lono dove again in the morning and found the parts.

The impact twisted the front wing, ripped the inserts out, and split the fuselage down about 2/5 of its length.

Luckily the inserts were all still there with the wing itself, which - quite remarkably - sustained only fairly minor damage, despite being the actual point of impact.

It was a dumb mistake, and an expensive one, but I didn’t let it bother me too much. Have a beer or three and enjoy the trip! Gear gets used, sometimes hard. Besides, Seon needed a project right?

We examined the parts and made a plan. The fuselage was split along a pre-existing seam, and it looked like we could reposition the inserts, wrap the whole thing in carbon and epoxy it back together and at least hope to have a working wing. One issue was the the foam core of the fuselage was retaining a fair bit of salt water, so we had to leave the whole thing to dry for three days or so before we could even attempt a repair. The other issue was rebuilding the inside of the mast socket in the fuselage.

Injecting penetrating epoxy

Wrapping the fuselage with carbon fiber

First layup – held in place with duct tape!

Once first layup had gone off and been cleaned up, it looked like the fuselage and wing was going to work. We just had to figure out how to rebuild the mast socket, issue being that we had no release agent. We couldn’t wrap the mast foot with anything because the fit was so tight. We brainstormed for a few minutes and I thought: Chapstick!

We made up a paste of chopped carbon fabric and epoxy and mashed it in the half-torn-out mast socket, then coated the mast foot itself in, yes, Chapstick, and shoved it in the socket.

Left to cure in the sun for a while…

…and then we gave it a yank. At first the mast wouldn’t budge. But then with two guys and four hands it went CRACK and came free. Incredibly, the Chapstick release job worked perfectly to re-mold the mast socket!

re-molded mast socket

Now we had a set of working parts. Seon did a final layup to reinforce the tail of the fuselage and the inserts for the rear wing, and I cut some black pearls (rejects) in half and glued them to the mast as a sentimental decoration.

final assembly

Once we had it all back together it was time for the moment of truth! We still didn’t have any wind, so we sent the others off on a SUP tour and broke out the dinghy with the outboard and the tow rope. I jumped in the water and popped up on the foil immediately… and rode for a few minutes, wondering if the whole thing was going to fly apart from beneath me.

Incredibly again, it held together and a day later I was riding with the Cloud kites.

In the end, we were able to get the foil operational again and with almost no noticeable degradation of performance. The thing actually rode just fine, thanks to Seon’s incredible repair work. However – we saw that core of the fuselage was still retaining and leaking salt water, and the longitudinal seam along the fuselage was in fact starting to come apart in the areas that we had not wrapped and re-epoxied. For a real long-term repair, the fuselage will need to be drilled, dried, and further reinforced. The carbon work we did was all pretty well faired in, and the foil behaved well in the water, so it should be possible to effect a more permanent repair.

This foil remains in the hands of Capt. Seon Crockford aboard Discovery. Thanks for all the hard work and for getting it flying again!