TAKE A LOOK | The efoil business making waves in Cape Town

Lukas Nel on the electric hydrofoil, in Hout Bay, Cape Town. Photo Jay Caboz.

  • Efoil Cape Town is a new business banking on one of the hottest trends in watersports right now: electric hydrofoiling.
  • The hydrofoil, or foilboards, are mounted with hydrodynamic wings that use a rider’s kinetic energy to gain lift and speed, launching you above the water.
  • Much like how ebikes are transforming the world of cyclingefoils allow flyers to power a small electric propeller capable of moving at speeds of up to 50km/h for up to two hours at a time and over some 40km.
  • Since 2018, they’ve been swooping adrenalin junkies out of the water in some of the best-known surfing destinations in the world from Australia to the Mediterranean and the Americas and now Cape Town.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

For the people of Hout Bay, marine-based businesses are as much a part of life as breathing. On any given day in this Cape Town coastal suburb you’ll find fishermen, kayakers, suppers, seal snorkelers, surfers and much more. It’s safe to say they’ve seen all there is when it comes to the elaborate world of watersports.

Until today, when locals were left gawking as Lukas Nel zipped half a meter above the ocean on a unique ‘surfboard’ of his own. From afar, some said it looked like he was walking on water. Others, that he was Aladdin on a magic carpet. But if you ask Nel, he would say he was flying.

Photo Jay Caboz.

Nel takes his efoil out for a spin. Photo Jay Caboz.

“A lot of people haven’t seen this ever in their life. One thing they struggled to understand is the technology or where it’s come from. They see someone flying above the water like that on a ‘surfboard’ cruising at around 20 to 30 kilometers an hour, it can be very confusing. Especially when you come out and you show them this tiny little prop engine that is pushing you around at such a speed.”

Nel is the co-founder of efoil Cape Town, a fresh new business just a few weeks old, which is banking on one of the hottest trends in watersports right now — hydrofoiling.

Photo Jay Caboz.

Nel is the co-founder of efoil Cape Town. Photo Jay Caboz.

For those of you who didn’t have clue about what that was until a few days ago, the hydrofoil, or foilboards, are ‘surfboards’ mounted with hydrodynamic wings that use a rider’s kinetic energy to gain lift and speed launch you above the water .

“The foil system itself is the exact same as an airplane. The wing is the same as an airplane and the engine is the same as an airplane. Because water is 800 times denser than air, you need a lot smaller wing and a lot smaller engine. That is the mechanism at the bottom that you’re flying on the foil itself. And then the foilers just attach onto the top of it. And then the wing and the engine propel you forward. you fly.”

The hydrofoil, or foilboards, are ‘surfboards’ mounted with hydrodynamic wings that use a rider’s kinetic energy to gain lift and speed launching you above the water. Photo Jay Caboz.

The efoils are operated using a battery operated system. Photo Jay Caboz.

Photo Jay Caboz.

The Flightboard battery system. Photo Jay Caboz.

Efoils took the sport one step further by throwing in lithium-ion battery systems. Much like how ebikes are transforming the world of cycling, efoils allow flyers to power a small electric propeller capable of moving at speeds of up to 50km/h for up to two hours at a time and some 40km.

“It’s the same battery technology as your little iPhone batteries inside, except for a huge one,” says Nel.

Photo Jay Caboz.

Nel set’s up the efoils on the beach. Photo Jay Caboz.

Since commercialisation in 2018, efoils have become extremely popular swooping adrenalin junkies out of the water in some of the best-known surfing destinations in the world from Australia to the Mediterranean and the Americas.

Photo Jay Caboz.

The company runs lessons at R900 per person for a group of three people. Photo Jay Caboz.

Importing your own efoil can cost in the range of R265,000 excluding import and shipping duties, and tax. But, locally, that price may come in cheaper with Jeffrey’s Bay based Unifoil planning to launch their own efoil, the Hydroflyer, at an expected price tag of R200,000 in May.

Read more: This SA-made electric hydrofoil lets you fly across the water – for R200,000

Photo Jay Caboz.

Lukas and his father Johan Nel take thier efoils out onto the calm waters off Hout Bay. Photo Jay Caboz.

That high cost is one reason why Nel wanted to launch a business in the first place. Spurred on by the interest he and his co-founder father, Johan Nel, received when learning to fly their own efoils they saw a gap in the market in Cape Town.

“My dad has been monitoring efoils for quite a long time, but it was never worth spending the kind of money they’re asking for as they were all passion projects and garage projects. We had no idea of ​​turning it into a business. We started flying around on it, we got a lot of attention, a lot of people were very interested in it. “

Here’s what it looks like:

Photo Jay Caboz.

It’s an exciting adventure. Photo Jay Caboz.

From the white-sanded beach at Hout Bay, as well as in Simon’s Town, and the Waterfront Nel has launched “Cape Town’s first Flite lessons” offering efoil on Fliteboards, an Australian efoil brand that can lay claim to being the first efoil to cross the English Channel in one flight, in August 2021.

Nel does a demonstration of how beginners can get onto the boards. Photo Jay Caboz.

On land the efoil looks ungainly, lopsided, and awkward to carry; it’s not much a surprise since it can weigh almost 25 kg with a battery in.

Photo Jay Caboz.

Nel set’s up the efoils on the beach. Photo Jay Caboz.

But in the water, it sails above the ocean like a dolphin gliding through surf.

Photo Jay Caboz.

Photo Jay Caboz.

Calm days with no swell are ideal conditions for beginners to cut their teeth. The company runs lessons at R900 per person for a group of three people.

It takes about an hour and a half to learn how to fly. Photo Jay Caboz.

For those who are more proficient they offer tours around Hout Bay, Simon’s Town, and the Waterfront at R1,500 per person.

Photo Jay Caboz.

More proficient flyers can take tours around Hout Bay, Simon’s Town and the Waterfront. Photo Jay Caboz. Photo Jay Caboz.

It takes just a couple of hours to get used to it. And, before you know it, you’ll be standing up, flying, and carving the ocean on your own magic carpet ride.

It takes about an hour and a half to learn how to fly. Photo Jay Caboz.

Albeit with a little less grace than the experienced Nel.

Photo Jay Caboz.

Photo Jay Caboz.

Photo Jay Caboz.

Photo Jay Caboz.

Photo Jay Caboz.

Photo Jay Caboz.

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