Teenage brothers Finn and Jeffrey Spencer are two SUP savants ahead of their time
At age 14 – less than two years after he first started SUP surfing – Jeffrey (@jeffrey_spencer) was crowned Canadian national SUP surfing champion. His younger brother Finn (@finn_spencer) took the same title the following year at age 13. Between the two of them the Spencer boys have now held onto that title for four years running. And they still manage to get their homework done.
Over the past few years growing up on Maui’s north shore – a breeding ground for many of the standup paddling’s top stars – the Canadian-American boys have also become competitive among the world’s best in downwind SUP racing and as of late, their favorite discipline of all: SUP hydrofoiling.
“Lately foiling has been our main focus,” said now 17-year-old Jeffrey. “This is the first year we’ve had big foil races and I really think competitive foiling is going to blow up in the next few years.”
Jeffrey’s logic is sound. Since exploding into the mainstream three years ago with Kai Lenny’s viral showing on the Maliko Run, hydrofoiling has remained the fixation of progressive standup paddling. Many of SUP’s top pros are hooked on downwind foilboarding, and thanks to the uncanny bizarreness of foiling’s aesthetics, so is the public eye. This year for the first time in history foil classes were introduced in marquee downwind SUP races like the OluKai Ho’olaule’a, Maui 2 Molokai, the Poi Bowl and coming up this Sunday – the granddaddy of all SUP races – Molokai 2 Oahu.
A 32-mile crossing race on one of the world’s most feared channels with some of the biggest seas and best paddlers isn’t something many kids dare take on. But perhaps not surprisingly, the Spencer boys will be competing in M2O on Sunday. They’ll likely be the youngest among the 10-odd entrants in the foil class, but that ought not quell their contenders’ fears.
“We’ve been working with an expert foil shaper to build our own equipment and doing two or three foil runs from Maliko Gulch to Kahalui Harbor (a 10-mile stretch of downwind perfection) every day to train” said Jeffrey “I think it’s working; we both finished top-six at the Poi Bowl last weekend.”
Along with their world-class training grounds, the Spencer’s have been at the forefront of foiling technology. At this early stage in SUP hydrofoil evolution, foilboards seen in downwinding today might well equate to the Hawaiian balsa boards seen in surfing centuries ago. Shapers have yet to reach a consensus on standardized design, but just like surfing, riders with the best-matched gear have undeniably increased odds.
“Until everyone closes the gap on the technology side, equipment is going to play a huge role in results,” says Jeffrey. “But more than that, it’s going to come down to the wind.”
Foils don’t go well on flat water, but it doesn’t take much wind to send them flying at speeds no standup paddler can match. 14-year-old Finn experienced this first-hand during last year’s BLUESMITHS Paddle Imua downwind race, where he raced a foilboard against the standup paddle elites to see how it compared. From the start, shielded from the trades in the lee of Maliko Gulch, his foilboard was no match for the SUP racers during the windless, half-mile stretch out to sea and he was the last racer to reach the wind line. 10 miles later he’d passed every paddler and neared the finish in first place.
“I just hope there’s wind on Sunday,” said Finn. “There’s going to be a lot of paddling without it!”
Jeffrey and Finn like many others have opted to use the SURGE Medium 82 paddle for SUP foiling, this is party due to it’s extreme light weight which is important for foiling but also thanks to the powerful blade with a shallow 8° angle and reduced diameter shaft. This is becoming a popular paddle for foiling downwind or in the surf. For foiling the brothers use slightly longer paddles for increased reach while flying. This summer they have been testing out the new TEXCARBON version of the Surge which is expected to be released later this year.
Finn & Jeffrey Downwind SUP Foiling on Maui’s Northshore
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