Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg rides a hydrofoil surfboard holding the American flag. July 4, 2021.
Mark Zuckerberg, Instagram
Mark Zuckerberg celebrated July 4 in a unique way: holding an American flag as he glided across a body of water, high on a board about a foot above the surface.
Facebook’s CEO was making hydrofoils, a new kind of water sport that has gained popularity among outdoor enthusiasts – and those with a lot of money to spend on sports equipment that costs thousands of dollars.
Although Zuckerberg is best known for being the goofy founder of the world’s largest social network and one of the richest people on the planet, he has also become one of the most visible hydrofoilers, drawing more attention to the sport in the making.
While surfing requires the power of a wave to start, and the wakeboard relies on a boat to tow the surfer, the hydrofoil uses a wing-like structure below the water’s surface to create lift. The rider uses a portable Bluetooth controller that connects to an electric motor and an underwater propeller, or creates momentum manually by pumping their legs up and down, as Zuckerberg does in his July 4 post.
âIt’s a hydrofoil. There’s a wing underwater that I’m piloting that pushes the board through the air,â Zuckerberg wrote in a comment on his post. “It’s a lot of fun. There’s an electric version you can get, but in this video I’m riding a regular foil board and riding a small wave.”
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Surfers have been fondling the idea of ââusing hydrofoil technology for decades, but the sport only really took off when foiling boards became commercially available in 2018, said Nick Leason, co-founder of Lift. Foils, which was one of the first companies to sell them.
Before foiling boards, Leason and his company sold boards for kitesurfing, which uses a kite in the air to pull a rider on a board through water. Kite surfing requires a lot of skill, however, which limits the size of the market, Leason said. The foil is much easier to handle, and it feels like you’re gliding.
âIt’s just that really unique feeling of flying over water,â said Leason, whose company is based in Puerto Rico. “You feel a bit like a pelican, or a budding pelican.”
Puerto Rican company Lift Foils is one of the companies that sell hydrofoil boards.
Courtesy of Lift Foils
There are different types of hydrofoil boards.
Surf foils include the board and the foil but no motor, requiring users to create momentum with their own body, and typically cost around $ 2,000. Efoils have electric motors that allow them to reach speeds of 25 miles per hour and typically sell for at least $ 10,000.
Although foiling requires less skill than kite surfing, the high price limits its potential market to extreme water sports enthusiasts and people with a large wallet. Canadian company MSLR Electric E-Foil, for example, notes that many of its customers are NHL hockey players.
âThe boards are made from high quality materials,â said Carey Missler, founder and owner of MSLR. MSLR sells two efoil boards, the Navigator and the Player, both for $ 10,000. I have your expensive lithium-ion battery and carbon fiber components. “
For Zuckerberg, who is the fifth richest person in the world, with a net worth of around $ 125 billion, according to Forbes, money is no problem. That’s why he has plenty of boards, including painted and custom-made versions by Lift Foil, Leason said.
âThis is our product that he rides on in the video. He probably has all the models we have,â Leason said. “He’s really into it. He loves it.”
Zuckerberg was “tearing”
Zuckerberg started posting about the hydrofoil in August 2019, when he uploaded two photos of himself on a foil board being towed by a boat.
âTrying a new sport in Kauai with one of the best, Kai Lenny,â Zuckerberg said, referring to the professional surfer.
Leason said Lenny has been instrumental in the growth of hydrofoil as a sport, paving the way for how people use unfamiliar equipment and taking the time to teach new people how to foil. This includes Zuckerberg, Leason said.
âI think Kai, he’s magical on a foil and sees everything he does,â Zuckerberg said on Instagram in April. âIt kind of helped me get into the sport just by watching him foil a huge wave and then turn around, upwind, ride up the wave, flip out of the wave. It’s like Oh my god. . It’s unreal. “
In December 2019, Zuckerberg posted a video of himself collapsing while wearing a bright orange helmet. While helmets aren’t the most stylish outfit, they are an important piece of equipment that experts recommend, especially for new foilers. Experts also recommend wearing impact vests.
âThe boards are made of carbon fiber. It’s a very, very durable material, which means if your head were to hit it it could be very dangerous if you weren’t wearing a helmet,â said Taylor Coulthard, co-owner of MSLR. .
The Canadian company MSLR Electric E-Foil is one of the companies that sell hydrofoil boards.
Courtesy of MSLR Electric E-Foil
Zuckerberg was surprised by paparazzi collapsing in Hawaii with his face completely covered in sunscreen in July 2020. The photo became an instant viral meme.
âI was foiling, then I noticed that there was this type of paparazzi following us. I was like ‘Oh, I don’t want him to recognize me, so you know what I’m going to do? just put a ton of sunscreen on my face so he wouldn’t know who I am, “Zuckerberg said, laughing on Instagram in April.” But it backfired. “
Zuckerberg then laughed at himself about it all last month when he posted a comic book version of the photo.
âThe sun has never been lucky,â Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook.
But despite his awkward episodes, those in the foiling world say that Zuckerberg has actually gotten pretty good at the sport.
âIt’s funny that most people think Mark Zuckerberg is a nerdy little guy behind his computer in a lair somewhere, but he’s actually a pretty good athlete as you see in this video,â Leason said. . âHe trained a lot in foil. He’s doing pretty well.
Perhaps more importantly for those who sell foil boards, Zuckerberg also does a lot to generate attention and buzz.
âIt generated some interest,â Missler said. “It was an incredible blow. He was ripping. He was doing incredible.”