Podcast – Foil Series Ep. 1 – James Casey

James Casey is a multi-sport waterman who has excelled in SUP racing and surfing and is now leading the charge in prone, SUP and tow foil surfing.

With a background in surfing, kite surfing and rugby union James has created a name for himself in the standup paddling scene. A 3x Aussie Champion as well as Olukai, King of The Cut and Doctor Champion plus podium places in the prestigious Molokai 2 Oahu, James excels in longer downwind races is where my passion lies. A proud member of the Australian ISA squad James thrives in the technical beach races using my power and skill to overcome the rest of the pack. No slouch in waves, James has a runner up finish at the Sunset Beach Pro and 2017 APP World Tour. Recently he has turned his attention to hydro-foiling – adding a new discipline to the quiver and seeing what opportunities arise. With a few exciting foiling exhibitions on the horizon, including Molokai 2 Oahu on the foil.

On Foiling

It’s rare that something grips you deeply, that a person or act grabs hold of your world and reshapes your reality.  In 1993, during a family reunion in Myrtle Beach, SC, my cousin Joe asked me if I wanted to surf.  He had been huffing paint the day before, so I was staying away from him, but I’d always wanted to surf.  I tried, and it immediately changed my trajectory in life.  Two years later I’d decide that baseball, which I had been my sport focus for my entire life, was boring and I quit to swim to be in better shape or surfing.  I moved to the beach shortly after college and then to Costa Rica at 26, always on the search for better waves.

In 2013, after a bad wipeout in a heavy beach break, I started standup paddling for rehab.  I caught a few waves and realized that it was actually fun to surf with a paddle, though the surf world didn’t agree.  I put my head down and learned, a humbling but valuable process, and the bays and reefs near where I lived in Costa Rica opened up.  Instead of surfing crowded beach breaks I was surfing empty points, it was like going back in time.  Paddle surfing is an extension of surfing, a different take on the same game.  It opened the landscape, but didn’t change the game.

Foiling changes the game.  It doesn’t happen right away.  I’d guess most folks’ first encounters on a foil are similar to mine.  Years of ingrained surfing habits working against you. You get severely worked, if not injured, your humbled and questioning if it’s worth it.  That was my first encounter when I borrowed Keahi’s setup on Oahu 2 years ago.  Dave Kalama had sold me on foiling a few months before, so I thought I’d give it a chance.  Keahi had been cruising all week and made it look easy.  He makes everything look easy and he was cool enough to let me try without warning me of the danger I was putting myself in.  I did everything wrong and almost took my head off.  It was scary enough to put it away, out of mind, and side with the folks saying foiling was too dangerous and didn’t belong in the lineup.  I still agree with the latter.

Life decided to deal our family a new hand and last year I found myself living in Connecticut, surfing Rhode Island points.  A couple of days a month you’ll get good swell, but the adrenaline junky in me was satisfied only once on the East Coast.  But I couldn’t help looking at the beautiful point breaks wishing for more swell.  After a season of this, and the rise of foil videos on my insta feed, it seemed foiling was the answer and I was going to have to learn.  
Chase Kosterlitz, who runs our Blue Zone SUP camp in Costa Rica, had been foiling for a couple months.  He provided the last bit of needed motivation as we have a healthy competition underlying our surfing relationship and I couldn’t let him get too far ahead.  In January I decided to dive in head first and after the second week I was hooked.

I now find myself currently in a parallel situation to 2013 in paddle surfing.  I have the quest to learn everything I can about foiling, but the newness of the sport means there isn’t much depth in collective knowledge.  For paddle surfing, I started the Paddlewoo Podcast to answer questions about the sport.  I have that same desire right now to satisfy my thirst for information on foiling.  I’m not committing to a dedicated podcast, but I am going to do a series on foiling on the Progression Project Podcast, which normally explores the learning process, deliberate practice, mastery, and flow.

I hope you enjoy coming along on my dive into foiling.  My mind is freaking out by the experiences I’m having, and I’m not the only one.  It’s 4D surfing – like surfing through a tunnel of danger on the float of powder.  In my 30 years of being a flow-junky, foiling is the deepest sustained state I’ve experienced.
The hype is real, the question is if you can navigate the learning process without losing a limb.  I hope to help you in that process. 

The Portal Phantom

The Portal Phantom from The Progression Project on Vimeo.

Being able to do something and understanding how you did something are two different things.  You can walk, but if I asked you how you walk, you can’t explain it.

I designed the Barra through a process similar to evolution.  Trial and error.  Lots of error, picking what worked and adding.  The final product accomplished the design objectives – it is a breakthrough board.

But I believed it could be improved.  I tried.  And I failed.  Many times.  It became apparent that before I could move forward, I first had to understand what I did.

To understand the Barra, I started to strip away design elements.  To get to the core of where the Barra feeling exists.  Design by subtraction.  Do you need a hip in the tail?  Do you need a step deck?  A normal nose?  The exaggerated tail rocker?

Through the process, I realized that the Barra was over-designed.  It worked in spite of the flair.  By streamlining the design, the core board became better.  And better.  When you take a Barra and shape away the excess, you get a better board – The Phantom.

Mick Slattery of SureFire Surfboards – Technical surf and sup design and construction discussion.

Mick Slattery is the owner and shaper/designer for SureFire Surfboards out of Australia.  He comes on the podcast to have a technical discussion on design and construction.  Mick is leading the charge in design for performance surfing in standup.  Check out his designs at SureFire Surfboards, and follow him on socials at Instagram and Facebook.


Hans Wagner, Head of ESSC Contest Series, On the Podcast

It’s been a couple years in the making, but this week, ahead of the best forecast I’ve seen on the East Coast of Florida, Hans Wagner and I hop on the podcast to discuss the ESSC Contest Series and the ON call for next weekend.  Hans is a passionate paddle surfer and like me came into paddle surfing as a lifelong surfer.  The surfer background permeates his paddling philosophy and our discussion starts off with the swell forecast and details on the event but then turns into board design, the benefits of being a paddle surfer, and what board to ride for what conditions.

Enjoy and I hope we see you at the contest on March 10th!