Simon Sanderson: Shaping the Future of Wing Foiling

November 03, 2023

Simon Sanderson - shaping the future of wing foiling

Have you ever wondered about the minds behind the innovation and design of cutting-edge wing-foil equipment?

We'd like to introduce you to Simon Sanderson, a passionate watersports enthusiast and inventor with a background in Physics and Astrophysics, who has been pushing the boundaries of wing foiling and watersport technology for decades.

Simon has a special connection with WA SURF as he grew up in the same coastal town where Fiona had a holiday house and spent her summers from a young age. Fiona and her family were also avid sailors, so they would often see Simon around, testing his new developments. During a recent family holiday in the UK, Fiona's Dad, Charles (who resides close by), introduced Mark to Simon. Simon was kind enough to share some of his new wing and foil developments with Mark, as well as lending Mark a setup for a session together.

Keep reading to learn more about Simon's inspiring journey, unique design features, insights, and his vision for the future of the sport.


Who is Simon Sanderson?

Simon Sanderson

When we think about people who truly embody the spirit of adventure and innovation, few names come to mind as easily as Simon Sanderson. Simon grew up, and still resides, in the village of Brancaster Staithe in North Norfolk, England. His journey into watersports started at a young age when his mother, a top dinghy sailor, introduced him to the world of sailing, which quickly progressed into dingy racing.

By the age of 18, Simon had already taken his first steps towards innovation by designing and building his very first speed sailing hydrofoil for the Weymouth speed week. In his early twenties, Simon discovered windsurfing, and it didn't take long for him to become a professional windsurfing speed sailor, moving to Maui during his career as a pro windsurfer.

Not only was Simon out racing on the water; he was also designing and manufacturing his own speed sailing equipment. His passion for innovation led him to race other people's sailing boat hydrofoils on lighter wind days, pushing the boundaries of what was possible in the world of speed sailing.

1980/90 saw Simon achieve incredible feats as he became the British Speed Windsurfing Champion. It was during this time that he campaigned a 60-foot speed sailing boat.

With a lifetime of innovation in his blood, it’s no surprise that he has been so interested in what was possible in the relatively new sport of wing foiling.


Setting wing foil equipment apart from the existing options.

Simon’s commitment to pushing the boundaries has led to several remarkable design features and innovations that set his wing-foil equipment apart from the competition.

Some key innovations include:

HIGH PERFORMANCE WING FOIL BOARDS: Simon's latest development focuses on wing-foil boards that are specifically designed for small foils, allowing them to plane more easily in light winds. These boards are short, wide, with a small nose rocker and tail cutouts.

LOW TEMPERATURE PREPREG CARBON FIBRE: To ensure his equipment remains lightweight, stiff, and robust, Simon employs low-temperature prepreg carbon fibre for construction.

LOW DRAG WING-FOIL FOIL MAST: Simon developed a wing-foil foil mast with reduced drag, achieved by narrowing the chord width at the tip and ensuring a wider base for stiffness and strength.

DOUBLE SPLIT REAR FOOT STRAPS: To provide a more natural foot position, Simon introduced double split rear foot straps.

CUSTOM PRINTED FOILS: Simon pioneered a printed custom one-off foil manufacturing process, enabling the creation of new, custom foil designs without the expense of traditional mould making.

WING FOIL HARNESS IMPROVEMENTS: Simon has developed a simple lay flat carbon spreader bar for wing foil harnesses and improved the harness lines and their attachments.

INNOVATIVE WING SAIL: Simon's carbon fiber wing sail includes a flexible 50% trailing edge flap with variable twist and camber controls for optimal performance.

Simon Sanderson - innovations
Simon Sanderson wing foil innovations

Design and prototype process for new wing foiling equipment.

Simon’s approach to designing and prototyping wing-foil equipment is grounded in first principles. He takes a holistic view of what is needed and explores how to achieve it with simplicity in mind. He follows a series of planned tests to evaluate results, recognising that the evolving nature of wing foiling demands continuous improvement.

In this new and rapidly evolving sport, it's often challenging to know what is actually possible. Sometimes, foiling technique and personal skill level may need improving to make it possible to use the equipment being developed.


Testing of new wing foiling equipment tested, and insights that have come from this.

Simon tests his wing-foil equipment in a range of wind and water conditions. These tests have given him valuable insights, including the discovery that planning boards designed for small foils in strong winds can also excel in light winds. Additionally, he's pushed the boundaries of small foils, with foils as thin as 300cm for speed wing foiling.


Innovative materials used for new wing foil equipment.

Simon's commitment to using the best materials available is evident in his innovative designs. He's always on the lookout for new materials and conducts extensive testing before using them for actual equipment fabrication. Low-temperature prepreg carbon fibre is his material of choice as it has a better performance, a high level of consistency and very good quality control. Simon will often use higher grades of carbon where necessary for the equipment, including intermediate modulus and ultra-high modulus carbon fibres.

Simon Sanderson wing foil innovations


Simon’s thoughts on innovation and the future of wing foiling.

Simon envisions a future for wing-foiling where the sport branches into various disciplines, each with its unique equipment needs. From general purpose to freestyle, race, wave, and speed, innovation will continue to shape the sport's evolution.

Innovation is always a key part of the development of the sport with multiple people and companies trying out new ideas that will slowly shape the way the sport will develop. Simon lived and designed through this process in windsurfing and always finds it fascinating to see how things develop while trying to make his own predictions.


Collaborations with other experts in the field.

Simon has benefitted from numerous collaborations and discussions with fellow watersports enthusiasts and experts, all of which have greatly influenced his work. While he has many friends and colleagues in the field, too many to even mention, here are a few of the key influences in his career so far:

Jimmy Lewis, one of the best shapers in the world. Simon has learned so much about how to design and shape boards from him.

Erik Beale, ex-World Speed Sailing Record holder and Simon’s ex-windsurfing speed sailing team mate, who Simon talk’s through many ideas with.

Finian Maynard, owner and designer of FMX racing and ex-World Speed sailing record holder. Simon has discussed and used his ideals on easy planning boards from his wind foil designs.

Paul Larsen, the current World Speed record holder. Simon and Paul talk about foils and wing sails and their use for wing foil.

Rob Whittal, ex-World Hang Gliding & Paragliding World Champion and designer at Ozone for wing foil wings, who Simon discusses wing design and development with. Simon’s recent tour of the Ozone factory in Vietnam deepened his understanding of production processes and quality control, shedding light on the high standards of the industry.

Simon also draws inspiration from The Amateur Yachting Research Society (AYRS) who had many publications and lectures that inspired him in his very early days of speed sailing. This year The AYRS awarded Simon their innovation cup at the Weymouth Speed Trials.


What’s next for Simon?

Simon Sanderson's remarkable journey in wing foiling and watersports equipment design showcases the power of innovation and perseverance. As wing foiling evolves, Simon's commitment to innovation promises a future filled with exciting possibilities and advancements in the sport. Keep an eye on Simon Sanderson's work, as his dedication to pushing the limits of technology and human performance knows no bounds.

Simon Sanderson


If you'd like to connect with Simon and follow his journey, you can find him on LinkedIn and Instagram.

LINKEDIN >> Simon Sanderson, Technical Director of Emerald Sea Energy Ltd

INSTAGRAM >> @hadden_67

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