Champ: Luca Vuillermet is earning his wings at a young age. KITEMASTERS (@kitemasters)

Wingfoiling—a combination of kite surfing and hydrofoiling—is one of the fastest growing watersports and at just 12 years old Santa Monica resident Luca Vuillermet is one of the best wingers in the game. 

The sport pairs a hydrofoil board, which uses a specially shaped long metal fin to raise and propel a board above the water’s surface, with a large inflatable wing that also powers the board and can lift it in the air. After picking up the sport just two years ago, Vuillermet placed first and second in two events at the first ever Global Wingfoil Association Youth World Cup in Oliva, Spain this June. 

Becoming a top wingfoiler requires a combination of many different skills. One must know how to read the wind and the waves; stay balanced on a hydrofoil board; have the strength to control an inflatable wing in strong wind conditions, the acrobatics to execute flips and spins, and the bravery to fling oneself in the area without the guarantee of a soft landing.

For Vuillermet, the love for harnessing the dual powers of wind and water came naturally. His father Arnaud Vuillermet is an accomplished kitesurfer, who hails from an Alpine town in France and spent his summers on the breezy French coast. Arnaud used to compete in kitesurfing and even formally owned a kitesurfing school in Mexico. 

Wingfoiling is a very new sport that grew out of kitesurfing, but is easier to participate in as it requires less wind to power and less space between people. The first wingfoil equipment became commercially available in 2018 and since then it has quite literally taken off. 

“It’s the fastest growing watersport right now, because you have people from all over different sports really joining the wave; people from surfing, people from windsurfing and kitesurfing or people that have barely like any really extreme watersport experience, because it’s really easy to learn,” said Arnaud.

Vuillermet was already involved in many water sports and extreme sports—water polo, mountain biking, kitesurfing—but when he tried wingfoiling he was quickly addicted. During the pandemic, his family temporarily relocated to Baja California in Mexico, where Luca spent his days remotely studying his Lincoln Middle School coursework and every available free moment winging in the ocean.

Vuillermet’s skills progressed rapidly and he was quickly asked to join the international F-One team of wingfoilers, which provided him with specialized training in advance of the Youth World Cup.

He participated in the two Under 14 category events, slalom and freestyle, placing first in the former and second in the latter. Slalom is a competition of speed and dexterity, where wingfoilers race through a slalom of buoys. Freestyle is a competition of style and acrobatics where wingers perform their best tricks in a timed heat. 

“For the slalom… I had two other people that I thought might win, might beat me and it was kind of close but actually, I was totally wrong and I completely destroyed them,” said Vuillermet. “For freestyle, I did have one big competitor and they sent their biggest trick and I sent my biggest trick, the 720, and in the end they got the best.”

According to Arnaud, the 720 skill is something that very few people in the world perform in competitions. It entails completing two full rotations in the air and requires the winger to gain a lot of height and execute the turns very quickly. 

Vuillermet is now gearing up for the second and final event in the Youth World Cup series in St. Pierre La Mer, France this October. He is excited to be emerging as a leader in the fast growing sports and said he hopes in the future that more people, and especially more women, will try it out.