Human-powered hydrofoil

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Starting an AquaSkipper on the river Spree in Berlin
An AquaSkipper underway

A human-powered hydrofoil is a small hydrofoil watercraft propelled entirely by the muscle power of its operator(s).[1] Hydrofoils are the fastest water-based vehicles propelled solely by human power. They can reach speeds of up to 34 km/h (21 mph; 18 kn),[1][2][3] easily exceeding the world records set by competitive rowing which stand at about 20 km/h (12 mph; 11 kn). This speed advantage is achieved since hydrofoils lack a submerged body to provide buoyancy, greatly reducing the drag force.[1]


Means of propulsion include screw propellers, as in hydrocycles; aircraft propellers, as in the Decavitator; paddles, as in a Flyak; oars, as in the Yale hydrofoil sculling project;[4] and flapping wings, as detailed below.

Flapping wing propulsion

Flapping wing propulsion devices are hydrofoils that produce propulsion by forcing a foil to move up and down in the water. The forward motion of the foil then generates lift as in other hydrofoils. A common design consists of a large foil at the stern that is used both for propulsion and keeping the passenger above the water, connected to a smaller foil at the bow used for steering and longitudinal stability. Riders operate the vehicle by bouncing up and down on a small platform at the stern, whilst holding onto a steering column.[5][6] It is started and landed from the shore, or preferably from a dock, and requires a bit of experience. When moving too slowly, it will sink, and the range of possible speeds is 9–30 km/h (5.6–18.6 mph; 4.9–16.2 kn).[6]

Several variations on the design have been developed:

  • The Wasserläufer was a forerunner of the design developed in Germany during the 1950s.[7]
  • The Flying Fish was developed by Allan Abbott and Alec Brooks in 1984.[8]
  • The Pogofoil, with pontoons for flotation, was developed in the US in 1989.[9]
  • The Trampofoil was developed in Sweden in 1998.[10]
  • The AquaSkipper was developed the US in 2003.[11][12]
  • The Pumpabike was developed in South Africa in 2004.[6][13]

Electric assist hydrofoils


  1. ^ a b c Graham-Rowe, Duncan (2005-05-23). "Human-powered hydrofoil seeks jumpy riders". New Scientist.
  2. ^ "Pumpabike personal hydrofoil". 2005-12-17. Retrieved 2008-04-29.
  3. ^ "Decavitator Human-Powered Hydrofoil". Retrieved 2013-02-10.
  4. ^ Lily Van Steenberg, Ensign, United States Navy (2015). "Design, Construction, and Testing of a Hydrofoil Rowing Shell" (PDF). The International Hydrofoil Society. Retrieved 2016-07-06.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ "Suzi goes for a bit of pumping". Five - The Gadget Show. 2006-10-16. Archived from the original on 2007-03-19. Retrieved 2008-04-29.
  6. ^ a b c "Pumpabike: Human-Powered Hydrofoil". Gizmodo. 2005-05-24. Retrieved 2008-04-29.
  7. ^ "1953 The "Wasserläufer"". Human-Powered Hydrofoils. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
  8. ^ "1984 The "Flying Fish"". Alec Brooks and Allan Abbott. Retrieved 2013-12-31.
  9. ^ "1989 Pogofoil Parker McCready". Human-Powered Hydrofoils. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
  10. ^ "1998 Trampofoil". Human-Powered Hydrofoils. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
  11. ^ "Aquaskipper". Uncrate. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
  12. ^ "AquaSkipper". Human-Powered Hydrofoils. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
  13. ^ "Pumpabike". Human-Powered Hydrofoils. Retrieved 2013-02-10.
  14. ^

External links