• eFoils in action at the Old Man of Hoy, Orkney

Skimming over Orkney's seas

We’re on a fast boat heading out of Stromness harbour on a near-perfect evening in late summer. Progress slows a little as we move through the powerful incoming tide of Hoy Sound before we emerge into the gentlest of Atlantic swells under the towering heights of St John’s Head.

“I promised you something a bit special,” says Colin Rendall. “I don’t think it’s going to disappoint.”

Colin is the man behind eFoil Orkney. A lifelong water sports enthusiast, from jet-skiing to windsurfing, he’s now turned his attention to bringing the unique experience of eFoiling to Orkney waters. After trying it for the first time himself in 2022 with eFoil Scotland, he launched an affiliated business locally before beginning to offer sessions this summer.

On the deck of the small boat, two eFoils are snugly stowed away. We’re hurtling towards Orkney’s most famous natural landmark, the Old Man of Hoy. Colin and his son Robbie are eyeing that low swell with a slight degree of trepidation “This isn’t the kind of location we usually go eFoiling,” smiles Colin. “But we wanted to give you something a bit special for the photos!”

As the skipper kills the engine, Colin and Robbie start to carefully remove the covers from the boards. “An eFoil is basically a levitating surfboard,” explains Colin. “It’s powered by an electric motor and rechargeable battery, and is controlled by a handheld wireless remote that’s synced to the eFoil via Bluetooth.”

Robbie sets off first, his board silently gliding through the water towards the great sandstone sea stack. Pausing as he lowers his own eFoil over the side, Colin explains that the sport is great for reducing stress. “eFoiling is a completely unique experience. It feels like you’re flying over water – it can be highly addictive,” he says.

“People that come and try it tell me they feel relaxed and refreshed afterwards.”

After a while, Colin and Robbie have mastered the swell, cutting graceful, silent loops around the feet of the Old Man as the sun sets to the west. Eventually, batteries and muscles start to run low on energy and an evening chill begins to set-in. Loading the eFoils back onboard the charter boat, the pair look pretty pleased with how their evening has gone. “That was amazing,” says Robbie, as he heads to the wheelhouse to warm up.

As we power back under the huge Hoy cliffs on the return to Stromness, Colin is equally enthusiastic. “In my opinion, Orkney is one of the best locations in the world to for outdoor activities on the water. We have all these sheltered bays, clear water and stunning scenery.

But you don’t have to head out into the Atlantic waters in order to try eFoiling – which is just as well, as there are very few days that weather, sea and tide conditions would combine in your favour. Thankfully, Orkney is blessed with a myriad of sheltered bays and coastlines, making it the perfect location for trying this increasingly popular pastime.

A few days later I join Colin for a more typical session. We’re at the Sands of Evie, a beautiful beach close to the north west corner of the Orkney mainland. It’s a little overcast, with an easterly breeze ruffling the waters.

Alongside Colin is Barbara. She recently tried eFoiling for the first time and enjoyed it so much she couldn’t wait to come back for another session. “I’ve been involved in sailing for years and just love being in the water,” she says. “Finding your balance takes a bit of getting used to but once you get up and build a bit of speed it’s just so exhilarating.

“Having tried it once before I’m looking forward to getting a bit more confidence tonight. There is a little bit of a breeze though - when I was out before it was flat calm, so we’ll see how I get on!”

Colin is busy getting the two-way radio system set up. This allows him to communicate directly with the client, providing instruction and reassurance where required. “Safety is a big thing for us,” he says. “Whenever somebody gets in touch to enquire about a session, we always ask for some background about any past experience they might have had in the water. We’ll discuss options for potential locations and then, when we’re on location, we go through a safety brief and risk assessment before we start the basic training process.

The training includes learning about the concept of eFoiling and how it all works, and all gear – including wetsuits and safety helmets, is provided.

“We’re aiming to attract a wide range of people, of all different ages, genders, backgrounds and abilities,” says Colin. “So far, we have had customers ranging from ages 13 to 76 which proves that age is definitely no barrier for eFoiling. Visitors and locals are both very welcome, but we would like to expand more into the tourism market as the business grows as we believe there is a lot of potential there.”

Despite the slight chop, Barbara is soon up and away, every pass around the bay looking a little more assured, and the spectacular nose-dives fewer and further between. “Falling off is half the fun,” laughs Colin “It’s how we learn in life!”

A standard eFoil session will last between two and three hours depending on battery use. There’s plenty of tea and coffee on hand to help participants warm up, as well as dry robes in the trailer, which also acts as a mobile changing space.

It’s clear to see Colin is at home in Orkney’s coastal environment, and it’s an environment he wants more people to experience. “I really believe Orkney could offer more water-based activities as we’re surrounded by so much sea and so many beautiful beaches,” he says.

“Hopefully, folk will see eFoiling as the perfect addition to the activities currently on offer in Orkney.”

Find out more about eFoil Orkney via the official website. You can also find eFoil Orkney on Facebook and Instagram.

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