Riding the Waves Powered by Electric

Riding the eFoil in Northwest Harbor. Elizabeth Vespe photo

A group of three paddleboarders watched in astonishment as William Graham and Kieran McGuire were raised about 2 feet above the water on their Lift eFoils in Northwest Harbor on an overcast Monday morning.

Clad in life vests, the men could be seen paddling through Northwest Harbor on their stomachs, popping up into a surf stance. They zoomed through the bay at about 25 mph, pushing a handheld Bluetooth remote to propel their eFoils faster and faster.

Mr. Graham and Mr. McGuire are the founders of an eFoil rental and lesson company, Elevated East, which introduced the electric-powered surfboards to the East End earlier this month. They are also the only people on Long Island certified to give lessons.

In recent weeks, they’ve been drumming up interest from swimmers, boaters and surfers.
“The eFoil is everything we always craved during the hot, flat summers as surfers on Long Island,” Mr. McGuire said after taking his eFoil for a ride in the harbor. “It’s also everything we always dreamed of as kids, since we saw a hoverboard in the movies.”

The eFoil is an electric surfboard with a hydrofoil attached at the base, which gives a sensation of flying on top of water. People are able to surf with the eFoil with no need for waves or wind. The board, which is about the size and shape of a wakeboard, uses an advanced lithium ion battery to power an electric motor controlled by a wireless Bluetooth hand remote.

“With the motor, you can go wherever you want,” Mr. Graham said while unlatching his life vest. Pointing to Cedar Point County Park across the way, he added that from Northwest Harbor to Cedar Point is about a five-minute ride on the eFoil.

Mr. Graham, who grew up down the block from Northwest Harbor and attended East Hampton High School for three years before transferring to Vermont Academy with Mr. McGuire, a school specializing in snowboarding, worked for the surf brand Volcom for over 10 years in between living in California and France. He returned to his hometown this year to launch the eFoil business with Mr. McGuire, one of his best friends, after seeing people using the boards in vacation spots such as Ibiza, Dubai and Puerto Rico.

Mr. McGuire, also from East Hampton, has decades of experience in surfing and over a decade of experience in surf instruction in local waters.

“When you get proficient at this thing, it becomes a tool to not only go fast and have fun, but it is an eco-friendly and exciting way to cruise the coast and check out nature in places you couldn’t get to otherwise,” he said.

Mr. McGuire said that he previously worked on an estate where the children would go out on gas-powered surfboards, which he said consistently leaked oil into the water. “If you’re riding for 20 minutes, God knows how much oil is going into the water,” he said.
EFoils also produce almost no noise. As the men glided through the water, not a sound could be heard.

“It’s so new and people don’t really know what they are yet,” Mr. Graham said.

Earlier this year, he contacted the Lift eFoil company, took a lesson, and was standing within 15 minutes, he said.

“I thought the Hamptons would be an excellent location for eFoils,” given the amount of water-sport enthusiasts in the area, he said.

On a recent Saturday, the men hosted a lesson on Shelter Island with nine eager teens. “Everyone loved it,” Mr. Graham said afterward with excitement in his voice.

“It’s not that hard to do, but it is very different from surfing” Mr. Graham said. Surfers have to paddle into a wave, unlike eFoilers, who don’t need waves or wind to travel. However, he explained that balancing and turning are similar to those techniques used in surfing.
“People that don’t surf can do it, and people that surf can definitely do it,” he said. “The people who are naturals get right up.”

The remote has a display to show battery levels and change speed. The board has three different speed modes, making it friendly for beginners or advanced surfers. The 30-pound battery, which is locked in the center of the board, lasts up to two hours and takes only two hours to charge. One eFoil has a price tag of $12,000, and a spare battery costs around $3,500.

Each lesson, which starts at $350 for 90 minutes and can be split between friends, offers an on-land safety course and an in-water technique lesson followed by several options of free-riding time. The experience begins with an eFoil knowledge course, where the instructor explains how the eFoil functions, how to ride an eFoil and necessary safety precautions to take. The instructor gets in the water side by side with the student, who is guided through steps that start with lying face-down to eventually standing and making deep carves, with the possibility of reaching speeds of over 25 mph. Participants can be up and riding within 20 minutes, Mr. Graham and Mr. McGuire said.

As the two founders build the company, they plan to offer professional photography and video production as well as picnics catered by local markets and restaurants for their half-day or full-day group lessons. They are also working with local captains to offer charter services to take people out by boat for an eFoil experience.

“Most people don’t have any clue what it is at first, because it’s so new,” Mr. McGuire said. “Twenty minutes into it, they’re loving it and cruising around.”