Hydrofoiling With O‘ahu Waterman Jack Ho AKA @JackFromTown

Hawai‘i’s decorated student-athlete shares tips for first-time foil boarders, surf safety and why he chose to attend the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
Jack Ho, Hydrofoiling

Photo: Josh Herz // Courtesy of Jack Ho


Hydrofoiling, foil surfing, foil boarding, foiling—whatever you call it (or hear it being called), it’s all the same. It’s the water sport where you use a surfboard or SUP board with a hydrofoil fin that extends below the board and into the water.


Hydrofoiling is a relatively new phenomenon that’s gaining popularity in Hawai‘i and around the world. You’ve likely seen foilers taking flight off the shores of Waikīkī, Diamond Head and beyond. O‘ahu-born athlete and all-around waterman Jack Ho—aka @jackfromtown—is one of the sport’s biggest fans and accomplished student-athletes. In fact, he was the first hydrofoiler to recreate Duke Kahanamoku’s mile-long wave ride from Castles to Queen’s Beach.


Earlier this year, the recent Punahou graduate received a $15,000 scholarship (as did 38 other students) from the Outrigger Duke Kahanamoku Foundation. Jack also won the foundation’s coveted 2023 Duke Award, its top award given to a high school senior who exemplifies the character and values of Kahanamoku. And his ultimate goal, in terms of surfing—simply to enjoy the sport—is certainly a reflection of his admiration for the father of modern surfing. “Duke Kahanamoku established that the sport of surfing is to be done with aloha. For me, if I can continue to live by this and practice the sport this way, I am fulfilling my goal,” Jack says.


Below, we talk more to Jack about how he got into foil surfing, his favorite spots to foil surf, and some tips for those who want to try it out for themselves.


SEE ALSO: Mindy Eun Soo Pennybacker’s “Surfing Sisterhood Hawai‘i” Is a Literary Tidal Wave


Jack Ho

Photo: Matty Leong (left) // Courtesy of Jack Ho


Q&A With Jack Ho


Q: How did you start foil surfing?

A: It all started in 2013 when I was in middle school. I grew up longboarding Waikīkī and Diamond Head and would always see the early-day foilers flying around the local surf spots. Since I was on a longboard and they were on foils, we were both sharing mushy small waves. After months of seeing them having way more fun than me, I begged my dad for a try. He surprised me with a trip to the Used Surfboard’s shop and bought me a cheapo foil setup for $600. I took it out every single day after school, and the rest is history!


Q: Is foil surfing like traditional surfing in that you have different boards for different waves and conditions? Are there specific boards you ride?

A: Totally! Just like surfing, different conditions require different equipment. For foiling, the main principle is the front wing of the foil. A bigger front wing gives more lift. A smaller front wing gives less lift. With that being said, when the waves are bigger with more energy, you want a smaller foil to compensate. When the waves are weak and small, the bigger foil assists you with lift and glide.


As for boards, the standard foilboard is around 4’6”. This size can be used in a variety of conditions. The other type of board that is commonly used is a stand-up paddle board. The SUP allows riders with a stand-up background to have an easier transition to foiling when learning. These SUP boards also excel in open ocean downwind conditions.


Q: Where are your favorite places to surf on O‘ahu (and beyond)?

A: For foiling, the best waves are the ones commonly overlooked by surfers. Mushy waves that barely break can all of sudden turn into a foiler’s heaven. A few of the standout spots on O‘ahu are Kahana Bay, Diamond Head, Waikīkī and Pua‘ena Point on the North Shore. All of these spots share one thing in common: Weak small waves that continue to break for over 100 yards. For me, Waikīkī is home. It is where I grew up and where I learned how to surf. Therefore, it’s my favorite spot in the world!


SEE ALSO: We Tried It: Wai Kai Lagoon and Surf Park in ‘Ewa Beach


Q: Can you share some of your favorite local Hawai‘i businesses?

A: Shoutout to all the people and brands who have supported me when I was a young kid learning how to surf. Those people and companies are the ones who initially lit my fire to become better! One of my first sponsors and brands to support me was Banan. Banan was started by a group of three local boys, and they have looked after me since I was 12 years old.


Another local brand that I admire is AVVA. Founded by Kekoa Cazimero, AVVA highlights surf culture apparel used by surfers and run by surfers. A true local brand. Over the past few years, Kekoa has taken me under his wing and showed me what it takes to be a champion at what you do. He inspires me and others to work hard, earn respect and never give up on your dreams.


Q: You’re off to college in the fall! What made you choose University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa?

A: A lot of my high school friends are going away for college, and that is something that I just have never wanted to do. I have always believed in doing what is best for yourself. For me, that’s staying here at home on O‘ahu. I have worked so hard to create my dream life here at home, so it is only appropriate that I continue my education and continue to do what I love.


Jack Ho foil surfing Oahu

Photo: Jake Houglum // Courtesy of Jack Ho



Jack’s Tips for Hydrofoiling in Hawai‘i


Surf experience is helpful, but not necessary.

With prior surf experience, it definitely helps with the fundamentals such as paddling, popping up, balancing on a board, etc. However, there are people who come from paddling backgrounds or other ocean disciplines that pick up hydrofoiling. Nothing is impossible, it just depends on the amount of time you devote to it.


Just do it.

Get a board ASAP and get out there. After that, the number one piece of advice that I could give is to never quit. At first, it is going to be frustrating, challenging and not fun. There are going to be sessions where you paddle out to the surf break and don’t stand up once during the entire time you are out there. Keep going, and you will eventually crack the code. Once you do, you will be hooked!


Find the best conditions for foil surfing in Hawai‘i.

The best conditions are one- to two-foot waves, no wind and a ton of friends! Usually, when you are surfing, people + a crowd = bad news. But when you are foiling, the more the merrier. The foiling community is outstanding, and riding with your buddies is as good as it gets.


Follow hydrofoiling etiquette.

1. Stay away from other people.
2. Use your best judgement when sharing a lineup with other surfers. Let the surfers have wave priority.
3. Know your limits skill-wise.
4. Have a good time!


Safety first.

Similar to what I said about the etiquette of foil surfing: Stay out of surfers’ way. There are many spots that have little to no crowd that can be foil heaven. Find those spots and make them your own.



Interested in Hydrofoiling?

Here are some places on O‘ahu that offer hydrofoiling lessons and rentals.


Foil Surfing Hawai‘i




1440 Sand Island Parkway, Honolulu

(808) 400-3735, foilsurfinghi.com


Hawai‘i Efoil Experience






1216 Akumu St., Kailua

(808) 466-8788, hawaiiefoilexperience.com, @hawaiiefoilexperience


Hawaiian Watersports



171 Hamakua Drive, Kailua

(808) 262-5483, pwhawaii.org, @pwhawaii