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United States Hydrofoil Association

History of Hydrofoiling

Hydrofoils have been used on different watercraft for nearly 100 years. They have been used on engine driven watercraft both large and small, sailboats, human powered boats, windsurfers, wakeboards, and our favorite water ski(s).

The first hydrofoil boat dates back to 1906 designed and built by the Italian Inventor, Enrico Forlanini (1948-1930). The foil design was made from the classic "Ladder" type construction which has multiple struts coming down with multiple wings between them. It had a 60 hp engine driving two counter-rotating air props and during testing in 1906, the craft reached a top speed of 42.5 mph.

Alexander Graham Bell and Casey Baldwin developed a boat based on Floranini's Ladder style foil in 1919. Bell was the primary designer and Baldwin built the boat based on their designs. The boat was called the Hydrodrome 4 (HD-4) and set the record for the fastest hydrofoil boat speed at 60 knots which stood until the 1960s.

In the 1960s, many countries developed their own version of a hydrofoil ship for their militaries. The US Navy and Boeing developed the first Jetfoil, the Patrol Hydrofoil Missileship (PHM), which was the predecessor to the Jetski. They also developed a commercial passenger version.

In the early 1960s, the first "water ski" hydrofoil was developed by Walter Woodward, an aeronautical engineer from Upper Newton Falls, Massachusetts. The first person to test and fly Woodward's invention was Frazer Sinclair. This was the beginning of towed hydrofoiling!

The United States Hydrofoil Association (USHA) became a sport discipline of USA Water Ski in January 2005.

For a complete history of hydrofoiling, visit hydrofoil.org.