During the pandemic, filmmaker and Truckee local Matt Cook was looking for a new gig. After chasing winter on ski filming jobs working for GoPro and later as a freelancer, he decided to pivot from the frozen water and explore other mediums.

“I had been one foot out the door on filmmaking,” Cook said. “But the pandemic was definitely the last nail in the coffin for that career path.”

NOT MAKING WAVES: Matt Cook, founder of Cook eFoils, glides one of his boards over glassy water on Lake Tahoe. Photo by Ben Arnst

Cook’s work had taken him all over the world, but a seasonal kitesurfing gig at Floras Lake Kite & Windsurf in Langlois, Oregon, between 2018 and 2020,  made him discover his passion for instructing. It was there that Cook first discovered foiling.


“I wanted to combine my new favorite things and the eFoil seemed like a really good choice,” Cook said.

When many of his filming jobs were postponed or cancelled outright during the early days of the pandemic, he decided to start fresh. The 2009 Truckee High School graduate took out a loan for just enough money to buy two eFoils and two spare batteries, and launched his business, Cook eFoils, in the summer of 2020.

#SOMETA: Chris Reichart parodies the viral image of Facebook’s cofounder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who posted a video of himself riding an eFoil in Lake Tahoe on July 4, 2021. The Zuckerberg camp did not respond to a request for comment on this story. Photo by Ted Coakley III/Moonshine Ink

In foiling, riders paddle out and stand on a board that can be called a foil board, foil surfboard, or just a foil. The eponymous apparatus is the submerged, wing-like structures attached to a surf or SUP-like board via an underwater mast.

“A foil is any shape that creates lift,” Cook said.

Their curved tops and flat bottoms cause water to move faster and farther over the top than beneath. Just like an airplane’s wings, this is what creates lift and raises the board above the water’s surface.

“These things are really, really great tools for learning how to foil no matter what type of foiling you want to get into,” Cook said.

There’s winging, in which the rider uses a handheld wing to harness the wind; kitefoiling or foilboarding, which is like kitesurfing but on a foil; or the rider can be towed behind a boat or ride a boat’s wake, like wakeboarding. Propulsion is where the variety of boards and styles comes in.

An eFoil is an electricity-propelled hydrofoil board, whether the engine is a propeller or a hydro jet. Batteries are housed in the board itself.

“You can paddle these hydrofoils into waves, just like a surfboard,” Cook said.

With the foil beneath the water and the board above it, the quality of the surface is much less relevant. Think of riding an SUP on a choppy day or through a boat’s wake, then imagine none of that matters.

One of Cook’s early clients, Chris Reichart, has lately been bitten by the foiling bug as well and gets out in Tahoe year-round. 

“I’m addicted to floating,” said Reichart, who also enjoys the snowboard/skateboard combination of snowskating, as well as one-wheeling. “It’s kind of limitless. You basically get to float on water, create no wake.”

Reichart, an entrepreneur who was a race coach at NorthStar in the 1990s, bartended for a while then later got into tech startups, returned to Tahoe from the East Coast about three years ago and bought a 39-foot Bayliner, where he spends a lot of his time.

“Battery life is everything in any electric sport,” Reichart said. 

Depending on the battery type, board size, and rider weight, a foil ride may last anywhere from one to two hours.

The boards come with a hull number from the manufacturers — companies like Lift Foils of Puerto Rico and Australia’s Flite, whose boards are assembled in San Francisco.

Boards need an invasive species inspection, but for now do not need to be registered as a vessel. But being such a new sport there’s no guarantee that foils won’t need to register in the future, as they do meet California’s definition of a vessel.

Winglike Structures attached via a mast below the board create the lift that brings the board above the water’s surface. Photo by Ted Coakley III/Moonshine Ink

“It’s kind of like the Wild West where there is no law yet,” Reichart said.

Reichart’s passion for the sport is infectious.

“People see me riding and they ask ‘Hey, can I ride?’” These connections have directly led to Reichart teaching friends, acquaintances, as well as people he just met.

Owsley R. Cheek Jr., known by his friends as Oz, and his wife, Terry, were avid water skiers.

“About three or four years ago we noticed these things that were coming up out of the water and we were mesmerized,” Cheek said.

Cheek and Terry had been on the lookout until one day they noticed a Chris-Craft Constellation, which reminded him of his grandfather’s boat, near Sand Harbor with a person foiling around it. That person suggested they ask Reichart, who was nearby, for a try on one of his.

Cheek asked to be introduced, met Reichart briefly that evening, and the next day the couple spent about an hour with him on his boat learning techniques and positions.

“He was super accommodating,” Cheek said. “We were absolutely hooked.”

Their next step was figuring out how to buy one. They reached out to Cook and got in touch with one of his colleagues who said they only had three small sport boards left, but he and his wife might want to work their way up before getting one of those.

“I said ‘No, we’re pretty athletic. I think we’re gonna take the plunge,’” Cheek said. Three or four days later Cheek bought the last board they had.

“I’m more addicted to that than anything else,” Cheek said. “That sensation that you get once you get airborne and you start to fly that thing and it’s quiet — there’s nothing else like it.”

Cheek rides dirt bikes, including at high-speed at the Bonneville Speedway in Utah, Segway Ninebots, unicycles, and one-wheels, and feels like his experience with these sports prepared him for foiling.

“But this is unlike anything that I have ever done,” he said.  


  • Bill Hatfield

    Bill Hatfield is a freelance writer specializing in travel, nature, and outdoor sports writing. After over twenty years in the tourism industry as a ski patroller, backcountry camp manager, and park ranger, he decided to slow down a bit and now delivers the mail and rides bikes when he can—across countries. Follow him on Instagram @ bike_rack_on_tour.

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