Free Enterprises' hydrofoil web page

These pictures are of  the "New Fisics":  FREE ENTERPRISES "orbital" type hand / foot powered hydrofoil that won the  U S national 100m sprint competition in 1997. It is built mostly from parts that we have in stock!.

Races are also held in Japan and Europe. In Japan, the fastest boat was probably "Cogito III";  in Europe, the fastest hydrofoil at the  1997 international  race  was "AF Chapman". The world record for human powered speed on the water is held by "Decavitator"  from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led by Mark Drela. That boat won the Du Pont prize by default with a speed of 18+ knots. 

The first known human propelled hydrofoil device was "Wasserlaufer" developped by Julius Shuck from Germany in the early 1950s (first published in 1953 ?). The first time this webmaster got a glimpse of it was while watching Howard Stern's movie "Gizmo" in 1983. This device saw the individual work feet into sandals at the center of two frames with handlebars at top and submerged "T" hydrofoils below. The "powersource" started by standing on these hydrofoil strut racks held relative to each other (i.e. so they would not separate) by a line and resting firmly on the bottom. In flight, the individual moved sideways leaning on a downward angled foil with one leg and "recovering" with a lightly loaded upward angled foil attatched to the other leg. The motion of shifting weight from one side to the other, stepping and recovering, and shifting the foils' postion and attack angle via the handlebars allowed the person to move along at a pretty good clip with stepping movements at apparently low power. This "father" of oscilating craft oscillated in 4 ways: person weight-shifting from side to side, foil attack angle shifting,up and down stepping with each leg, shifting lines of action of weight bearing foils.

At the time of this writing, there is a surge of oscillating powered craft which would be the known or unknown proginy of Wasserlauffer. Some include the works of Parker MacCready (see below ); Trampofoil (Alexander Sahlen of Sweeden, mid 1990's) ; Aqua Skipper; Pumpabike, and others.

At this point it may be appropriate to discuss hydrofoil classes . There are two main classes of human powered hidrofoil: Boats and non-boats. The devices just mentioned are non-boat while something that can displace water at rest, i.e. *float* would be a boat. The Wasserlaufer started in shallow water from rest on the river bottom and is a non-boat. The MacCready craft had floats and therefore are boats. Trampofoil, Aquaskipper, Pumpabike start from a dock, and on rare occasions from a beach or by being pulled, therefore they are as non-boat as a pair of water skis. Speaking of skis, air chair, and associated surfing hydrofoils are non-boat. Some of the early Flying Fish as well as recent pedal powered hydrofoil runs are without hulls and therefore non-boat.

The first pedal powered hydrofoil to fly was probably the "Flying Fish"; It was essentially a bicycle with foils instead of wheels. It had no floats at first, and was launched off a pier on rails. Their flight was first published in 1984. If your PC can run this old video, the "Flying Fish"link below will show the essential components of all hydrofoil research.  .  .GETTING DUMPED !! That's Allan Abbott on the hydrofoil, and probably Alec Brooks doing the "rip cord". 

The second viable pedaled machine and first hydrofoil 'boat' (that is floating and taking off from the water), "Hydroped" , was operated by Sid Shutt and  began life as a kayak with a patented "shuttstrut " attitude foil in the front, and a main surface piercing foil in the center. Sid had been working on hydrofoil sailboats since the '60's

The third boat probably to ever achieve flight was "Foiled again" (shown below) by David Owers last known to be from West Wimbledon , England (Dave, if you see this get in touch!). It also was a converted kayak, except that it used submerged foils instead of surface piercing. His first published flight was in 1986. In that same year, "Mutiny on the boundry layer" was flown ("flapped" -as it was the first to use pedals and flapping wing technology instead of propeller) at the expo86 IHPSC in Vancouver. The developer was Parker McCready (offspring of Kremmer Prize winning Paul). This machine was developped into "Pogofoil" which was the first up and down oscilating flapping hydrofoil. While a boat (it had floats), it is the progenator of Trampofoil, Aquaskipper, Pumpabike, and other like non-boat craft. The lightness afforded by not having to carry float systems is certainly envied by the boat folks while the ability to stay dry at deep water landings and do deep water starts must be envied by the non-boat folks.


hydrofoil history-by project

Attempted list of the first hand-full of human powered hydrofoil flights  (watch for updates and improvements in accuracy) boat/ inventor/date:

Flying Fish; Abott&Brooks,1984

Hydroped; Sid Shutt, 1985

Foiled Again; David Owers, 1986

Spirit of Minnesota; Mike Mixel, 1986

Mutiny on the Boundry Layer; Parker McCready,1986

Imperial Racer; John Enrietto ,1988

Decavitator; Mark Drela &  students MIT ,1988

Sabertooth; Free Enterprises, 1988

Pogofoil; Parker McCready, 1989 (?)

Flying Gopher et. el.; Art Eardman & students ,University of Minnesota 1990

Webb Institute of Naval Architecture; Chel Stromgren, Greg Diggs, Matt Tedesco, Lee Jerry, 1991

2nd Wave; Glen Cole, 1991

Freedom Foil; Jim Crocker, MoShen Ahladdad/ FSU, 1991

(           two boats       );Dave Nesbitt, et.el./FSU, 1991

hydrofoil links

At the present, the best way to inquire about boats and components is to  E-mail us; leave your regular mailing adress and we'll send you a catalog or call at 574 875 1513. E-mail at

"AF Chapman": "image of the 1997 european HP hydrofoil champion"  © Christian Meyer

"A few bits on hydrofoil math" © Jake Free     

"More about hydrofoil materials" edited by Jake Free

Early "Flying Fish" probably 1983; Source: MIT  "Decavitator" files:

Flying Fish class; Free Enterprises hydrofoils james gilmartin's hydrofoilby James Gilmartin In flight ;from 1992

"Flying fish" , "Hydroped" and  "Bladerunner" from the 1991 IHPSC @ Milwaukee WI. Source: MIT "Decavitator" files:

MIT  "Decavitator" home page. A very rich body of information on the MIT Decavitator project:

A brief writeup of the Pogofoil by Parker McCready: And for video:

H P Hydrofoil site

Mike Lampi's Human Powered Boat site (Began by Ron Drynan) .

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6-5-98; 10-11-08; 5-30-12