Rich Tech Bros Have an Obnoxious New Hobby

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Life as a Silicon Valley tech bro is awesome because you’re rich, and all that sweet, green money buys you very expensive hobbies. The latest craze: foiling. It evidently feels like flying except you’re on the water and your bones get broken.

“Foiling” is actually tech lord shorthand for hydrofoiling, a leisure sport that blends kiteboarding and fluid dynamics. You can think of it as a smaller incarnation of the hydrofoil-equipped sailboats you now see at the America’s Cup. For foiling, you just attach a wing-like structure to the bottom of a board, strap your feet on top of the thing, and then use a kite to pull you through the water. As you gain speed, the hydrofoil lifts the board up into the air, and it’s the dopest shit ever. So much so that The New York Times just did a trend piece about the hobby and the wealthy nerds who enjoy it. If you have questions about foiling, the Times has answers.

So how does it compare to other rich people hobbies? Here’s a choice quote from the Times piece:

“It’s like flying,” said Ariel Poler, a 50-year-old start-up investor, standing by the winged doors of his Tesla and pulling on body armor and a helmet. “The board doesn’t touch the water. It’s like an airplane wing.

“It’s like a powder day,” he added, referring to snow skiing.

How’s it really feel, though? Let a “top foiler” tell you:

Stretching against his van was Johnny Heineken, 29, one of the world’s top foilers, and a mechanical engineer for Alphabet Inc.’s experimental technologies lab, X.

“It’s a combination of tactical sailing and a high-performance action sport,” said Heineken, who wore a straw hat and Tevas. “And then it just feels great. You fly around the bay.”


And is it just popular with the millionaires or does true tech royalty partake as well? Don Montague, who evidently brought the sport to Silicon Valley, knows the answer to this one:

Montague is a regular on the private-island and yacht circuit with people like the Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and Google’s Page, whose islands are close enough to foil between. There is some competition in the small community. When Google’s Brin surfed with two girls on his board, Montague said, Branson took a photo with three.

“It’s just way better than golfing,” Montague said.

Based on that quote, you might believe that foiling is even more awesome than the hottest Silicon Valley hobbies of years past. You can’t put two girls onto a regular kiteboard, which was the expensive extreme sport this wealthy cadre of code jockeys adopted a couple years ago. Auto racing was also hot around a while back—hot enough for a Times trend piece of its own in 2015—but it’s so smelly with all that gas and rubber and smoke. Doomsday prepping is another expensive hobby popular amongst the monied techno-libertarians, but buying supplies in bulk isn’t exactly exercise.


You might be wondering why these rich dudes don’t just take up yachting, like rich dudes of years past. Well, The Times reports, they have effectively reinvented it:

Afterward, they shared a beer in the parking lot before heading to the nearby St. Francis Yacht Club for burgers and fish tacos. The club decided to classify the foils as yachts to allow the peculiar new athletes in.


If you can’t afford things like foiling and fish tacos at yacht clubs, too bad. You should’ve taken more computer science classes in college. Wait no, actually, you should’ve skipped college altogether and invented an app that a big tech company could buy and shut down, leaving you with millions of dollars and endless free time for trendy new pastimes. After all, traditional “careers” like doctoring and lawyering are way too much work. Wouldn’t you rather be foiling?

[The New York Times]