ST. THOMAS — Imagine skimming the water without actually touching it, gliding in the breeze at a speedy 25 mph, surfing without the waves. Meet the eFoil, the latest in watersports fun. With VI Foils, owner Jeff Schneider brings this brand-new technology to St. Thomas for some thrill-seeking fun for locals and tourists alike.
Schneider, a former Harley Davidson motorcycle stuntman, arrived on St. Thomas, along with his girlfriend Jane Cerulli, at the beginning of October. A fishing charter captain, he split his time between Mexico Beach, Fla., and Venice, La., considered one of the fishing meccas of the U.S. When Hurricane Michael ravaged Mexico Beach, his business, Louisiana Tuna Charters, was completely shut down there and he was looking for another venture.
“We’ve always liked island life and always liked St. Thomas, so we decided to make the move and try to enjoy life a little bit. We love it. It’s what we were expecting and what we wanted it to be.”
Like most everyone else, he just happened to see something about eFoils on Facebook by chance. As a former stuntman seeking the latest adrenaline rush, he was immediately drawn to it and knew it was something he was going to have in his life in some way, somehow. He just didn’t realize at the time that he would end up living on an island with six or seven of them and making a living at it.
You only have to ask about the eFoils to hear the excitement this adventure seeker feels about the “coolest, newest technology, eco-friendly, silent and with no wake. It’s something new and outside the box. Everybody has to start being more eco-conscious and this fits right into that category.”
eFoils were created by a company called Lift, and are manufactured in Puerto Rico. The board combines the modern technology of electric vehicles with a hydrofoil design and weighs 29 pounds. An advanced lithium-ion battery that takes less than two hours to charge powers the silent motor, controlled by a Bluetooth handheld throttle.
The propeller is encased with a guard to prevent injuries to riders and to coral or the sea floor. The stem is immersed in 30 inches of water, while the board extends two feet above the waves. No experience is necessary and Schneider has successfully taught riders from the ages of 10 to 80. It may take a little getting used to, however.
“The more board sports you have done definitely helps, but the main thing is the throttle,” he said. “You can be the best surfer in the world, but you’ve never made your own power, which is very strange to anybody who’s a surfer.”
Before all of you adventurous types rush out to buy one, be warned.
The cost for most people is a bit prohibitive at $12,000, or close to $16,000 with an extra battery. Schneider has invested in six, and will offer lessons at Secret Harbour Resort in the waters beyond the swimming buoys.
VI Foils is part of a group of 29 eFoil affiliates around the world.
“It’s a business plan that works, but there was just nobody doing it in the USVI, so I stepped up and took that territory,” Schneider said.
Safety is a top priority and VI Foils provides U.S. Coast Guard-approved lifejackets and will only operate in a safe recreational area free of swimmers and snorkelers. And with no wake and no annoying sound, boaters are giving it a thumbs up.
“We go cruise around sailboats and moorings and people come out and clap, because if it was a jet ski or other boat, it would throw a wake on their boat and it would be loud,” Schneider said. “When they see us, they wave us down and tell us it’s the coolest thing they’ve ever seen, so it been very, very well received, from locals to million-dollar boat owners.”
VI Foils welcomed the public to enjoy free demonstrations on Dec. 1 and they expect to have business license paperwork finished by Dec. 20.
Visit www.vifoils.com to book a one-on-one lesson, group lessons or hourly rentals. Visit them on Facebook or call 913-530-4562 for more information.