The fluid–structure interactions (FSI) of compliant lifting surfaces is complicated by free-surface and multiphase flows such as cavitation and ventilation. This paper describes the dynamic FSI response of a flexible surface-piercing hydrofoil in dry, wetted, ventilating and cavitating conditions. Experimental modal analysis is used to quantify the resonant frequencies and damping ratios of the fluid–structure system in each flow regime. The generalized hydrodynamic stiffness, fluid damping and fluid added mass are also determined as ratios to the corresponding structural modal forces. Added mass increases with increasing partial immersion of the hydrofoil and decreases in the presence of gaseous cavities. In particular, modal frequencies were observed to increase significantly in fully ventilated flow compared to fully wetted flow. The modal frequencies varied non-monotonically with speed in fully wetted flow. Gaseous cavities reduced the modal added mass and reduced the fluid disturbing force. Modal damping increases non-monotonically with increasing immersion depth. Forward speed causes the fluid damping force to increase with an approximately quadratic functional behaviour, consistent with a series expansion of the Morison equation, although damping identification became increasingly difficult at high flow speeds. The results indicate that fluid damping is greater than the associated structural damping in a quiescent liquid, and increasingly so with increasing immersion, suggesting viscous dissipation as a dominant mechanism. A preliminary investigation of modal vibration as a means of controlling the size and stability of ventilated cavities indicates that low-order modes encourage the formation of ventilation, while higher-order modes encourage the washout and elimination of ventilation.