STARBOARD WINDSUP INFLATABLE 11’2″ ZEN REVIEW
As with all board categories, Starboard have an extensive WindSUP Inflatable board line-up, comprising of no less than seven designs (from 9’0” to 12’6”), with all bar the shortest available in two different constructions – Deluxe or Zen. The Deluxe construction uses “6” ultra-stiff drop-stitch” and comes with a fully retractable daggerboard casing, whilst the Zen technology opts for the lighter 4.75” drop-stitch and a centre-fin system. The boards themselves are named after the hardboards in the Starboard SUP range of the same dimensions, so this 11’2” x 32” being the Blend for example, said to be “the all-rounder with extra glide”.
“The world’s first inflatable WindSUP boards with drop-stitch technology. The lightest, strongest and most compact WindSUP boards in the world. New for 2016 is the Starboard Rail Edge Technology, a proprietary 3D elastomer compound that creates a release edge that is hard and effective at releasing water, capable of bending to follow the contours of the board and fold to roll up. With this hard release Rail Edge, you can accelerate and enjoy the most exciting planing sensation possible on no other inflatable board.”
The Rail Edge Technology mentioned above is the star feature of Starboard’s WindSUP Inflatables, and is unique amongst the group here. The board itself has real quality to its finish and detail, with a double rail-band for durability, a neoprene carry handle on the tail that doubles up as a paddle holder, and some of the most industrial eyelets on nose and tail for use with leash or tether. It comes complete with the brand’s new ‘magic bag’ with wheels, their V8 double action pump and two Drake Shallow 22cm fins.
The 11’2” was submitted for this review in Zen construction, as it is understood to offer more crossover performance between the two sports, being lighter and more suitable for paddling. Listen to Starboard’s marketing gambit however, and you can’t help but feel the main focus is about one feature of the WindSUP range alone – their rail edge technology. Now, having tried the board for ourselves, we can understand why! As you’d expect of a board with its increments, the Starboard performs admirably in light winds, being stable and easy underfoot and gliding forward as energy is transferred. And as with all the inflatables here, its buoyancy and lightweight help it to accelerate smoothly as more power is applied. But the Starboard’s story doesn’t end there… When the other inflatables seem to reach a planing wall, where the friction coefficient imposed by the board’s rounded rails drags the board back off the plane, the 11’2” simply keeps accelerating. It is actually comfortable on the plane and to top it all, is A LOT of fun. Its not all positive and rosy – the Starboard is far from the most manoeuvrable here … yet for the glide and acceleration ease, there has to be some trade-off or sacrifice. Dare we say it, but such is the low planing threshold and ease of the Starboard that it could make a great tutor for the progressing rider to gain the feel of planing techniques. Now who would have thought that of an inflatable board just two years ago? Will footstrap inserts suddenly appear on the 2017 version…? “Why not?” we say! The board will lose none of its SUP’ing or entry-level windsurfing capabilities as a result, yet could become a truly definitive progression platform. Watch this space.
Other boards in this test: