This is the review from our test team of the Starboard Foil-x 105 Flax Balsa foil board, which was featured in our September 2020 edition of Windsurf Magazine.
The Foil-X was a new addition for the 2020 season, exploring the realms of possibilities presented in foil-specific board design. The 105 is the smaller of a two board lineup and is only available in the brand’s innovative Flax Balsa construction, whereas the larger 145 litre sibling is produced in both Flax Balsa and Starlite construction. At just 182 cm in length there is not much room to pack everything in, the front straps sitting nigh on in-line with the back of the mast track! It has incredibly parallel rails, maintaining much of its width from nose to tail, whilst the zero-tuck hard-rail edge seen in previous Starboard foil boards remains a feature here in the 105. On the underside of the board’s diamond tail, there are some angular cutouts extending along much of the length of the Deep Tuttle Foil Box, the chequered layup of the Flax Balsa laminate drawing the eye through the gradient-blue body spray towards the nose. It comes supplied with thin diamond-grooved deckpads and the brand’s latest Drake Ultralight straps, with easy size adjustment at the turn of a screw. Chunky in profile, it is both light in weight and extreme in appearance, leading any onlooker to believe they’ll need to bring their A-game to keep this machine at bay. Time to get it on the water and see if looks can deceive…
“Our most manoeuvrable and playful board ever, both radical and surprisingly user-friendly. Fly downwind, let your sail out and even imitate surf foiling. The next step in foiling for those in the know. Only 182 cm long, yet friendly to uphaul thanks to its wide outline and super-thick nose.”
First step onto the Foil-X 105 and you would be forgiven for questioning its quoted volume. We have no way of checking it for certain, suffice to say that given its reduced hull surface area, the 105 tends to sink more freely than a you’d expect of a conventional 105 litre board. Nevertheless, make a quick snap and reach for the boom, deliver power and it soon rises up onto the water’s surface, the directional and lateral stability of the foil kicking in as speed is gained, helping to settle any nerves. As the foil kicks into life, the front strap is easy to locate – it’s right by your front foot anyway! Slip into the back strap and the 105 begins to show its true calling card: response. So short and compact underfoot, it is a manoeuvre-oriented sailor’s dream. You feel superbly connected between the sail’s power and the response of the foil, the fulcrum between the two. The immediacy and involvement of the ride may be a little unnerving at first, but learn to trust the feedback you receive and you can soon use it to your advantage. You then begin to realise that the 105 is actually quite a dependable and easy board to sail, effectively mirroring the performance of the foil underneath and providing instant response as desired. The fittings are comfortable, the thin deckpads offering traction without dampening any feel through the feet, whilst the Ultralight straps extended both support and comfort. We experimented with foil type and strap positions, and whilst compatible with higher aspect foils (using the straps outboard), we thought it almost felt like taking a rally car to a track day. Instead, our preference was a medium to low aspect foil, inset strap positions (where they are nigh-on instinctive to find) and small soft sails, lending the board to manoeuvre mayhem sessions when many would have switched to a fin in the past.
Sharp in response and engaging in nature, the Foil-X 105 is surprisingly easy and well mannered after you’ve got over the initial shock of sailing on seemingly no board! It shows just how far board design can be pushed thanks to the foil phenomenon; a super compact and fun board to play on.
Volume (Quoted): 105 litres.
Length: 182 cm.
Width: 63 cm.
1ft off: 56.8 cm.
Weight (‘Naked’): 7.60 kg.
Box: Deep Tuttle Foil Box.
Sail Range (Quoted): 3.0 – 6.5.
Sizes Available: 105, 145.
OTHER BOARDS IN THE TEST: