STARBOARD A.I.R. FREEWAVE 83L 2018 TEST REVIEW
The A.I.R. is a new range for the Starboard line-up in 2018, made up of three sizes of which this 83 is the smallest. The name A.I.R. comes from the Parley concept of Avoiding, Intercepting and Redesigning (or recycling) products to ensure less use of plastics in industry. And because Starboard are spearheading the principles of responsible, sustainable manufacturing within the windsurfing industry, Brand Manager Tiesda You chose the name to highlight this in the brand’s first board range using their new Low Carbon Footprint (L.C.F.) construction. The Freewave aspect of the name gives an indictor of the board’s intended use – fast and compact for making the most of less than ideal conditions, its most noticeable feature is its ‘Bat Tail’. It’s the result of months of R&D to find the best compromise between fin cavitation and extra fin drag whilst hunting for the ideal combination of grip and reactivity. Supplied with a central G10 fin designed by Stone Surf Design of Australia to emphasise the board’s wave-riding capacity, the Drake Deluxe footstraps continue the responsible manufacturing theme with the top cover of the straps made from recycled plastic bottles. The 10mm deckpads remain similar to those seen on last year’s boards, with a diamond grooved pattern, said to be resistant to wear and tear.
“The A.I.R. FreeWave is all about … making it turn off a hyper-compact outline and its forward vee instead of its rocker. With such a short tail, the bat-shape tail outline allows us to maximize fin grip, avoid cavitation while keeping the area behind the fins floaty yet as short as possible, all in the goal to maximize reactivity and manoeuvrability. Ideal for smaller to medium sized waves where you need extra versatility from the board.”
With its wide outline and relatively flat, thin profile, the A.I.R feels larger than its quoted volume might suggest whilst off the plane, capable of carrying a 5.7m sail easily. Being that as it is, and the fact that it is easily the lightest board on test here (in the brand’s ultimate Reflex Carbon construction), we did expect a little more immediacy to its early planing potential. Instead of being passive and just waiting for things to happen, you need to adopt a more pro-active technique, moving your stance rearwards early and weighting the tail of the board. Do this and the board soon gets the idea, releasing and accelerating smoothly. And that’s the best word to describe the A.I.R.’s character – smooth. It is just so silky and fluid in everything it does, masking over impacts as it glides over chop and responding effortlessly to changes in foot pressure. The deckpads and straps are as you’d expect from a quality brand, providing a real sense of connection to the board. The footstrap screws have a wider diameter than on any other board, so be aware they take some considerable pressure to screw into the plugs. The rider is encouraged into a more upright stance over the board, due to the wide flat deck – it feels a little vulnerable to start with, especially in strong conditions, but you soon learn to trust the board, as it remains low and planted at all times. You can plough power into it and the A.I.R. responds as you desire. It’s such a well-mannered platform, with the width providing a ‘get out of jail free’ card during clumsy transitions, without any of the downside in turbulent seas. On the wave, the velvety response continues, the A.I.R. retaining its speed so easily throughout the turn, cutting a clean precise path back up the face. The rounded dome under the back-foot stores a far bit of volume and helps to stop the board stalling on the tail, whilst the tapered rails can keep the board committed and driving through the turn. More carving than slashing, it’s got an addictive style that would have the wave-riding focussed rider coming back time
Such is its smooth, flowing nature it’s as if the A.I.R. has the alchemist’s ability to turn water into milk. With range and impeccable manners, if you can afford its price tag, you wont be disappointed.
Other sails in this test: