STARBOARD SUP WINDSURFING INFLATABLE 11’2’’ BLEND ZEN 2018 REVIEW
As a brand, Starboard have always prided themselves on design innovation and progression, and their inflatable SUP-windsurfing range is no exception. There are certainly some interesting features and developments seen on this 2018 11’2” Blend, said to be their second best seller after the 10’0” Whopper. Its thickness has been pushed up to 6” for the new season, whilst its rail edge technology seems to have been extended along much of the rail-length. Footstraps remain an option using the brand’s exclusive integrated plug system and they can be removed completely to reduce clutter whilst SUP’ing. New for 2018, the central fin box can also be completely removed from all Zen versions, reducing drag and turning turbulence to improve the SUP’ing experience on the boards. The independent mushroom mast-track is inserted into the board from underneath and is championed by Starboard as the safest system available, since the board won’t deflate if the mast-track fails for any reason. A new “load spreader plate” then sits on top of the mast track to stiffen up the connection with the sail, said to make the whole windsurf experience more responsive. The last development well worthy of mention is Starboard’s relation with Parley, bringing the topic of responsible manufacturing to the fore. Supplied with a V8 dual-action pump, the Blend was easy to inflate to 15 PSI, with a little more effort upping it to 18 PSI (recommended for maximum stiffness and performance). The roller bag supplied has also been refined for an easier fit and has to be one of the more executive looking SUP bags on the market.
“Our SUP WINDSURFING Inflatables are compact, light and strong. You can go paddleboarding, learn windsurfing and get planing with footstraps. They are great to teach kids to windsurf and they roll up into a bag when you’re done. They are available in a wide variety of sizes and two technologies: Zen and Deluxe; the latter adds a full daggerboard case for extra windsurfing performance.”
With the central fin in place, the first thing to note is that the Blend is still very easy to carry, as the fin is located towards the tail, allowing you to carry the board next to your torso using the central handle. Longer than many here, it is directionally excellent yet quite stiff in transition as a result, so whilst still possessing the practicality to tutor the novice sailor, the more suitable sibling in the range may well be the 10’ Whopper. With its increased thickness, the Blend sits high on the water’s surface and accelerates the instant you sheet in and provide power. As a windsurfing platform, it has a lot going for it, particularly for the progressing intermediate rider, looking to get comfortable in planing conditions.
Its ease of acceleration mean the rig’s forces rarely build to take advantage of the unassuming rider, providing confidence and breaking down the perplexity of planing progression. The straps are then easy to locate as you move back on the board, positioned well inboard and holding their form. The Blend does have a speed limit and won’t accelerate beyond it, no matter how much extra power you provide, but as such it means the lift generated by the central fin never becomes an issue, so can stay in place and helps to maintain the board’s course as well as assist in transition. In addition, with a little rider input, the Blend is largely impervious to lulls, teaching the rider good habits from the off. If the wind does turn off completely, the Blend can be transformed into a fantastic SUP’ing platform by stripping off the straps and central fin, complete with its box. Its high stance and gliding efficiency are once again apparent, making it a pleasure for touring over long distances. In transition, the Blend pivots freely, the kick in the rear traction pad helping to locate the back foot on the tapered tail so that you can jump rearwards quickly for a more expressive turn.
Whilst possessing SUP touring crossover appeal with its effortless glide, the Blend is a stand out board for the intermediate rider, making the transition into planing conditions so natural and easy it’s almost cheating!
Other boards in this test: