STARBOARD WINDSUP 11’2” INFLATABLE BLEND ZEN 2017 REVIEW
The 11’2” Blend is once again available in deluxe construction (with a retractable centre-board casing) or Zen (with a central fin), as tested here. Having tried it last year, we were impressed with its performance as the wind increased, so it would be interesting to see how it faired once again this year. Retaining its 3D rail edge technology, designed to help the board release and accelerate onto the plane, the board has had an update in construction (read below) along with some other notable features. Firstly, there are now footstrap inserts in the deck of the Blend, incorporating plugs that prevent the strap twisting. There’s also the new mast track system – a clever ‘mushroom’ style insert that reduces the chances of failure due to the rig’s forces acting through the board. Complete with the brand’s V8 double action pump, and their improved roller wheeled bag, it is a very attractive looking package overall.
“For 2017, the WindSUP Inflatables are up to 20% lighter thanks to the new construction with more fibre, less coating and less glue. This translates into lighter weights and overall improved stiffness. The rails are reinforced with a 2000 denier sandwiched rail stiffener and a visible HD biax rail band for added strength, stiffness and to prevent the boards from twisting.”
The longest yet narrowest in the group, it comes as no surprise that the 11’2” is the more technical board in the group to ride from the off. With its extra length, it was instantly apparent at first glance that everything is a little more drawn out. For example, the distance between the deck-plate fitting and central fin is more than 55cm, whereas on other boards in the group you’re talking 25-30cm at most. All this adds up to a relatively tippy character at rest in SUP mode, but put some strokes in and the Starboard quickly gathers pace to offer fantastic directional stability. It skims over the water superbly and copes with pushing through chop very well – certainly one of the faster boards in the group to paddle. The challenge arises once again when it comes to cornering, the rearward central fin and narrow tail demanding some concentration and precision from the rider to exact a purposeful transition. If using the board solely for SUP’ing, the removal of the central fin certainly helps in this instance. Fix a sail to the Blend though and you’re left in no doubt as to where its allegiances really lie. It makes a fantastic platform for the progressing rider, breaking down their transition through the ‘planing barrier’ into an accessible reality. Push power into it and the Blend accelerates smoothly, its air-filled chamber popping it out onto the water’s surfaces, whilst the 3D rail-edge technology provides the water release to facilitate a fast planing speed. New for this year are the footstrap insert options on the deck. Although we advocated them when we tried the 11’2” last year, we have to say the jury is still out on them. The deck of the Blend is so flat, we’re not sure they are too comfortable for long periods of use. On the plus side, the fixtures in the deck provide something reassuringly solid underfoot when you’re powering up and moving back on the board. And with the straps fitted, we’re sure they can help to tutor the intermediate rider in footstrap technique.
With plenty of innovative features and an appetite for mixing it up in planing conditions, the Starboard remains unique in this group, providing a master class for the progressing rider, whilst remaining more than capable for that SUP voyage on the lighter wind days.
Other boards in this test: