For the 2010 season, Starboard brought in renown paddleboard shaper Bryan Szymanski from North County Paddleboards to design their high end 12'6 race boards and the feedback was fantastic, resulting in tons of podium wins throughout the 2010 race season.
For 2011, Bryan returned to update the race shapes and renamed them The Ace, which is now available in a 12'6 and 14' models.
Known as The Clog by some due to their extremely high volume and scooped out cockpit, the Starboard Ace is one of the most recognizable boards on the race circuit these days.
I tested the AST version of the Ace, which is their more conventional and cost effective, construction. The Ace is also available in brushed carbon, which is definitely worth consideration if you're looking to "be all that you can be" on the race course!
The overall result of this design is exceptional buoyancy which allows the boards to be narrower, while still maintaining a good amount of stability since the paddler stands lower on the board.
Another defining feature of the Ace is its sort of bulbous bow... Not like you'd see on a freighter, but its shape is nowhere near similar to the conventional "canoe" shaped noses you see on most other race oriented boards. Some paddlers don't like the fact that they tend push a lot of water up front, but at the end of the day it seems apparent that the design is comparable in speed to the competition.
Though it's not as stable as a conventional (read all-rounder type board), for a race board I found it to be exceedingly comfortable, especially considering its 27" width. To compare, I also regularly paddle the Starboard K15 and the Ace to be a touch more stable in rougher waters, which is especially notable since the Ace is 3" narrower than the K15!
In other notes, I found the rounded rails significantly help to increase the board's maneuverability, while the small amount of bottom concave again helps to create additional stability.
I also really like the new handles Starboard has include on their race boards this year. They're comfortable, give you plenty of options when it comes time to carry the board in and out of the water, and contrary to how it might appear, they don't get in the way of your paddling.
To be perfectly honest, and note that I'm not all that into racing just yet, but I found the individual footwells to be a bit of a bummer. While this is perfectly fine and expected for a dedicated race board, I feel they tend to limit the board's overall versatility, seeing as the paddler can only stand in a forward facing position.
If you're looking for an edge on the race course, especially if you're a bigger paddler looking to level the playing field with the smaller guys, or just wanting an extra speedy board for flatwater touring, I'd strongly suggest checking out the Starboard Ace 14'.
And to wrap things up, here's a comparison video from PaddleboardSpecialists.com on the Ace versus the Surftech Bark Dominator 14'