Fast, stable and light, with little compromise in other departments when it comes to flatwater racing and general touring. That's the review in a nutshell for the 2011 Starboard 12'6 Race, which has finally landed in the PaddleSurf.ca quiver, and I couldn't be more stoked!
So with that said, I'd been looking for a go-to flatwater board for a while... The Starboard K15, though incredibly fast on glassy and smoother conditions, was just too much of a challenge in the cross chop conditions we usually get around here in West Vancouver, and my all rounder boards just didn't cut the mustard when it came to longer distance flatwater cruising.
Enter the Starboard Race 12'6. The 2011 Starboard Race is an update to the 2010 Surf Race designed by Brian Szysmanski of North County Paddleboards and was originally designed with an eye to competing at the Battle of the Paddle, a rough and surfy course where stability can be just as important as overall glide, which on paper seemed to fit my needs perfectly.
My first decision was width as the Race is available in three different widths. The 27" is designed for lighter riders and calmer conditions, the 29.5" for larger paddlers, and the 31" for recreational paddling. I opted to go with the 29.5", and am very happy with the decision.
The other option with this board is the availability of an AST or Brushed Carbon construction. Here I opted to take a deep breath and fork over the extra cash for the carbon model. This is something I'm extremely happy to have done, as the carbon construction probably makes up for half of the reasons on why I love this board so much!
Field Test and Design
The most striking, and perhaps confusing, part of about the Race is the amount of rounded volume up front. As such, the Race doesn't exactly cut the water like a typical displacement design, but this doesn't seem to matter... Most people find it to be just as fast as boards like Bark, House, and other conventional displacement hull designs.
The concave bottom, slightly dug out cockpit and sharp tail rails both help to dramatically increase stability and in my opinion are the primary benefits of this design... Allowing the the paddler can focus on stroke technique and building speed, instead of having to concentrate on trying to remain balanced on the board.
The deck remains reasonably dry in all conditions, and there are a couple strategically placed holes on either rail to ensure drainange in rougher conditions.
The deck pad is quite unique in that it actually wraps over and down the rails at the center of the board. This not only helps to cut down paddle impact damage, but also makes for a good place to lean the board against when you're on a rocky beach.
I found that the 23" Race Fin provides a good mix of tracking and maneuverability, but I've opted to switch out for the Starboard Bamboo Race fin, which increases straight-line tracking even more, while making it a bit harder to turn the board. Maneuverability is not a big deal for me, since I'm using the board for point to point touring, but if you're planning on racing on a short course circuit like the Battle of the Paddle, then you'd probably want to stick with the 23" fin.
Though the price increase over their standard AST is substantial, brushed carbon proves to be a massive improvement both on you walk to the beach, and on the water.
The single greatest benefit is the ability to push the board into position with your legs when encountering cross chop conditions. As mentioned, we experience a ton of these sorts of conditions around here, and on heavier boards I have to put a ton of effort into keeping the board tracking straight, or risk getting knocked off. On the lightweight carbon, it's much easier to force the board back into position and continue on your way.
Starboard builds their carbon models with an EPS core. Though this might mean the board is a touch heavier than a true hollow carbon construction, the benefits here is that the EPS core helps to retain the board's natural feel. Hollow carbon SUP constructions tend to feel like you're paddling an empty tin can.
The board's brushed paint finish is also worth a mention. Though a natural black carbon fiber finish looks absolutely kick ass, problems arise when the air inside the board expands in hotter weather. The brushed paint finish helps to keep the board cool, thereby minimizing the risk of sun damage. It also has a cool, imperfect rat-rod sort of look to it, which also does a great job of hiding scuff marks and dings.
If you're looking for a fast, versatile race board, or just a fun, stable and fast board to tool around the flatwater, then the Starboard 12'6 Race earns a very strong consideration. Spring for the carbon if you can, but I'm sure you'll find the AST version to be a highly capable board that will be suitable for pretty much anything except for riding waves!
Thanks for reading and in closing, here are a few photos of the board...