A Review of the Starboard K-15

The K-15 is Starboard’s flatwater specialist SUP, and that it does next to perfectly… Huge glide with every stroke and incredibly fast when it’s glassy. Rougher conditions though? Forget about it.

At 15′ by 30″wide, the K-15 is a monster when sized up alongside an all-rounder SUP, and along with the extra 1.5″ EVA ring around the top edge of the cockpit, the K-15 looks more like a kayak than an SUP. In fact, Starboard even makes a double blade capable paddle specifically for this board so you can indeed paddle it like a kayak, but that’s only really intended for strong headwind conditions, an area in which the K-15 doesn’t fare too well.

Similar in outline to Starboard’s highly acclaimed light wind windsurf board the Serenity, the K-15 also includes a daggerboard slot and mast track, for those days when you want the wind to work in your favor. The dagger board can also be used to increase stability but with an almost 2 foot draw, you’d best to stick to deeper waters.

The deck drain holes are equipped with scuppers on the underside and work surprisingly well at keeping the cockpit free of water. In theory, you’re supposed to be able to close the scuppers, allowing the cockpit to fill with water which will again help to increase stability.

The board is also equipped with a number of mounting points, useful not only to tie down equipment and so forth, but a wheel can also be attached to the tail, making this board a whole lot more manageable to move around… That is assuming you’re moving across reasonably flat terrain.

The Starboard K-15 on the Water

Initial Impression are WOW, this things is fast! Took me a couple hours to get used to the much tippier displacement shaped hull, but once I overcame that challenge it was full speed ahead!

The glide is a completely different sensation than paddling more traditional longboard shaped boards… A couple strokes and it seems to keep on going forever. This also makes it possible to keep up with small, fast moving swell, which makes for incredibly fast downwinders when the swell is reasonably clean.

Using my Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS heart rate monitor, initial assessment shows I’m averaging speeds of 2-3 km/h faster than my Starboard 12’6 Cruiser.

The tradeoff for this speed is lack of maneuverability and instability. Though it’s possible to catch the tiniest of swells,  it’s pretty hard to do much on the waves due to the board’s awkward dimensions.

I’m really starting to get used to the Startouch finish, which I first encountered on Starboard’s 9’0 Stinger I recently reviewed. I first thought the finish would be hard on my feet during longer paddles, but after a few good length jaunts I’m happy to say it’s a non issue, and provides good grip without the extra weight. Time will tell if it starts to wear off over time, but if it does I can always throw some Monster Paint on there to restore the grip.

So who’s the ideal customer for a K15? If you have regular access to calm, flat water conditions then by all means, do yourself a favour and get one.

I mainly paddle around here in West Vancouver and so far have spent about half my time on the K15, the other half on my all-rounder boards. Problem with this area though is we tend to get a lot of cross up swell where the waves bounce against the rocky shore and back into open water, which creates very unstable and challenging water conditions. Once I have some more experience with the K-15 in these sorts of conditions I’m sure it’ll be much more manageable, but for now I just consider myself lucky to have a couple other all-rounder boards in the quiver for those days when conditions are less than ideal.

That said though, I think these sorts of boards are really going to start to become popular in flatwater touring areas such as Vancouver. Sure, we get the odd day of surf in here and there, but unless you’re heading down the coast or over to Vancouver Island, opportunities for waves are few and far between that in retrospect and it doesn’t make a ton of sense to handicap yourself with a board that’s designed to ride waves… That’s my take at least. 🙂

Here’s a gallery of my board, along with a 9’0 Starboard Stinger for size comparison…

And just to wrap up, Evan from StandUpPaddleSurf.net has done a great job going over the board and introducing some of its features in the following video:

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