starboard 2024 inflatable sup paddle boards

Review of the 2018 Starboard 12’ Atlas Zen inflatable paddle board

The 2018 Starboard 12′ Atlas Zen inflatable stand up paddle board is improved and upgraded for this year. With thicker drop stitch, Dual Stringers on top and bottom decks, supported standing area, rail stiffening strips and improved bag, the Zen model boards inch ever closer to the Deluxe model construction and features but maintain their lower price.

The 12’0″ Atlas Zen features superior glide for an all round shape yet has a comfortable 33” width for the extra stability. The 2018 model is now 6″ thick, up from 4.75″ of last year. In combination with higher than average inflation pressures (up to 18 PSI) for inflatable SUPs at this price point, this vastly increases overall stiffness and improves performance and carrying capacity.

The Atlas has a moderately wide nose for increased stability, a straighter outline and pulled in tail area for a smooth and efficient glide. The 33″ width offers a stable and forgiving ride, while a narrower tail area allows maintaining a good top speed to be easy. This article is a review of the 2018 12′ Atlas Zen and not necessarily an instructional or how to article. For that we suggest you view the Starboard Inflatable SUP Manual (1MB) or this article.

TL;DR: The increased thickness of the 2018 inflatable Atlas, combined with the new and stiffer Starboard Zen technology, has given this board a significant improvement. The 12′ length provides excellent glide, while the 33″ width provides exceptional stability. The Atlas Zen is a perfect blend of speed and stability, a fantastic cruising board that supports a lot of weight, being it heavy bones or small passengers. Priced exceptionally well at just $1099, especially when you consider other brands at this price can’t match the quality or performance.

Starboard Inflatable SUPs in 2018

Well the biggest change in the Starboard Inflatable Zen range for 2018 is the increased thickness of drop stitch on some Zen models. Previously they were all 4’75” thick, and now most are 5.5” thick, but the 2018 12’ x 33” Atlas is 6” thick.

Our lightest board construction, ZEN, is now stiffer and comes with reinforcement plates in the standing area. The fixed fins make the board tool-less and easy to prepare for on water action.

By carefully nesting the reinforcements Starboard offer the lightest board they have ever produced. The large soft thruster-fin set up is a proven and durable tracking solution.

A very light board: Re-engineered Zen technology: more fibres, less coating and optimized glue usage. On the water you will sense the acceleration and fun feel of a light hull.

A great sensation while paddling: The triple-sandwich rail laminate acts as dual stringer stiffeners and also make the rails incredibly strong. We replace double PVC layers with twin 2000 denier deck and bottom stringers, providing the board that rigid, crisp and stiff feel.

Clean Technology: The lamination process uses minimal glue and solvent and packing of the board is free of plastic.

The bag

Visually very similar the the 2017 Magic Suit Case, the Re-Cover Zen bag is now much lighter, with improved zipper access and lighter duty but better rolling wheels. While the bag is overall noticeably lighter, they have not skimped on any of the important details. You still have the roller wheels, internal pocket, compression straps and name tag window.

The 2018 Re-Cover Zen bag features:

  • Twin roller wheels for easy transport
  • Padded cover
  • Inside and outside compressions straps
  • Reinforced diamond PVC for increased durability around the base
  • Name tag window
  • Strong, non corrosive zipper
  • The lightweight, durable and innovative choice for serious travellers

The pump


[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]The V8 Double Action Pump carries over from 2017. A running change throughout the year will mean the pump will arrive in black instead of blue. This is a change made by Starboard who are now doing everything they can to minimise their impact on the environment while still producing market leading products. The black color is a result of recycled plastics going into the pump.


The V8 Double Action Pump is top quality and makes inflating any board a breeze. Start pumping in the double action mode, as controlled by the little red lever, and you’ll inflate on both up and down strokes. As the pressure mounts, pulling up requires more effort than is comfortable so you switch to single action mode. Flip the red lever over and continue pumping to 15-18 PSI.

Faster board inflation, with less effort: The benchmark V8 flow valve gets you to 15–18 PSI faster and with less effort.

Starboard V8 Double Action Pump features:

  • Inflate your board with faster and easier continuous pumping cycle both in down and up actions
  • With a switch, the double action pump can convert to single action for easy inflation up to 18PSI
  • Allows effortless inflation due to the increased diameter of the intake and exhaust valves
  • The ergonomically designed foot pad creates a stable, comfortable platform for sustained effort in getting your board up to 18PSI, in the shortest amount of time

Inflating the 2018 Starboard 12′ Atlas Zen to 18 PSI took me about 4 minutes and 25 seconds. Add another few seconds to make sure you leash is secure, and you’re good to go! I always like to inflate the boards to their maximum. Higher pressure means a better performing board. See more on the Starboard Inflatable SUP Manual (PDF).

The board

Dimensions: Almost the same as previous years, the 2018 Starboard Atlas Zen inflatable paddle board is 12′ long, 33″ wide, but now 6″ thick. The change from 4.75″ to 6″ thick is the most notable physical change, and one that has a noticeable effect on the performance, versatility and usability of this board. This new, thicker, Zen construction also uses more fibres and optimizes glue usage for a stiffer, yet lighter board. Below you can see the double Denier stringer strips, up from the single PVC stringer strip.


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The board again features a front cargo area with included bungees, indestructible glued on rear fins, the same padded center handle, the same rear handle that doubles as a paddle holder, and the same nose mounted (underside) and rear mounted d-rings (for your leash). The large thruster-fin Flex-Fin set up is a proven and durable tracking solution. Not apparent in the above comparisons, but visible in the gallery images are the standing area plates which are extra layers of PVC underfoot which help spread the load of the paddler. Also not visible are the new triple sandwich rails with stiffening strips.


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Also carried over from 2017 is the exclusive and innovative lightweight Starboard SUP leash. It will be your best paddling partner in flat water and touring conditions. Leash is NOT suited to waves or white water. Compact in design and at only 70g, it is strong, comfortable and effortless to wear.[/twocol_one_last][/column]

The rest

The package includes a repair kit with glue and patches, and a general guide book with inflation instructions, pump tips and care tips inside the mesh pocket. Finally, a cinch strap to keep the board rolled up.

This board comes with Starboard’s Re-Cover Zen SUP board bag, V8 Double Action High Pressure Pump, lightweight Starboard leash and a small repair kit.

On the water

A great cruising and all round size at 12′ x 33″, it offers excellent glide and decent stability up front, and carries good speed. Usually a wider board won’t glide so well but this one carries it’s width mostly in the forward section and tapers to a narrow tail, rather than holding the width all the way back, providing a sleeker/faster outline.

The step up from 4.75″ to 6″ thick, along with 18 PSI of pressure, the stiffening strips and standing area plates, they all combine for greatly improved stiffness and performance. Last years model had a weight limit of 240 lbs, this year’s board can handle 265 lbs. What does being able to carry more weight mean? It proves that the board is stronger, stiffer and more capable than in previous years. So at any given weight, the board will be more rigid and perform better on the water.

The board is fairly flat, and by that I mean there isn’t much nose kick. This helps for stability, to carry larger loads, improves tracking but does mean it is a little more susceptible to side chop. When you do get the chop though, the wide nose area provided great stability and the tapered tail area still offered good glide and speed. Many all round style boards have really wide tails which creates a lot of drag, great for stability, but slow as heck to paddle. I like the mix on the Atlas of forward stability and tapered tail with ability for faster paddling.

The fins are bomb proof and will handle all kinds of abuse, however, I would prefer a little more tracking from a larger fin system with a board of this size.

The deck pad is very comfortable. Lightly textured in the main area with a diamond cut tail area (green), it provides lots of grip with rail to rail coverage. Tail mounted handle is a great feature for dragging the board in and out through small breakers. The underside nose mounted d-ring offers a great place to anchor the board, tie it off to a dock or do gentle towing from.


  • Length: 12’0″
  • Width: 33″
  • Tail width: 17.5″
  • Thickness: 6″
  • Volume: 364 liters
  • Weight: 26 lbs board only
  • Max payload: 265 lbs/120 kg
  • Fins: 3 permanent Flex Fins
  • Warranty: 2 years


  • Improved stiffness and performance thanks to new, and thicker, Zen construction and features
  • Decent tracking and excellent glide, yet very stable and easy to paddle
  • Simple cargo area with provided bungee
  • Indestructible thruster fin system
  • Very large lightly textured EVA deck pad provides excellent comfort and grip with diamond texture tail pad
  • Tail handle for carrying/dragging board along is very handy
  • Quick inflation to 18 PSI with the dual action V8 pump
  • Upgraded bag is now lighter weight and better shape
  • Comes with light duty leash
  • Eco conscious construction and packaging minimising plastic waste
  • Two year warranty


  • Narrow tail area means moving back on the deck for turns or surfing decreases overall stability
  • While super durable, simple and easy to use, the fin system could provide better tracking

In conclusion

Improved for 2018 with updates to the Zen construction and board thickness, the 2018 Starboard 12′ x 33″ x 6″ Atlas Zen is an excellent quality, versatile and durable all round to touring and cruising board. The 12′ Atlas has excellent glide, is very stable up front and has all the required premium features. Starboard offers extremely good value for money with their Zen boards and when you factor in the known quality and history of the Starboard brand, the $1099 price for this Atlas Zen is really a steal for this level of quality and performance.

Find all the details here: Starboard 2018 Atlas Zen 12′. If you can’t decide between the 11’2″ x 33″ Blend, the 10′ x 35″ Whopper Zen, the 10’5″ x 30″ Drive Zen or the 10’5″ x 33″ Wide Point Zen, give us a call: 1-888-252-4983.

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About the author: Julian Kidd
I have been an avid stand up paddle boarder since 2009. I retired from a decade of professional kiteboarding to focus on SUP. Green Water Sports grew from this love of all things SUP. As well as being a keen paddle boarder, I'm a football fan, closet petrol head, web tinkerer, husband and father.