2024 starboard inflatable stand up paddle boards best inflatable starboard sup

A detailed look at Starboard’s Deluxe, Zen and Zen Lite inflatable SUP construction

In a closer look at the inflatable SUP constructions that Starboard offer, Reuben from SUPboarder talks us through some of the main differences between the Zen Lite, Zen and Deluxe Double Chamber constructions.

Starboard Inflatable SUP Construction

There are lots of different boards to choose from, and I will be going over the key differences between these constructions. What ones are stiffest, and of course, at the end of the video we’ll be advising what construction will probably be best, for what type of paddler

Now Starboard offer many different board types in different constructions and obviously there’ll be different price points. But also bear in mind you might find in a certain board type the thickness of the boards may vary compared to what construction you’re looking for. For example: a Tikihine board is a different thickness when buying the same size board if you go for a Zen construction and also your fin setup will vary compared to what construction and model board you’re looking at as well. So for the full details make sure you check out the Starboard website in the board you’re looking at and the construction you want to buy it in for the full details of what the fin setup and the thickness the board comes in.

So to start off with, Starboard basically offer three different construction types. They offer a Zen Lite, they offer a Zen, and they offer a Deluxe Double Chamber. Now we are going to talk about what’s on these boards in material and why they differ, but first off we’re going to go straight into our deflection test. Now our deflection test is where we put all these boards on a gap of 1.5m (5ft) and we put 75kg (165lbs) of weight on the center of the board and then we measure how much the board bends. We measure how much it deflects or drops. This is a really easy way to understand the stiffest board and obviously the most flexible board. So let’s start off with the most expensive iSUP construction you can buy from Starboard and that is the Deluxe Double Chamber. When we put that through our deflection test, it only dropped 11mm (0.43″) so that’s a pretty stiff board. Some of the stiffest boards on the market will be sitting around sort of 7-8mm (0.27-0.31″) but bear in mind they might have extra cables you have to put on them, they might have stiffening rods you have to put down the side, this is a board you still just pump up and away you go, 11mm (0.43″). Just bear in mind all these boards were pumped up to 18PSI when we tested them, so that all the same PSI, but there is also something that affects the stiffness of boards just so you know. It’s actually the thickness, the thicker the board is, the stiffer the board will be, and also, the less amount of PSI pressure you need to have in it to get the same stiffness as you would do if you had a thinner board and you put more pressure in it.

You may be interested in…

Save $280.00!
Save $520.00!

So the other boards now in the deflection test are only 5.5″ thick and this Deluxe touring board which we tested was 6″ thick, so it’s another thing to bear in mind when we talk about deflection. So moving on from there then, we’ve got the Zen construction that in the same test with the same PSI dropped 15mm (0.59″) so it’s not as stiff as the Deluxe Double Chamber and obviously the cheapest price point board is the Zen Lite and that is the most flexible and that dropped 19mm (0.74″). But, to be fair to that board, it’s still a very good drop. Some of the most flexible boards we’ve ever tested on the market are sitting around the 25-26mm (0.98-1″), so it’s still a fairly stiff board especially for the construction and the price point. So there you go, you can see the Double Chamber is the stiffest, the Zen range of boards is in the middle, and the Zen Lite is the most flexible.

So why are they like that? What makes those boards different? Because the basic core of all these boards is the same. Their internal core is of drop stitch, but it’s the layers and materials that go on top of that board which then changes the feel and the stiffness of the board and that’s what we’ll talk about right now.

Starboard Zen Lite

So looking at the Zen Lite, Starboard say this is their leanest, lightest and most budget orientated technology and it’s all going in that board. It’s definitely a board to get you on the water and it’s a very competitive price point, but what is in that board? Well the internal core is drop stitch, then you have a layer of PVC on top of that, the board is stuck together with heat welded rails, it’s got a double rail band around the side of the board which is great for the toughness, and it’s finished off with a recycled EVA crocodile texture deck pad. So the easy way to understand the board constructions from here, is every board has all of that in it, except more. Moving up from there, we move on to the Zen.

Starboard Zen

Now Starboard say the Zen is packed with their welded technology. The welded technology, which again is still on that Zen Lite, is where they heat onto the board in one go, so it’s heated on and welded onto the rails of the board. It makes the board much more durable, doesn’t mean the glue is affected by the Sun, it’s much better for the environment and they have put it right across all of their boards. But where there’s more material stuck onto the board obviously, there’s more of that welding process put onto the board in general. So the most noticeable things you’ve probably noticed straight away with the Zen boards, the deck pad still has the forward section in the crocodile texture EVA deck pad, but the back is diamond gripped with a tail pad, it gives you that telltale it’s a bit more performance-based. Down the center of the board, on the top and the bottom, you have your 2000 Denier compressed and galvanized stringer, which gives the board a bit more shape and a lot more stiffness. And you’ve also got that compressed technology down the rails of the board which gives it a bit more stiffness and again more durability. And under the area where you’re going to be standing they’ve reinforced that with hard standing plates which take a bit more weight and obviously give you a bit more stiffness. Around the rail of the board there’s a black strip which is a rail band, does a couple things give the board a bit more stiffness and it really sets off the board and the styling personally compared to the Zen Lite board.

You still get the bungee straps that you do get on the Zen Lite. You get a better, more padded carry handle neoprene backed, much better for carrying it further, and you get a paddle holder which also doubles as a handle at the back of the board as well.

So having the extra stringers and the standing area reinforcement and the compressed rails around the side of the board, that’s what gives the board stiffness, that’s why this board is stiffer than the Zen Lite board, and that’s why the board costs more money.

Starboard Double Chamber Deluxe

So moving up from there let’s have a look at the Double Chamber Deluxe boards. Starboard say these boards are safer, stiffer and lighter than ever before. The reason they say they’re safer is because of the Double Chamber technology. In a basic sense, it’s like having a mini board inside your bigger board, so you’ve got two valves on these boards. You need to pump up the inner chamber, as well as the outer chamber. Starboard recommend you put 18PSI first in the outer chamber, the main board shape, and then you put 10PSI in the inner chamber, and that’s the pressure we put it at when we tested it and put it through our deflection test.

Having a Double Chamber on the board does give the board a lot more stiffness and that’s probably the biggest reason why this board is stiffer to the Zen. But it’s not only just to do with the Double Chamber, it’s also to do with how they fuse the layers of PVC onto this as well. On top of the normal drop stitch PVC layer you’ve got a fused one-shot laminate layer and it really locks the whole Double Chamber, the two parts of the board, together as one. It’s still got the same 2000 Denier compressed rail that is on the Zen, but it’s also got a 3K band of carbon around the top of the board which is a thin band of carbon, it gives a lot more to the shape of the board, gives you a better shape profile, and it adds again to the stiffness. You still get the bungee straps you get with all the boards, and you still get the padded carry handle like you get with the Zen boards, and you get the paddle holder.

The deck pad is definitely better because throughout it is the diamond gripped deck pad, just offers you a bit more grip and comfort. And also like on this touring board, there’s a few boards that have got extra fittings, like the FCS mounts to store and carry things.

So the Deluxe Double Chamber really has everything when it comes to the board, It is finished off with all the bells and whistles as you’d expect from a more expensive price point.

So you can see that’s why the Double Chamber board is the stiffest board, there’s a lot more material in it, there’s a Double Chamber for a start, all of that really makes the board stiffer. But also, bear in mind it does make it heavier too. The lightest board is definitely the Zen Lite, it’s a great lightweight board, but that again reflects in stiffness. The Zen sits in the middle with an average weight. When you’re talking about constructions in any boards, the Zen Lite will always be the lightest board, the Zen will be in the middle and the Deluxe Double Chamber will be the heaviest board because there is the most material in it.

So that’s the boards, let’s move on to fins. Now when we’re looking at fins, it can get a little bit confusing here because this is where certain boards in certain constructions do have different fins compared to the same board in a different construction.

All the Zen Lite boards come with the recycled fishing net fins. Up-cycled fishing nets they’ve taken from the bottom the ocean or put into skips in fishing ports, and they’ve been made into fins. It’s a tool-less system you just put it in, you screw it up, easy system, great for getting you going in a straight line and it’s a fantastic thing that you’ve got on that cheaper price point board.

Moving up from that, the Zen boards sometimes come with the fixed Starboard super indestructible PVC based fins. Great for the family, great for driving up the beach. Or if you’re going for the more touring based boards or the performance based boards, you get the Starboard recycled fish net fins but it is in a US box fittings, so you can slide the fin forward and back, really nice touring fin and the surfing fins are great as well

Moving up from there, the Deluxe Double Chamber boards all come with the FCS 2 tool-less fin system. It’s an FCS fin, a well made fin and well recognized. A lot of other top brands use it as well, click in and away you go.

Looking at the bags. The Zen Lite comes with a very basic, but still very easy to use lightweight bag. It’s a simple backpack, just put the board in away you go. No wheels, no padding apart from the shoulder straps. It happens to be fine more most people who want to get on the water and just store it in the back of the car, to and from the beach.

Moving up from there the Zen the Tikihine and the Deluxe Double Chamber come with the recycled bottle bags. They’re called the Starboard Re-Cover bags. They’re a beautiful material, very soft, very hard-wearing. Will’s already taken one on several trips away touring, he said how hard wearing they were. The only thing to bear in mind, the differences between these two bags, is with the Zen and the Tikihine you do not get the wheel, so you only get the wheels on the Deluxe Double Chamber board. But all of those Re-Cover bags are way more padded they’re way more refined much much nicer and comfortable to carry further. Nice and big zips to get the boards in there, they really are catered for the higher level iSUP experience.

The pumps are all very similar again, Starboard soon are going to be going towards they’re completely recycled fish net pumps, which are going to be great, but until that point a lot of the boards come with the Starboard blue V8 double action pump. It means you can pump on the upstroke and on the down stroke and then when the pumping is hard, you can just pump on the down stroke. The two differences basically between these two pumps is just the removable foot base. You can take the removable foot base off the pumps that come with the Zen, the Tikihine and the Deluxe Double Chamber. It makes it a lot easier to store in the bag and roll up. The one that comes with the Zen Lite board is exactly the same except you can’t take the removable foot pegs off the bottom of the pump.

To see the full Starboard range that we have in stock, head here. For any questions about the differences in construction, features or which board is best for you, contact us on 1-888-252-4983 or contact.

Join over 25k+ subscribers and sign up to our newsletter to receive news and deals...

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.