2023 starboard best inflatable touring stand up paddle boards

Composite or Inflatable? The Starboard Generation 12’6″ x 30″ is Tested

In this video, Rueben from SUPboarder discusses the new Starboard Generation inflatable stand up paddle board, which is brand new from Starboard for 2023, and the Lite Tech composite version of the same board. This review aims to be easy and quick, providing you with Rueben’s impressions and thoughts.

First and foremost, this board is absolutely fantastic. It offers everything the composite Generation does. However, the important question is whether it’s the right board for you. There are some drawbacks and factors you need to be aware of before making a purchase. Find out below if it’s the right fit for you.

In this video, Rueben will provide a comprehensive summary and comparison of the two boards, along with an in-depth review of the 12’6″ Starboard Inflatable Generation. SUPboarder have reviewed numerous Generations in the past. We have also compared it to other boards like the Starboard All-Star and Sprint race boards.

Now, let’s discuss the different boards available in the range. The Generation comes in various constructions, including carbon top and lite tech, which is the board we have here. Additionally, there’s the ASAP and the new Rhino Construction, specifically in the 12’6″ x 30″ size. The composite boards are available in sizes such as 14′ x 30″, 14′ x 28″, and 14′ x 26″. For the 12’6″ sizes, you can choose between 12’6″ x 30″ (the one we have here), 12’6″ x 28″, and 12’6″ x 26″. As for the inflatable version, it only comes in a 12’6″ x 30″ size. This is why we have been testing these two boards side by side since they are the exact same size.

Now let’s talk about the prices. The lite tech construction boards are priced around $1600. For the inflatable version, you’re looking at around $1200. If you’re considering a lighter and more performance-oriented carbon top board, the price will be around $2000. So, there’s a significant jump in price for that option.

Now, let’s dive into the specifications of the inflatable board. It is six inches thick and has a volume of 341 liters. When we weighed the board, it came in at about 24 lbs, which is quite good for a large inflatable paddle board. In terms of rider weight, it can accommodate individuals up to about 210 lbs, similar to the composite 12’6″ version.

To provide a quick recap of the Starboard Generation, it is a versatile board designed to facilitate various types of paddling. Whether it’s flat water, coastal paddling in calm or wavy conditions, downwind paddling, or even SUP-surfing and racing, the Generation can handle it all. It’s a board that truly does it all, including activities like fitness paddling, fishing, and even bringing along your dog or kids. We strongly believe that everyone should own a Generation board due to its exceptional versatility and performance.

With the new inflatable board, Starboard aims to replicate as much of the original concept as possible. However, it’s important to note that you won’t achieve the same level of performance in every aspect compared to the composite board. Certain things, such as the composite bottom shape, cannot be fully replicated in an inflatable paddle board. Nonetheless, there are many elements that help make it feel close to the concept.

The outline shape of these boards is very similar, as close as they can physically get it considering the construction process of being inflatable. One significant aspect to discuss is the rocker line, which refers to the curve of the board from the front to the back. Having rocker on the board is crucial as it allows for better performance in choppy waters, open waters, moving waves, and downwind conditions. The inflatable version actually has more rocker than its composite counterpart. In general, inflatable paddle boards require slightly more rocker because they don’t react as quickly as composite boards when you move around on them.

Moving to the features of the board, at the front, you have a large bungee area, just like on the composite board. The deck pad is a diamond grip crocodile-style pad, providing excellent grip and comfort. It extends all the way to the back, where you’ll find a tail kick pad or stomp pad for step-back turns and surfing. The board still retains the ability to have a shoulder strap, which comes as standard. In our experience, the shoulder strap can remain on the board in most conditions, but it can be removed if needed, especially in more extreme situations. Additionally, there’s a large, comfortable carry handle in the middle of the board, ensuring proper balance, which is often overlooked by many brands.

Let’s talk about the construction of the board. Starboard’s deluxe board boasts a remarkable construction. The internal core is made of Starboard’s X-weave and woven drop stitch, a lightweight and high-quality material that offers superior stiffness and responsiveness. The drop stitch is fused to the outer layer of PVC, with galvanized rails using Starboard’s 2000D material. This year, Starboard introduced the parabolic rail, which enhances the board’s stiffness through extra material on the top and bottom. To further reinforce the board, the rail band is welded, creating a strong bond by mechanically heating and melting two layers of PVC together.

Now, let’s discuss the board’s stiffness, which gives it a significant advantage. The recommended inflation pressure is between 15 to 18 PSI. We inflated it to 18 PSI to ensure maximum stiffness. During our deflection test, where we applied a weight of 165 lbs at the center of the board with a gap of 5 feet, the board showed a deflection of 8 mm or 5/16″. Nowadays, a bendy board typically reaches around 22 to 23 mm or almost 1″, but that’s for thicknesses greater than six inches, which affects stiffness. The stiffest board we have ever tested had a deflection of 7 mm, but it was also a heavier board, close to 30 lbs in weight. Considering the weight of this board, dropping 8 mm is quite impressive, indicating that this board is incredibly stiff. Kudos to Starboard for achieving such stiffness with the materials used on the rails, parabolic rails, multiple layers, and welded construction.

Finally, when you turn the board over, you can see the parabolic rail. Moving towards the back of the board, there’s a rail edge that increases water flow and enhances speed, making the board paddle faster and release more efficiently, especially during surfing, fast downwind paddling, and reaching top speed. The thin and hydrodynamically shaped fin boxes contribute to increased speed as well. The center fin box has a teardrop shape, which Starboard claims can reduce drag by up to 50% compared to a normal fin box. It’s worth noting that the center fin is made from upcycled fishing nets, representing a sustainable choice. The package includes an 8″ center fin, resembling a traditional surf shape, and two 4.5″ bolsa bioresin side fins, which are excellent. Additionally, you’ll find a towing eye underneath the board at the front. As for the package itself, it comes with a high-quality wheelie bag made from recycled bottles, which fits the board perfectly and is comfortable to carry. We even carried the board down a significant cliff without any issues.

Additionally, the package includes Starboard’s fantastic pump. It features foldable foot pegs, improved handles, and smoother operation. It’s a double-action pump that inflates the board on both the upstroke and downstroke. When pumping becomes more challenging, you can switch to pumping on the downstroke only. It’s a high-quality pump that efficiently inflates the board, even considering its size.

The package also comes with Starboard’s lightweight leash, which is perfect for paddling on calm flat water. However, if you plan on going SUP surfing or engaging in more all-round paddling activities, opting for a more sturdy and/or straight leash might be a better choice.

Now, let’s move on to the comparison between the composite 12’6″ x 30″ board and the inflatable 12’6″ x 30″ board. The first noticeable difference is in the board’s transportation. Carrying the composite board, which weighs around 37 lbs, can be more challenging due to its weight. In contrast, the inflatable board is lighter and easier to carry, making it more convenient, especially when navigating difficult terrains like cliffs.

When it comes to getting onto the water, both boards have well-designed carry handles, making it easy to transport them to the water’s edge. In terms of stability, there isn’t a significant difference when standing in a normal paddling position. However, when you start moving around the board, such as performing step-back turns or maneuvering to catch waves, the composite board offers better stability. The inflatable board’s 6″ thick rail from nose to tail provides some stability, but the composite board’s thinner rails and specific bottom shape make it more stable, especially for lighter riders. Heavier individuals may find the inflatable board to be more suitable due to the additional weight on the back of the board.

Moving on to speed and performance, the composite board takes longer to reach top speed due to its heavier weight. On the other hand, the lighter inflatable board achieves a faster acceleration with just a few paddle strokes. While their top speeds may be similar, the inflatable board requires more consistent paddle strokes to maintain that speed, whereas the composite board, once it gains momentum, glides effortlessly. This becomes noticeable when catching waves, where the inflatable board’s lighter weight allows for earlier and quicker wave catches. However, the composite board excels in surfing due to its progressive rail shape, sharper and more pulled-in rails, and better maneuverability.

It’s worth mentioning that the discussion about surfing applies to other activities such as downwinding and catching bumps on estuaries. The composite board performs better in choppy conditions, paddling through waves, and maintaining stability. The inflatable board can handle chop and waves as well but requires more technique and adjustment.

Let’s focus on the inflatable Generation’s rocker line, which is particularly important for moving water and surfing. The board’s rocker, especially at the nose, helps prevent nose diving, a common issue with inflatables. Starboard has done an excellent job in shaping the rocker line for the inflatable board, making it highly effective in surf, chop, and windy conditions.

When it comes to flat water, however, the composite board has an advantage. Composite boards generally have flatter rocker lines, allowing for faster paddling on calm water. The inflatable board’s rocker is more pronounced to compensate for the nature of inflatable paddle boards. Therefore, if your primary focus is flat water paddling, a Starboard Touring inflatable board with a flatter rocker line might be a better choice.

In summary, Starboard has created an exceptional inflatable board that complements its composite counterpart very well. The inflatable Generation offers remarkable performance and versatility, but it cannot replicate the exact performance of a composite board. The weight, speed, portability, and other advantages of the inflatable make it a great choice for paddling in open water, surf, and other dynamic conditions. However, if your paddling activities primarily involve flat water, a Starboard Touring board might be more suitable.

Ultimately, the decision depends on your specific needs and the conditions in which you’ll be paddling. The Starboard Generation inflatable is a fantastic board that caters to a wide range of paddlers, and it delivers excellent performance and versatility. It’s a worthy addition to any paddle board enthusiast’s collection.

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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.