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Welcome to our first review of a Starboard inflatable stand up paddle board. We’ve been at this for a while with the Red Paddle Co boards so we thought it was about time to share the love and do a review of a Starboard inflatable SUP as well. We’ve chosen to start off with one of our popular models, in the latest version, the 2017 Starboard Inflatable 10′ Whopper Zen. Next to the Whopper Deluxe, this is one of our most sought after boards. And for good reason, which we will get into, right now!

Starboard are one of the “founding” stand up paddle board brands. They’ve been around from day 1 of what we consider the modern paddle boarding days. A short but very full 10-12 years. The Whopper model has been around almost as long.

It was the model of board I learnt on way back when, albeit in hard board AST construction, complete with black and white camo deck. It was wide for stability but short for manoeuvrability. A great combination for this sailing and kiting based waterman, but surfing amateur.

So, the big boss man learnt on one, it’s a popular item, what’s the skinny? Is it justified, should the Whopper be the go to board for light to middle weight all round paddlers and heavier paddlers looking for a manoeuvrable surfing SUP?

TL;DR: Starboard has been in the game for a while, they know what’s going on. The 10′ Whopper is a proven design and in the inflatable zen construction, offers a great quality and excellent value all round board for those getting into paddling for the first time, or larger paddlers getting into waves..  

The bag

The Zen Bag is an update of the Astro Magic Bag from 2016. It features wide wheels for easy rolling and back pack straps which can also be hidden away for when you’re not using them. A handy feature to stop them getting tangled up or caught on things. The 2017 Zen bag features a full 3 side zipper to open the bag nice and wide for easy access to your board. There is plenty of space inside for a paddle and leash, plus a few bits and bobs like a wetsuit or towel. There is an internal and an external cinching/compression strap to keep everything locked down while on the go. The bag features a front pocket which is handy for your pump.

I actually prefer to roll the pump inside the board when I pack it away, it keeps everything bundled tight and protected but the outer pocket is a handy addition if you want to pack your keys, some dry clothes or something else away from the main pocket to be squashed or made wet by the board. The Zen Bag for 2017 does away with the mesh sides to now only include bottom breathers for excess water and ventilation for a wet board. On that, I always suggest putting your board away dry and sand/dirt free if possible, the boards will last longer and the bags won’t get mouldy. Salt water won’t get mouldy but still gets a bit smelly if left wet for a while.

The Zen Bag is a great entry level inflatable SUP bag and fits the Zen model and price point well. The Deluxe bag uses some nicer materials, better wheels and back pack straps, 3 sides for access but with upgraded zippers, and side carry handles. It does not feature an outer pocket for the pump, but the bag has a small internal mesh pocket, is well padded and is a little bigger than the Zen so there is no issue fitting everything inside. And, like I said, I prefer to roll the board around the pump anyway. More on the Deluxe bag when we review the 2017 12′ Atlas Deluxe.

The pump

The Starboard pump is called the V8 Double Action Pump. It is very similar in size and shape to the Red Paddle Co Ezee HP pump. Unique features on the V8 Pump include being able to pump air into the board on both the down and up strokes, getting twice as much air into the board than regular pumps. As the pressure rises, pulling up becomes more difficult and you flip a big red lever on the main cylinder to switch the pump to down only inflation.

In this setting you can easily continue pumping up to the recommended 15-18 PSI. On the Starboards, I prefer to pump right up to the 18 PSI max so that I get the best performance. Keeping in mind the heat and storing the board in the shade etc. The V8 pump also features a very comfortable and removable foot base. It’s feet are wide and swept back in a more ergonomical fashion. The foot pads are even contoured for the ball of your feet and you can grip with your toes. At least I can, I have the pleasure of paddling in warm weather year round and beach footwear is only ever bare foot or flip flops. Being a removable foot base, it easily unlocks and twists off to allow tighter packing in the bag. The handle is your standard fare round grip with neatly integrated gauge. Only draw back is your t-shirt or sweater sometimes get’s sucked into the intake side of the handle. Not a big issue though as using the hose on the intake is a great way to completely suck all the air out of your board for tight packing.

Time to inflate the 2017 Whopper Zen to 18 PSI with the V8 Double Action pump: 3 minutes and 10 seconds. The tall dual action chamber works very well up to about 5-6 PSI, and from then on it gets a bit tricky to comfortably pull up at a good pace, so I switch it to down only and go all the way to 18 PSI.

The board

Now to the board. Dimensionally the same as 2016. Length of 10′, width of 35″ and thickness of 4.75″. The obvious colour updates hide a few more integral changes. The 2017 Zen construction is an evolution, a step up, of the 2016 construction. Lighter, stiffer, stronger is the marketing from Starboard, let’s take a closer look. Nothing exceptional, but improvements in a few key areas have made a big difference.

Along with a wider use of higher density (stronger and more durable) fiber layers in the PVC instead of double layer PVC, there are 3 major differences between the 16 and 17 models on the Zen. The 2017 boards now feature denier sandwiched rail stiffening strip which acts as a rail stringer or batten to improve the stiffness of the board through the middle when inflated fully.

The other is a more traditional stringer strap down the center of the board. These are laid flat on the top and underside to improve compression and tension strength to improve stiffness again. In the dealer meeting video above, Starboard designer Mathieu Rauzier, gives us a quick run down of the important updates.

The fins also get an update for 2017. This, the 2017 Whopper Zen, now features glued on flex fins very similar to the popular and basically indestructible iFins on Red Paddle Co boards. They make it super easy to roll and unroll the board, inflate and deflate the board. There is nothing you need to do with these fins. They are ready to go at all times.

The weight of the 2017 Whopper Zen, 23lbs, has stayed about the same as the 2016 version. This is despite the move from double layer PVC to the lighter HD fibre infused PVC single layer, since the added rail stringers and top and bottom stringer straps. cancel out any overall weight savings.

Below you can slide the arrows left and right to see the tweaks to the 2017 board. You can see the stripe down the center of the 2017 board’s top and bottom deck (on the right), this is the stringer strap. You can also see the thruster (3) fin arrangement and positioning is almost identical, but the fins are now the flex fins.


The deck is 2mm EVA crocodile skin texture, with a 4mm diamond groove crocodile EVA deck with kick pad on the tail. Very comfortable to stand on and I’m a big fan of the diamond groove EVA deck on the tail. Surfing inflatables SUPs means getting your weight back over the fins to do turns and being able to know where your foot is by the deck texture and kick pad is very helpful. Saves you looking down to check and inevitably falling off. Or is that just me?

Just ahead of the deck pad you’ll find a nice cargo area with 4 plastic d-rings and included fluoro green bungee cord. Great for holding down a cooler, some snacks, flip flops etc.

Under the nose you’ll find a d-ring. This is great for anchoring the board (yoga or fishing etc), gentle towing (not for towing behind a boat with weight on the board) and also something to grab onto if you need to pull the board behind you.

The center carry handle is padded and very comfortable. The tail mounted handed is very useful. You can easily drag the board backwards in shallow waters, over rapids, hold it in the surf, tow someone behind you and it also doubles as a paddle holder. Open the velcro lay the paddle flat across the board, close the velcro and bam, paddle won’t float away or get in the way on the deck. A very nice feature if you want to do a bit of tanning, fishing, yoga or just need a place for the paddle while you have a rest.

The Deluxe model of the Whopper shares the same outline dimensions but is 6″ thick. The 2017 Deluxe boards also feature the new fusion style welded construction for a stronger, stiffer and lighter setup. Added features over the Zen are square grooved crocodile deck pad, carbon laminated rails instead of denier and denier top deck stringer strap instead of PVC. Other features specific to the Whopper are the FCS II Connect tool-less center fin and removable FCS side bite fins.

The rest

All 2017 Starboard inflatable paddle boards come with a really neat lightweight ankle leash. They are a unique bungee style construction and are length matched to your board so there is no excess floating behind and tangling or getting under foot. It is very easy to install, the same process as with all leashes and the cuff is very comfortable. I’m a big fan of always using a leash when SUPing, a leash matched to your conditions of course.

The included leash is not suitable for surfing in waves or white water, it is a general use, cruise around use leash only. Weather and water conditions can change very quickly and inexperienced paddlers can be separated from their boards very quickly. I like the initiative Starboard has taken in providing a leash with each inflatable SUP sold.

Finishing off the package, there is a small repair kit. Top that all off with a new 2 year warranty from Starboard and you have a very appealing package from an experienced SUP company and their complete faith and backing in their market leading products.

On the water

I weigh 190lbs and pumping the Starboard Whopper Zen to the maximum suggested pressure of 18PSI, and paddling around in your standard flat water to a little chop kind of conditions, works very well for me. It’s the pretty much perfect general use, all round style paddle board. Handles very well, very stable, turns quickly. Got some nice touches with the tail pad, cargo area, convenient built in flex fins. Solidly built board with minimal flex.

Suggested max weight for the Whopper Zen is 230lbs and I can easily see that this board is capable of that. 35″ in width means you can carry a big paddler but thinner construction and shorter length would not be as well suited as the Whopper Deluxe (6″ thick so better under heavier paddlers) or a longer board that would offer better glide. That said, you may be looking at this board specifically for the maneuverablity in waves or white water.

Not the fastest board out there but for the average size paddler, the board is very easy to handle and manoeuvre and is very stable. Tracking does suffer a little with width and the smaller flex fins, but with a small paddle technique change, you can keep it paddling straight for as long as most other all round boards. (keeping the paddle vertical with a straight path through the water, in case you were wondering!)

Deck pad is very comfortable under foot and the center and tail handles are very easy to grab and carry the board.

This is an incredibly easy paddle board for beginners to start on, or intermediates to advanced paddlers to use. Cruising off the beach, SUP Yoga, riding small to medium surf, slow moving rivers, bays, inlets, intra-coastals, tropical islands, this board can do it all.

Vitals

  • Length: 10′
  • Width: 35″
  • Tail width: 18.9″
  • Thickness: 4.75″
  • Volume: 237 liters
  • Weight: 23.3 lbs board only
  • Max payload: 230 lbs/105 kg
  • Fins: 3 permanent Flex Fins
  • Warranty: 2 years

Likes

  • Easy to turn, very stable and easy to paddle
  • Excellent value at under $1k
  • Includes ankle leash
  • Simple and carefree flex fin system
  • Professional finish and packaging, looks like a hard board
  • Double action pump is compact and the pump switch over process is easy
  • Double texture deck pad for footing feedback
  • Eco conscious packing minimising plastic waste

Dislikes

  • New fins aren’t as great for surfing waves and don’t track as straight
  • Bag is feature packed but a bit clumsy with the execution of straps, buckles and wheels

In conclusion

The 2017 Starboard Whopper Zen Inflatable paddle board, is probably one of the best propositions on the inflatable SUP market. Capacity wise the board caters to 90% of the market, but dimensionally it offers a uniquely stable yet manoeuvrable design that is very simple to set up, quick to inflate and use. Just 10ft in length means this board can be easily handled, manoeuvred and ridden by many comfortably. But, you don’t lose any stability as it is 35″ wide. Sure it’s not a fast paddler but as an all rounder, you’d be hard pressed finding a better option at this price. And, if you want a few more refinements or you’re a bigger paddler, there is always the Whopper Deluxe.

Find out more here: 2017 Starboard Whopper Zen Inflatable SUP.

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About the author: Julian Kidd
I have been an avid stand up paddle boarder since 2009. I retired from 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 hockey fan, football fan, closet petrol head, web tinkerer, husband and father.

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