You can't have a conversation about inflatable stand up paddle boards
without bringing up the brand Starboard,
and you can't talk about whitewater SUP, without mentioning the name Dan Gavere
. For those of you that don't know, Dan was a true pioneer in the world of whitewater kayaking
. There are not many people alive today that have logged more river hours than he has, and most importantly are more dedicated to promoting various aspects of river travel (kayaking and SUP) . Dan is a true waterman, in all aspects of the word.
The Starboard Astro Stream family of boards
is Dan's brainchild. In a nutshell, they are some of the best whitewater focused inflatables ever built. In terms of performance, design, durability, and price
- they are tough to beat. For 2015-16, Starboard made a great decision and decided to make the Astro Stream a series of boards. Up until this year, the Astro Stream "series" consisted of only one board. It was a 9'6" x 36" x 6" bad ass SUP. This board is the industry standard that other boards are compared to. We are excited that there are now 2 other boards in the fleet to add to the diversity. Paddlers come in all shapes and sizes, so why not have a board for everyone? Here's what's in the lineup:
What is it?
This is the staple of the quiver. The Astro Stream 9'6" has loads of volume / stability in proportion to it's shorter length.
Most boards that offer this kind of primary stability are 11' long, and are much more difficult to navigate in technical waters. What's also nice about this board, is that anyone can paddle it. Not only is it an advanced WW board, built for the most demanding rapids, it also is fun on flatwater for yoga, paddling with dogs and kids, taking down mellow stretches of river, etc...it'll do pretty much everything, but due to it's incredible stability and agility, it is especially good on demanding rivers. This years fin setup also enhances the boards diversity - with a US finbox longboard center fin. You can hang with the touring shaped boards on the flats (even though you may be in the back of the pack). Then for rivers, take the center fin out and run the 2" FCS compatible WW fins. This board flat out ROCKS.
Who is it for?
The Astro Stream 9'6" was designed for people that are interested in running rivers. If you're looking for the most stable, highest performing SUP that you can find - this board should be on the top of your list. Whitewater kayakers who want to dive into river SUP will also love this board. It's stiff, edgy, and nimble - it'll perform a lot like a planing hull creek boats with edges (Pyranha Burn, Dagger Mamba, etc). After all, one the best kayakers out there designed this rig - what else would you expect?
Last, the Starboard Astro Stream 9'6' will make an excellent family board. Besides going downriver, you can take the Stream to the lake and paddle around with the family dog, kids on the deck, etc.
What is it?
The X Stream 8'6" is a smaller version of the 9'6". It's 4.75" thick, and 33" wide. It has the same 4+1 fin options, which adds to it's versatility.
Who is it for?
This board was designed for paddlers that want the stability and performance of the Astro Stream 9'6, yet without the bulk
. Lighter paddlers, women and kids will love the X Stream 8'6". Heavier paddlers who regularly SUP down technical / shallow runs should also check out the X Stream. It's even more nimble than the Stream 9'6 (which is already super nimble), and can wedge down tight chutes and channels even better than the 9'6". I am over 200 lbs and had no trouble paddling this board - I was very surprised at how stable it was, and how well it floated me.
What is it?
The 11' Astro Stream Crossover is a unique board. At 11' long x 34" wide x 6" thick, it falls into the hybrid SUP category. It retains the 4+1 fin setup, which true to Astro Stream fashion, makes it a serious contender on the river. The added length, and reduced width mean that this board will be able to log in some serious miles on flat water.
Who is it for?
This board is for a few different demographics. People that are going to use their SUP for a good mix of flatwater, rivers and ocean will enjoy the Crossover 11'. If you travel a lot, and could only have one board, this would be the one. With the 4+1 fin setup, you can paddle the 11' Crossover on class III rivers with ease. You can take it to the ocean (or lakes) and have fun paddling a few miles (thanks to the US fin box). The 11' Crossover is also a fun board to surf on long board breaks. I was able to spend some time on this board at the Starboard dealer summit on the coast of Spain. Overall, it was my favorite inflatable board (out of all of Starboard's inflatable offerings)to paddle. It's very efficient while paddling out beyond the break, and surfs waves back just like a glass board would do - it is super fast.
The Starboard Astro Crossover 11' would make an ideal family board for those who want one board, and spend a fair amount of time on lakes and the ocean. The 8'6" and 9'6" are better boards for families that spend more time on the river, yet want to be able to paddle flat water, and the 11' is slightly better for people (and families) who favor flat water and easier whitewater (because it is a little less stable overall - yet faster).
Last - WW racers will absolutely love the 11' Crossover Astro Stream. It's fast, stable, turns on a dime, and has plenty of fin options.
Here at CKS, we were super impressed with the 2015-16 Astro Stream family of boards. The again, with a guy like Dan Gavere steering the ship, and a company like Starboard building them, who would expect anything less? The Astro Stream 9'6" remains the staple of the fleet - it's the board that will charge the hardest on whitewater rivers. The addition of the X Stream 8'6" and Crossover 11' were welcome surprises. Now, there is a board for smaller / lighter paddlers who wanted the same thing as the 9'6", yet without all of the bulk, as well as a faster and racier WW board that is more fun on flatwater.